A Day in the Life of a Caregiver

A day in the life of an Alzheimer’s victim (Ed) and his caregiver (me)…

I helped Ed make his morning coffee, but he forgot to pick it up and drink it.

While I was gone to the grocery store, Ed had cookies and ice cream for a late breakfast. I know because when I came home, the cookies were gone, and the ice cream was in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Ed said he didn’t eat any ice cream.

When the cat cried for food, Ed broke up dog treats and placed them in the cat’s bowl.

When we got to Ed’s favorite restaurant for lunch, we didn’t stay as he wouldn’t wait for a table. Ed asked why they were so busy, I told him it was a holiday. Then Ed struggled with finding the words to ask which holiday we were celebrating.

At the second restaurant, 15 minutes in the opposite direction, Ed had trouble deciding what he wanted and when the waitress came, he pointed to a picture. We did end up having a very enjoyable and tasty lunch!

When we reached home, Ed asked for the umpteenth time, “Why do we have to move?” [We are leaving our current home with its large yard and constant upkeep. Without Ed’s help, it is just too expensive to hire the help I need to maintain everything.]

In the afternoon Ed gave the dogs more biscuits, even though I have them in a small cup labeled with the name of the day. You see, I told Ed that I had already fed the dogs their “lunch cookie.” Of course, Ed denied he had fed the dogs a biscuit as he was washing out the cat’s bowl. I had to tell him where the cat food was located as he never remembers.

Ed also has asked three times today what we were doing this weekend. I have told him the same thing each time.

I helped Ed put away some of his clean clothes as he couldn’t remember where his sweatshirts went or how to hang them up.

Dinner was left-overs from lunch, but Ed wanted to know what he was supposed to do with “these things” (flour tortillas). I explained that he might want to put food from his bowl on one and roll it up. He looked as if I had two heads, suggesting such a strange thing!

Ed was not sure what to do to put our cat in her bedroom so the dogs could come into the living room. I helped him get the cat some food and put up the gate. After the dogs came in, Ed glanced at the closed door to the cat’s room and wanted to know if there was someone in that room. We have been placing the cat in this room and closing the door for almost seven years.

Then before his favorite TV show was over, Ed left the room and came back five minutes later asking for help to pull back the covers and get in bed. He had forgotten to say good night or take the dogs out. I also made sure he took his evening pills.

So, here I sit, after taking the dogs out, relaxing all by myself. Ahhh!!

If this scenario resonated with you, why not join the online Caregiver Course beginning on April 29. Click here to find more information and enroll in the coursehttps://www.beadisciple.com/online-christian-courses/ifd435-the-caregiver-marathon-training-for-serving-in-the-long-run/

The Race Gets More Difficult

  The deeper we move into this wretched disease, the more tasks become mine and the less time I have to correspond. However, today I need to share my frustrations! My husband has now moved into the Moderate stage of Alzheimer’s, so he can do less and less. His short term memory is practically gone, but he still remembers friends and family, which is a blessing. The problem is really with me! I often resent the fact that I have to assume all the responsibilities for: the house, the yard, the animals, the driving, the laundry, the shopping, the cooking, managing the finances, and teaching two online graduate courses. Then there is the time spent making sure that I eat right, exercise, take my vitamins, get enough rest and take some respite time. There are not enough hours in the day! How can I do it all?

Today we studied Romans in our Life Group and I am reminded by Paul that, “We can rejoice…when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5: 3-4, New Living Translation) Well, I am becoming quite a character…I mean my character is being shaped. 🙂 It is just a tough process. The Beyond Suffering Bible, created by Joni Eareckson Tada, suggests, “In our weakened state. we learn to stop relying on our own strength of mind or body and increasingly shift our reliance to the Creator. God’s strength becomes evident in our weakness” (Joni and Friends, 2016, p.1280).

