Monday, August 26, 2019

The Big Dipper

As caregivers, our emotions are often running on the edge. For me, it doesn't take much to tip me over into a huge downward spiral. For today I'm calling it the "big dipper." Just a single word, an honest question, a picture from the past - it doesn't take much to send me into the dip of depression. I have developed a few strategies that work for me and being able to identify it early on means I don't always dip as far or I can head it off at the pass. But not always.

With so many things on our plate it doesn't take a lot, does it? This last week was full of dealing with a faulty internet provider which is enough frustration by itself when you work online and were without internet for two days! lol. Sometimes it's bigger things - but sometimes it's those little things that chip away at sanity and peace.

How are we supposed to deal with this "big dipper?" It's going to come for us. Some day. Some time. We may feel broadsided by it, or we might not realize it has slipped up on us. The church world can be harsh and tell us depression is sin, or that we are not trusting God enough. Neither of those is necessarily true. We have a LOT on our plates. Our cups run over with emotions, responsibilities, and life events. It can sap us of our strength and make the mess much more complicated - but it certainly does not indicate a lack of trust in God.

As a caregiver, there are days that run smoothly. Chris is doing good and things get done that need to be done, my clients are happy with my work (and pay on time!). Depression can still leak into those not-quite-perfect days. Nothing's ever going to be perfect - our loved ones are suffering in some way. I say the fact that you are still reading this blog - you are still searching scriptures for a strand of hope - you are still praying and seeking Him for strength - is an indication you are faith-filled. You haven't given up yet - you are still seeking Him. That to me is the epitome of faith.

And here's the other side of this "big dipper." God has a big dipper to - but it's just the right size to dip down into our lives, find us and pull us out of the emotional muck and mire. This reminds me of Psalm 40:2 where David said, He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He used His big dipper to come into our situation and rescue us. He doesn't sit and watch from a distance (like most of the church) - He inserts Himself as far into our situation as we will allow. He makes our steps firm. Then the next verse says this: He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God (not to ourselves or about ourselves) many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.

Today, I will be thankful that God understands when life gets out of hand or out of control. I will thank Him for not leaving me when stuff just doesn't make sense. I appreciate that He is not afraid of my chaos, my crazy thoughts or roaming emotions. My meditation today will be on His gracious entry into my topsy-turvy world. I'll rejoice that at my invite, He joins my world, loves me in the midst of it and offers peace for each messed up piece. I'll invite Him to come deeper in my world today - will you join me?


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Helping a Senior Loved One Plan a Spouse’s Funeral




Image via Pexels

Losing a spouse is one of the most stressful events a person can go through. For seniors, that stress is even more dangerous. The depression and loneliness seniors feel after a big loss can put their health at risk. Grief also weakens the immune system, which makes them more susceptible to infection and other illnesses.

Seniors dealing with dementia and related illnesses like Alzheimer’s have an even more difficult time with grief. Memory loss, emotional instability, and other symptoms of dementia make each day after a death a unique and challenging experience. Communicating about the loss and their emotions presents a difficult task you will likely have to go through multiple times. 

There are many things you can do to help support a senior after the loss of a spouse. One of the most important things to do is to be there long after the death to listen and encourage healthy behaviors. However, if you want to help in a more immediate manner, planning a funeral can be extremely overwhelming. Stepping in to help with the organization and execution of memorial services can be a big help for a grieving senior.

First: What Not to Do

For adult children who lose a parent, it’s easy to think that details like housing, finances, wills and end-of-life documents, and long-term care plans should be discussed with the surviving parent as soon as possible. However, these conversations -- while important -- should be postponed for at least a few weeks. Your loved one is already suffering a great deal of trauma after losing their beloved spouse, and piling on more stress isn’t going to help them cope with their grief. Wait until they’ve had some time to process their loss, and then gently bring up the conversation. If they’re still not ready, give it a little more time, but if they continuously shoot down the discussion, consider working with an elder mediator to get the ball rolling and help everyone come up with a plan for care and finances.

