Being a Great Caregiver

By Scott LaFee

April 17, 2019 6 min read

Caring for a spouse with a serious chronic illness often places incredible strain upon a relationship, with divorce rates up to 75%. Experts have lots of advice on how to be a great caregiver for the long term. Here are seven suggestions. (Caution: There are no shortcuts.)

1. Be a good listener. No one understands what's happening better than the patient. Listen. Walk in their shoes, metaphorically. It will build empathy.

2. Have frank conversations with the patient about their illness.

3. Respect the patient's autonomy. They have the highest stake in what happens.

4. Respect the patient's privacy.

5. Be a strong advocate with the patient's health care team.

6. Be a good navigator. Health care is complicated.

7. Try to understand the illness as much as possible.

Body of Knowledge

OK, it's not a human factoid, but perhaps it's still worth knowing: The green-haired turtle can breathe through its genitals. The turtle, found only in the Mary River in Australia, gets its name from its mohawk-like algae hairdo. The gill-like organs within its cloaca allow it to remain underwater for up to three days.

Get Me That, Stat!

More than 6,000 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2018, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the highest number in three decades. Experts blamed the rise on drivers and pedestrians distracted by their phones and an increase in large vehicles.

Doc Talk

Heloma molle: A soft callus or corn on your foot. If it's hard, it's called a heloma durum.

Best Medicine

Psychoanalysis is easier for a man; when it's time to go back to childhood, he's already there.

Hypochondriac's Guide

Kabuki syndrome is an uncommon genetic disorder in which facial features resemble those of the Japanese stage makeup: long eyelashes, long openings of the eyelids, arched eyebrows, large ears and a broad, flat tip of the nose. First described in 1981, the syndrome also involves several other physiological and neurological characteristics.


"There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need a caregiver." — Rosalyn Carter (1927-), wife of former President Jimmy Carter

Medical History

This week in 1987, patents on genetic engineering were first authorized by the U.S. government, the first nation in the world to do so. A year later, Harvard scientists patented the first "oncomouse," a mouse designed to be highly susceptible to breast cancer and intended to be used in testing anticancer therapies with more efficiency and more accurate results.

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think — a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2015, the Ig Nobel Prize in medicine went to two different research teams for their studies into the biomedical benefits or consequences of kissing. A Japanese group found that kissing reduces allergic skin reactions and allergen-specific immune responses. A German group found that male DNA levels were elevated and persistent in mixed saliva samples after intense kissing.

Sum Body

Seven myths about caregiving costs:

1. Home care means minimal caregiving expenses.

2. All home help is covered by insurance.

3. You can quickly calculate the costs of home care.

4. The cost of caregiving is only financial.

5. You can't afford a caregiver, so you're not going to get one. (Part-time caregiving — a few hours a week — at reduced rates can still have a major impact.)

6. Caregiving won't affect my finances. (The effects may be gradual and indirect: less hours worked, promotions passed.)

7. A conversation about finances can wait until care is needed.

Med School

Q: Why do you wake up in the middle of the night to urinate but not (usually) to go No. 2?

A: Your gut contains nerve cells that control colon contractions and are influenced by the body's circadian rhythm. Most people don't get the urge to empty their colon in the middle of the night because the nervous system has basically informed the colon to take the night off. But the bladder is a reservoir receiving a continuous flow of urine, produced by the kidneys. And the bladder has a maximum volume. Normally, you can sleep six to eight hours without filling it up, but certain medical conditions or too much liquid before bed can prompt the call earlier.

Curtain Calls

Alan Pakula, the noted film director ("To Kill a Mockingbird," "All the President's Men," "Klute" and "Sophie's Choice" among his works) died in 1998 in a freak car accident when a metal pipe smashed through the windshield of his vehicle and struck him in the head. It's believed the pipe had been lying in the road and was propelled into the air after being hit by another vehicle ahead. Pakula was 70.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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