That’s my answer, stop relying on my own strength! I need to turn to God for all my needs, from the smallest frustration to the largest difficulty. I know in my heart that God is big enough to handle all my problems, now I just have to convince my brain to stop trying to figure everything out. I need to give my situation to the Lord and leave it in His hands to make straight my path. Please pray for me as I run this marathon and I will pray for you.
Through His Grace,
Evelyn

New Caregiver Devotional Available

Strength & Grace: Daily Devotions for Caregivers 
                                                                                                      Published bimonthly by Guideposts © 2018

$10.00 a year for a subscription, six issues.
Contact Guideposts directly by phone to order 1-800-932-2145  (Monday – Friday, 8 am to 6 pm EST) 

Here are some devotional titles with corresponding scripture found in the August/September Volume I edition.

Sleepless Nights Psalm 4:8
Who Helps the Helper? Psalm 28:7
I’m Not Crazy After All Hebrews 6:19
Labor of Love Ecclesiastes 11:6
Triumphant Suffering I Peter 3:18
Giving- Above and Beyond Genesis 24:19
When Troubles Increase Psalm 71: 20-21
Even God Took a Break Genesis 2:2
Woe Is Me! I Kings 19:14
Impossible Days Psalm 118:5
Alone? 2 Kings 2:14
Laughter: Potent Medicine Job 8:21
Why Me? Revelation 1:8
Embracing Change 2 Thessalonians 3:5

“These devotional readings will turn your thoughts to the unchanging wisdom of the Bible and is heavenly Author – who longs to write a success story for you. You’ll find insights into the emotions you face and practical ideas for succeeding in this vital duty. You’ll be refreshed by the real-life triumphs of caregivers and gently challenged at times to make beneficial changes to your own attitudes and actions. We hope these devotionals are an encouragement along the way!” The Guidepost Editors   (Strength & Grace.2018. p.3)

For other caregiver resources and video testimonials see the Guideposts website:
https://www.guideposts.org/friends-and-family/caregiving 

God’s Will

As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane he said, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Then Jesus prayed a second time, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:39b (HISC) Matthew 26:42b (NIV)

How many times have you asked God to cure your loved one, to remove the “cup” of illness or dementia. Doesn’t God promise that he will hear and answer our prayers?

Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for. I John 5:14-15 (HCSB)

The key feature to God’s promise is “according to His will.” Does God really love me? What does God want of me? How can I know God’s will? These are questions that many caregivers grapple with daily. Our prayer mirrors Jesus’ plea to “remove this cup.” Look closely and you will find a codicil in Jesus’ prayer to his father, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Let’s look to the Bible for a greater understanding of God’s will for our lives.

Does God really love me? Yes, God loves you and me. He has shown himself faithful to love and care for us through the ages. Look how much he loves us, he allowed his only son to die for our wrongdoing. There is nothing that can separate us from God’s love.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. I John 4:9 (NIV)

…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39 (NIV)

What does God want of me? “Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God first and foremost wants us to know Him, to have a relationship with Him, to bring glory to Him by the way we live our lives, by how we relate to Him and others” (Thomas, n.d. Part One, para.6).

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22: 36-39 (NIV)

So, life is not all about our wants and needs. We are commanded by God to first love God and then love others. “If you are making decisions based primarily on what makes “me” happy, then you have your priorities backwards and you will stumble at every turn” (Thomas, Part One, para.9).

Jesus said, “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.” Matthew 10: 38-39 (MSG)

How can I know God’s will? “What does God want from you as an individual? This …is like your fingerprint, something specific to you as an individual, a person uniquely crafted and gifted by God to perform meaningful tasks of service to Him and to others” (Thomas, Part Three, para.1). “With service as your foundation, you can begin to explore your God-given gift of unique talents and abilities. You didn’t earn nor do you deserve these talents. God has endowed you with them” (Thomas, Part Three, para.5).

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. I Corinthians 12: 4-5 (NIV)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

As caregivers we can identify with the idea that we do not deserve the talents we have been given. I had no idea that God’s gift of being compassionate and wanting to help others would have brought me to the point of being a full-time caregiver for my husband, Ed. However, knowing that God is using my gifts in this manner is a comfort. Also, understanding that God loves my husband enough to bring me into his life demonstrates God’s will for my life right now. I understand that God brought Ed and I together knowing what the future held for us. It makes me appreciate how much God loves and cares for both of us.