Body Disposition Options

Chances are, the deceased already chose their preferred method of disposition, or what to do with their remains when they are gone. If they did not make their preference known, it is up to the spouse to choose the best way to do so. Today, there are many more body disposition options available than there were in the past:

     Below-ground burial - This is a traditional option, but it requires various costs, including those for a plot, casket, embalming, grave marking, etc. Seniors are generally more comfortable with the idea of having a designated place at which they can visit their loved one.

     Above-ground burial - Entombment requires purchasing a crypt within a mausoleum in which the deceased can be buried.

     Cremation - Regulations for cremation vary depending on which state you live in, but it’s a cost-effective method of body disposition. Loved ones can choose to hold on to the ashes or spread them at a place that meant a lot to the deceased.

     Donation - Donating a body to medical science is not the most sentimental method of disposition, but it can do a lot of good.

     Coffin-less burial - This method of disposition is gaining popularity because it is much more cost-effective and eco-friendly. Without the use of embalming fluids or other chemicals, the body is washed and wrapped in a shroud. The body is then buried sans coffin to decompose and return to the earth.

Ceremony

Not everybody wants a ceremony to memorialize a death, but many people find it is a very useful event that helps them move on. If the deceased was religious, chances are they would prefer the ceremony be held in their house of worship with words being spoken by the leader of their congregation. There may also be friends or family who would like to say a few words in memoriam. Helping a senior organize these kinds of things can be a huge help when planning a funeral ceremony.

Reception 

After a funeral ceremony, people generally like to meet up at a designated place for a reception where they can enjoy refreshments and reminisce. Holding the reception at your place can take the burden off the grieving spouse. You can provide food and drinks, but don’t be afraid to ask for help or make the event a potluck. When a person dies, there are always a lot of emotions-- and a lot of food. Take advantage of people’s generosity, and let them bring the casserole.

***

When a senior loses a spouse, it puts their mental and physical health at risk. To mitigate the stress, they rely on friends and family to help with the arrangements. Providing assistance with choosing a mode of disposition, ceremony, and reception can help with this difficult time.

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Invisible Woman

Me and Chris standing at Sutton Wilderness
Several things have occurred lately that remind me of the social isolation so many caregivers experience. Even in a crowd, many times we are alone. Even when people do talk to us on outings (if we can even get out!) they can't connect with us beyond the obvious. They only see us as a person behind the chair. I've done a few other blogs about being more than a caregiver and life behind the chair. But as we've been able to get out more frequently, it's come to light again - that invisible feeling. I'm starting to wonder if I'm just the invisible woman. lol

It's not easy to do normal things others take for granted. Things we really want to do - but just are not feasible. Take going to church for example. Often, there's no fellowship - no one knows how to reach out because we stand out as so different. It's not their fault - they really don't know that they can still ask you out for coffee or lunch. Personally, I find myself in situations wondering why in the world I'm even trying. What's the point? Seriously. It's not worth the "social interaction" if you are just ignored. I'm pretty sure that doesn't count for "interaction."

These are the types of thoughts I've had this week as I am rolling a lot around in my mind. My son has been ill most of the week with health care professionals in and out - that's after the ER visit we had between services last Sunday. It's just a serious reaction to the antibiotic - but he's finally kicked it or so it seems. But these things make me think more deeply.

I want to get him out more - but I need to focus on what is good for him as well as good for me. In nature - I'm not invisible. Somehow I connect and marvel at the vast goodness, creativity, and immaculate care of God. I look at the precise detail He gave to little things like a pansy - Carefully drawing lines and accenting various parts with complimentary colors. Does He not care this much for us - even when we feel invisible?

I'm sorry if you feel invisible today. I hope you don't - it's not fun. But if you do - take a look at Psalm 139 (I spend a lot of time in this psalm!). I love the last part of verse 3 - He is acquainted with all my ways not just my deeds. He knows more than what I do - caregiving - and sees inside to the whole person who is pursuing Him. He has no box for me to fit in. He longs for fellowship and communion with us. That didn't change one little bit when caregiving happened. We are not invisible to Him - He sees. He knows. He cares.