“Remember, discovering your unique design is a lifelong process. The more you do, the more experiences you have, the more you know what energizes and de-energizes you. Don’t let any of this put you into a box. Things change. You grow and mature. God equips you for a certain task, and that task is completed, and you move on to another one” (Thomas, Part Three, para.9). Caregiving is for a season, even though it might seem like a lifetime. Look to God for strength and your support group for encouragement.

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV)

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Isaiah 40:29 (NIV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Resources:

Thomas, J. (n.d.) Finding God’s will for my life Part One. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/spiritual-development/finding-gods-will-for-my-life/gods-will-for-my-life-part-1-of-3

Thomas, J. (n.d.) Finding God’s will for my life Part Three. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/spiritual-development/finding-gods-will-for-my-life/gods-will-for-my-life-part-3-of-3

 

Moments of Joy in 2018

The holidays are over, and a new year has begun. This is always an appropriate time to recall the best memories of the previous year and plan for more moments of joy in the coming days. Every occasion that brought a smile to your care receiver is an opportunity for celebration. Many of our happiest times last year revolved around family and friends. It is a joy to be with those who know and love you the best! We were able to travel to my mother’s ninetieth birthday celebration in North Carolina. My husband, Ed, really enjoyed the plane trip as he sat by the window and pointed out familiar landmarks as we flew over the Mississippi coastline. It was good to be traveling without getting constant instructions from the passenger seat! Although Ed did make some comments about how the pilot was flying the plane.?

I want to encourage you to cherish all the positive moments that you share with your care receiver. In her book, Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey, Jolene Brackey said, “With short-term memory loss life is made up of moments. There are not perfectly wonderful days; there are perfectly wonderful moments – moments that put a smile on their face and a twinkle in their eyes. Five minutes later, the person will have forgotten what was said and done, the feeling, however, lingers on” (p. xii). My greatest joy comes when I see a smile on Ed’s face, this is a time when we really connect in an emotion. This doesn’t happen very often, but it is worth taking time to share a laugh over a joke, a television comedy, or a funny happening.

Here are some simple ways to share a moment of joy with your care receiver:

  • Ask your loved one to share a funny story from his or her childhood, or young adult escapades.
  • Look at pictures of friends or family that recall pleasant memories and happier times.
  • Tell a funny story about something you or one of your pets did. (Our dogs are always doing something to make us smile.)
  • Invite friends or family to come over to celebrate a special occasion or share a favorite dessert.
  • Plan a short get-away to a place that holds good memories.
  • Enjoy some music that recalls an enjoyable time or a happier period of life. (Ed and I enjoy listening to classic country music.)

You can find more ways to bring joy to your life in Missy Buchanan’s book, Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults. There are many opportunities to create moments of joy that are specific to your care receiver. So, I challenge you to make your loved one smile at least once every day in 2018.

Blessings,
Evelyn

Brackey, J. (2017). Creating Moments of Joy Along the Alzheimer’s Journey. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press.

Buchanan, M. (2012). Joy Boosters: 120 Ways to Encourage Older Adults. Nashville, Tennessee: Upper Room Books.

Serving

“Life becomes harder for us when we live for others but it also becomes richer and happier.”
― Albert Schweitzer

  These last few months have brought new challenges and many heartaches as I had to tell my husband that he had to stop driving. This was not easy for either of us and continues to be a source of aggravation. Then we went through the trauma of Hurricane Harvey disrupting our lives. Thankfully, we didn’t have any water enter our home, but there was much to be done before and after the storm. Now, we are facing an office visit with a new neurologist. This is stressful for both of us as my husband, Ed, is faced with his disease and I must relate to the doctor all the many ways he is struggling. In the midst of these struggles I have found wonderful encouragement from my support group. If you have not discovered the way others can relate to your problems, go find a group as soon as possible. You will be pleasantly surprised to find you are not alone in this caregiving adventure.

So, you might ask, what does all this have to do with joy? Well, it is in serving that Jesus said we would find joy. In John 15: 9-13, Jesus asks His disciples to follow God’s commands. What is God’s commandment? That you love one another. How do we show this love? In Galatians 5:13 we are told to “let love make you serve one another” (GNT). Many times, I do not feel happy or joyful as I serve my care receiver. I struggle with depression, frustration, anxiety, and loneliness. However, I have discovered that having a pity party will do no good and will not bring joy back to my life. It is only when I look to the Lord that I can put my life into perspective. I agree with Hannah as she prayed: “The Lord has filled my heart with joy; how happy I am because of what he has done! I laugh at my enemies; how joyful I am because God has helped me!” (I Samuel 2:1, GNT) Alzheimer’s is my enemy, I refuse to remain fearful because I know God has helped me.

It is important to journal and write down the times you were blessed as God helped you. When I had to confront my husband about driving, I had dozens of people praying. Ed’s family came to the house and we talked with him together. Then a true miracle occurred, Ed gave his truck keys to his brother so the truck could be sold. God had reached down and touched Ed so he could see the truth, even if it was just for a few hours. This was a miracle because the next day Ed was back to not understanding why he cannot drive any longer. So goes the caregiver marathon in my house. I pray that you will find joy in serving as you seek God for your support.

“Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times” (Romans 12: 11b-12, GNT).

Good News Translation (GNT) Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

Support

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:18-19 (NIV)

As I read these Bible verses in my church newsletter, I immediately linked the words to support for caregivers. So many times, we caregivers feel that we are losing control, slipping in a mire of medicine, confusion, and exhaustion. We are constantly worried about our care receiver. Each morning we lay in bed wondering what new challenge the day will bring and each night we try to pray but fall exhausted into our beds for the all too brief respite until we are needed again.

What a wonderful picture this verse paints of God being next to us all the time to catch us when we slip or come close to failing in our caregiving task. God promises to support us even when we are greatly troubled and worried. Not only support us, but bring us such deep consolation (comfort, relief) that we will be joyful. PTL!

These verses also reminded me of the need for support from friends and family. Caregivers need a support team that can begin with family but needs to expand to include friends and church family. I encourage you to seek out a support group as you run this caregiving marathon. As you participate in the support group, you will find that people are ready to lift you up, even as God promises to be there when your foot slips. Let others minister to you and when you are filled with joy, pass it on!

Our next Caregiver Marathon Training begins on May 11 in Alvin, Texas.  Click here to find out all the details: http://34.220.68.45/promo/CGM_Flier_2.html

 

What do dogs and caregivers have in common?

We have two large hound dogs that are siblings from the same litter. The black and white male is named Hooch and the tan colored female is Hannah. These dogs have been a handful to train, but they are also wonderful companions. We have replaced their plush pet beds with indestructible K9 Ballistic cots as Hooch and Hannah kept chewing up the cloth bedding. Our dogs can be very competitive at times, even scrapping and growling at each other. However, when Hooch and Hannah are cold or scared, they will curl up together on one of the cots. They do need each other!

Sometimes illness or stress can bring conflicts between loved ones, even family and close friends. Patience and good humor are often stretched to the breaking point between the caregiver and the care receiver. When you are answering the same question for the tenth time that day, it is difficult to remain patient.  When you cannot find something you just used, your patience runs short. When you are exhausted after a long day and your husband asks why you didn’t complete a task he thought should have accomplished, it is difficult to maintain your sense of humor. This is why a caregiver needs a support group or at least one person to whom he or she may complain. Yes, caregivers need an opportunity to complain and vent some of those pent-up emotions. This can be accomplished through a blog for caregivers, but a face-to-face group allows for an accompanying hug or pat on the back, which all of us need from time-to-time.