Today, I will rejoice because He sees me right where I am - in all this emotional mess. I'll be thankful He didn't run away and He doesn't ignore me. He still bids me to "come" to Him and find rest. I suppose that indicates I still have to work to enter His rest! But I'm thankful that the invitation to the invisible woman still stands!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

God is Mindful

Life is not "normal" for caregivers even though we find our own kind of normal to deal with our unique situations. We adjust. We proceed. We get through. But oftentimes, I find myself so on the edge emotionally that any little thing sends me flying off into the emotional pit of despair! lol (maybe that's just me......)

This week has been more than enough for a normal life, let alone a caregiving life. I will spare you all the details, but the biggest problem by far was being without internet for nearly two days. I handled it well, I think. I painted, I learned some new chords on the ukulele and spent some great time with my grands. But I got behind on work, so now my frustration level is greater than it was before.

That's just one of the additional situations I'm dealing with on top of caregiving. Sometimes it feels like I am stretched tight like a rubber band and I'm going to pop with any more pressure. Life can feel really ugly sometimes, and I don't always deal with it well. I've learned to find beauty in little things like dainty flowers along the front walkway, or those "weeds" out back that bear beautiful flowers. And of course, they get cut down because they are not valuable to others  - they only bring beauty to my eyes. No one seems to understand that, and that's okay.

So, the other day as I was going through my aunt's things and found that beautiful poem by my grandmother - I also found one by someone I don't know. It says her name is "Sister Pauline Relaford" and she cared for her mom through a long illness. Here's what the top of the paper says: Sister Pauline Relaford faithfully cared for her beloved mother during a long illness. Sometimes she felt unimportant and forgotten, and grieved that she could not come to church or serve her Lord more. After her mother's death, the first Sunday she came to church the Lord gave her this song to sing in the midst of the congregation.

They said God was not mindful 
of the little that we could do:
Said that He was not mindful of me,
Was not mindful of you, 
That God was only mindful
of the mighty and the brave.
I said, Thou speakest as a foolish one, 
Besides that thou hast spoken much too late.
For the story of the poor widow
Quickly I did recall,
How when she cast in her little bit,
Jesus said she had given more than ye all.
I know that God is mindful of that great eagle
with wings that soar toward the sky,
But He is mindful of you and I.

I walked by a bed of violets
And God made me to know
That if I were to caress them,
Even I'd have to bend down low.
As I did kneel to caress them,
Again He made me know
That He was mindful of the little things,
Lest why did those violets grow?
Yea, He is mindful of the widow,
Mindful of the sparrow,
and that great eagle that 
Goes toward the sky,
He is mindful of the violet 
and mindful of you and I.

I don't know about you - but I know about me. I needed to be reminded to keep finding beauty in the little things. And that God sees the little things - including me. I can feel so insignificant. And I am - in the big scheme of things. But He knows. He sees. He is mindful of you and I.

Today, I will remind myself that He does see where I am and the biggest things that weigh me down. And that He also sees the little things that add to the weight of the journey. He sees the delicate flowers and knows how much they help my soul - and He is the one who keeps my soul! I'll trust He can carry me through today and I will let Him do that. If you need carrying today - will you join me?

Monday, August 19, 2019

My Own Personal Bubble

As a caregiver do you ever feel like you live in a bubble? I sure do. For the most part, if I'm home I don't realize how un-normal my life is. Probably because it's become my new norm. It's a norm filled with lots of visits from case managers, nurses, doctors, and deliveries with a few surprise runs to the ER like yesterday. although each of our stories and days has differences, our norms include changes, dressing an adult, pureeing foods, tube feedings, spoon feedings, transfers, standing frames and range of motion exercises. Most of the time, we probably don't even think about those things - we just do.

But when we get outside our comfortable norms, it can seem like we are in a bubble. Many times in public we are ignored. People cut in front of Chris' chair without a second thought. Others let doors go just as I am getting there - which is fine - I CAN do it myself - but it's just rude. Some of it, I'm sure, is my own awkwardness - conversations are not the same if they happen. If they do happen, they revolve around caregiving. Of course, that's obvious - it sticks out, right! lol But there's more to me than caregiving - I write, I play music, I read - but no one seems to be able to see past the chair I'm pushing - into my bubble.

I used to be such an extrovert - and in many ways, I still am. But I have begun to feel so awkward in social settings. It can be much easier to stay home than to get out in my own personal bubble. But you know what? When God looks at us - He doesn't see someone in a bubble. He sees us - as believers as part of the kingdom of God. He is not afraid to come into our bubble and meet us on a heart-to-heart level. He's not scared of our emotions as cra-cra as they can be! He won't shun us or ignore us because we look different than everyone else. He sees us exactly the same - a person who is pursuing Him - someone who is covered by the blood of Christ and standing in His righteousness - just like everyone else who believes. He loves us right where we are with all our caregiving baggage It doesn't put Him off - it makes Him want to come closer.

David said it this way in Psalm 34:18-22
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones - not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

God delivers our soul - our bubble-wrapped soul! That's our mind, will, and emotions. He can come in like no one else and redeems what is troubling us. He gives us strength for this journey - strength to equal the amount we lean on Him - He's got our hearts and that's what matters most. 

Today, I will rejoice that He is not afraid to come in my bubble with me. I'll meditate on His great care and love for us as caregivers. I will be thankful for His presence in the midst of the trouble - and I will trust Him just for today - will you join me?


Friday, August 16, 2019

My Grandmother's Poem

Yesterday was a rough day, rougher than usual. As caregivers, our emotions often stay on the edge and it doesn't take much to tip us off. Well, yesterday was my tipping off point. The everyday stuff for us is enough, isn't it? I mean, come on life - my mom has dementia, I am an LD caregiver for my aunt (I went to see yesterday), and I am a full-time caregiver for my adult son who is total care due to a brain injury. Too many things have happened in the last couple of days and my emotions, nerves, mind, etc. are all on edge. Why can't life just let up a little now and then?

I came home from seeing my aunt in the nursing home and was a bit frazzled. My heart and mind were racing. For me, one strategy for not getting taken down in life's swifter currents is to do something different. Not work. Not my norm. I spied a briefcase I'd brought in from the garage as I've been going through my aunt's things. As I unlatched it and opened up the top to see a poem in my grandmother's own handwriting was laying on top. The title is My God Can Handle This. 

I'd be lying if I told you my eyes didn't sweat a little bit. I turned the old papers over and found the date on the back. She had written it in 1959 one year before I was born.  Here I sat looking at her words 60 years later as they ministered to my heart in my present situation. There is no telling how long it's been tucked away in this briefcase, but it was right where I needed it yesterday. I'll take it as an indirect encouragement to continue to write an publish my own writings and poetry. (Check out my first digital poetry book!) Here is my grandmother's poem - still ringing true - I hope it ministers to your heart too - God really can handle this!

My God Can Handle This

Stuck with a problem you've not had before?
Feel that you're wounded, forsaken and sore?
Sorrow and trouble both beat on the door?
      My God can handle this!
Can't see a glimmer of light out ahead?
Darkness and terror and mountains of dread?
Stick out your chin, brother, God isn't dead!
     My God can handle this!

Feel all you've made of your life is a mess?
No one to help you, and no one to bless?
Say, listen. Brother, you don't have to guess!
     My God can handle this!
Down on your knees, with your bundle of woe!
He's there to give you a hearing, and so - 
Try it and see, brother, then you will know - 
     My God can handle this!

Looks like the world's in a terrible scape-
Nothing but suff'ring and warfare and rape-
Now, listen, brother don't hang out in the crepe - 
     My God can handle this!
Now is the time, brother, lift up your head,
Take down that Bible that you haven't read-
Dust off its cover and see what is said-
     My God can handle this!

Find there each promise to you certified -
Signed in the Life Blood of One crucified -
all hell defeated, the day Jesus died!
     My God could handle this!
Up from the grave! Brother listen to me!
Christ is the answer for you, can't you see?
all pow'r is His: you can have it for  free!
     My God will handle this!