If you are a caregiver, you need to seek out others to support you mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you know of a caregiver, please offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a hug! Understanding what a caregiver needs is one of the reasons I am offering a four-week course called Surviving the Caregiver Marathon with Grace: Training for Serving in the Long Run. In caregiving, as in all marathons, respect is not always earned by the “fastest” or “best,” but by the one who endures and triumphs in the long run. This training supports caregivers so they can finish the run with love and grace. In this course, caregivers and those who wish to support someone in this role, learn how to build physical and spiritual stamina, how to handle a care receiver’s changing emotional or physical health, and how to develop a support team. We’ll also read encouraging Biblical passages that will strengthen you and make laughter a priority to lighten your day and speed you on your way.

Join me for this interactive overview of the most current research and literature written specifically for today’s caregivers. Come be supported and encouraged by others who by God’s grace and love have made it through the caregiving marathon!

Course Date: June 5 – 30, 2017

Enroll Here: http://www.beadisciple.com/online-christian-courses/ifd435-the-caregiver-marathon-training-for-serving-in-the-long-run/

One more thing…

Today, I want to share a message from my sweet prayer partner, Pat.  She lives in Tennessee and is a caregiver for her husband.

After reading today’s devotional by Nell Noonan from her book, Not Alone (2009), I have been pondering some questions she asked about the crisis events in our lives: “Where can we discover the meaning in these events?  Are our efforts futile?  and How long can we keep going?  The sky seems to be tumbling down,” Nell concludes.

I know Jesus is with me every step along my life’s journey but sometimes… here comes one more thing. One more thing! ONE MORE THING!

Well, my latest one-more-thing came today when my husband came in and told me his wheelchair lift was malfunctioning again and didn’t know if he could fix it this time.  I just looked at him in silence, but I really wanted to cry.  After telling me what was wrong with the lift and that a new one would cost around $2,000, he went out into his shop and I went “on my knees” in prayer. I just blurted out everything going on in my mind. What started as the one-more-thing became a thank-you-dear-Lord. I was thankful for the privilege of just being able to talk with Him at any moment.

And then the miracle happened— Russ came back in the house with the biggest of grins on his face and the great news that he had a part he thought would fix the wheelchair ramp.  I told him I had just finished talking with God about our need. We both smiled with the knowledge that God hears our cries and on the inside we were jumping for joy for God’s blessing to us. We were both so grateful.

As far as those questions I started pondering this morning… God gives me strength day by day, sometimes moment by moment.  As a caregiver, I must remember that God is keeping me and blessing me in the toughest of times. He still makes miracles happen—thank you dear Lord.

The scripture Nell quoted for this devotional was from Numbers 6 v24: The Lord bless you and keep you.

Noonan, N.E. (2009). Not Alone: Encouragement for Caregivers. Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books.

Weeds and Thoughts

As I was working in my rose garden this morning, I came across some very stubborn weeds. These weeds seem to be so small and insignificant, but once they take root in the soil they spread all over the garden very quickly. In no time at all, you have to work hard to rid your beautiful garden of these ugly weeds.

It dawned on me that weeds are like my angry thoughts. They come to me small and I dismiss them as insignificant. For instance, thoughts about how I work so hard and no one else realizes what I do or anger at having to complete a task I asked my husband to do ten times. If I don’t confess these thoughts they send their tentacles out just like the roots of the weeds to take over my entire spirit. Before I know it, I am depressed and having a giant pity party.

So what I learned today is that I must go quickly to the Lord and ask for Him to redirect my thoughts. It also helps to follow up with a conversation with a trusted friend who will help me to pull up these tiny weeds of anger. When the angry thoughts are dealt with promptly, just like the weeds, I will enjoy the flowers, the good things in my life.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your mercy and love. Help me recognize my angry thoughts and redirect my attention towards you. May my thoughts please you as you are my bedrock.
Amen.

Scripture:
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:2 (NIV)

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. Luke 11:17 (NIV)

I hope my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, the one who saves me. Psalm 19:14 (ICB)

Sources:

International Children’s Bible (ICB)
The Holy Bible, International Children’s Bible® Copyright© 1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a division of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.