(C) Maxine Emerson September 11, 1959

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hard Questions

I woke up with a particular scripture on my mind this morning. It didn't take long until I found it in Habakkuk. Since the whole book only contains three chapters I decided to read the entire thing. I'm glad I did. It started out with the prophet asking a lot of questions. He was asking God for some answers.

In the first chapter, Habakkuk starts with a question I believe to be common for some caregivers. O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? David asked similar questions in Psalm 13... On this caregiving journey, I must say I have wondered if God still hears my cry - if He still understands my heart. Habakkuk goes on to ask God why He allows me to see trouble....

God did answer Habakkuk, but the prophet came up with more questions. The discourse continues for the first couple of chapters. Chapter 3 is Habakkuk's prayer which ends with the verse I was looking for. Before I get to that, let me say God is not scared of our questions. I've asked some hard ones - some crazy ones. His shoulders are big enough to carry all my concerns. He doesn't get scared and He doesn't run away. I really think the fact that we still ask questions indicate we still trust Him and we are still looking to Him.

See, Habakkuk ended this short book with his statement of faith. I think maybe we should make it a caregiver's motto. Habakkuk didn't clearly understand the devastation and turmoil he was witnessing - and God didn't just make it all go away. As I look at my personal caregiving situation - I know my aunt will pass one day. I know my mom will too. But my son is young - I could very well live out the rest of my days just.like.this. I have to adopt Habakkuk's Hymn of Faith.

Though the fig tree may not blossom
Nor fruit be on the vines
Though the labor of the olive may fail
And the fields yield no food
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold
And there be no herd in the stalls
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord 
I will joy in the God of my salvation
the Lord God is my strength.....

Notice the "I will" in his faith statement. Today, I will find my I will. No matter what it looks like - no matter what it feels like - no matter what I face... I will yet praise Him. I will trust Him for He is my strength. I will be confident in Him. What is your I will today?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Everything is Beautiful

My mom has dementia. I am not her caregiver, my dad handles everything. I know a lot of caregivers who are taking care of family members suffering from this horrible disease. I told Daddy that mama isn't the one suffering, it's us.

Mama is happy. She sings all the old hymns. Randomly. While she's eating. In the middle of your sentence.. or her own. lol. She's as content as she can be. This was the first time she didn't know me at all. She usually figures it out after I am there a while. But not this day. It was hard on me - even though she was just as chipper as she could be.

Even though she cannot remember, I have lots of memories of the things we used to do. We were good friends and worked in ministry together often. It doesn't seem fair. She was vibrant, joyful, super talkative - never met a stranger. Mama was a Bible student and taught any time she was asked to. She was a Sunday School teacher, evangelist, youth pastor, and pastored a couple of times. How is it fair that she has no words now?

My heart was crushed and I kept thinking about Solomon and his writings in Ecclesiastes. Everything indeed seems to be in vain and we all have the same end. Eventually, we all die. All of us. None is exempt. So this morning I read all 12 chapters. I was looking for something- I'm not sure what. Validation for my feelings? Hope for my heart?  I do not know. But I found this one verse.

The first few verses of chapter 3 is a familiar passage. It's been used as lyrics for secular and Christian music alike. It's poetic and powerful. A time for everything. Life and death, riches and poverty, health and sickness. But as I read on, verse 11 stopped me in my tracks. It says: everything is beautiful in its time. How is this beautiful? My mom (and son too for that matter) is gone while the body is still here. She's not the person she used to be. How is that beautiful?

Then I realized that we caregivers - family members - loved ones - and friends - are making it a beautiful story. One of grace. One of reliance upon God no matter what. One of undying love for a mom, wife, friend. That's beautiful. Mama is beautiful too - just singing those ole hymns. Because, as one friend put it "it's part of her spirit just like the sun is part of God's universe." Yeah, that's it - even in death our spirits are hidden in Him- our promise of life with Him is uninterrupted by death... or life.

Today, I'll focus on finding the beauty of each moment. My thoughts will be on how He still protects our hearts, how He keeps our souls. I'll be thankful that He keeps that part of us even if the rest of us is wasting away. I'll trust Him to bring beauty out of the ashes of this life. Will you join me?