Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Day 2 Days


Ah, the end of another year. How can time go so fast and so slow at the same time? It feels both ways most of the time, doesn’t it? While we are doing our day-to-days it can seem so slow. But then you look up and realize another week is gone, and soon another month and here we are on the brink of a brand new year.

One of the things I have difficulty with is setting goals for a new year. I know we are all supposed to have New Year’s resolutions. But as caregivers, it can be difficult to plan a simple outing sometimes. Even then, one of us may be sick, or something goes wrong with a vehicle or any number of other things. For me, I never know when the doctor is coming until the day before and it’s the same with nurses and case managers. It’s hard to plan anything out very far at all. Maybe I’ll read more books this year – maybe I won’t. I definitely want to eat better and get in better shape physically. But it seems like there is obstacle after obstacle. So, no resolutions for me this year. Lol.

On the other hand, I purpose to trust Him more this year with the day-2-days. Maybe that’s a resolution and maybe it’s not. As I was working on my next devotional 31 Days in Psalm 31, which should be out in January, I found myself back in Psalm 121. I’ve clung to this psalm a lot over the last 11 years. It hit me while I was living in the ICU waiting room wondering what the future held for me and my son. I remember thinking my help doesn’t come from these doctors and nurses (no matter how good they are) – my help comes from the Lord. I wrote a simple chorus about it and it’s sort of been my theme song.

I suppose as another year approaches, it will remain my theme song. My goal any year, any day, month, week, or moment is to look to Him as my help, my strength, my go-to. That’s not likely to change anytime sooner or later. That psalm goes on to say that HE won’t let my foot slip. He doesn’t sleep – but He watches over Israel. He is our keeper; He is our shade. And best of all – He is the keeper of our souls.

So, this year, I’ll continue to trust Him to keep my soul. He watches over the part of me that cries the deepest, hurts the hardest, and longs for Him the most. Nothing can touch our soul – He keeps that part of us that makes us – US. I guess if that’s a resolution, so be it.

Today, I’ll lean into Him just a little more closely and I’ll whisper, I trust You with my soul. And I’ll listen for His reply. I purpose to stay closer to Him during this season of life than I ever have, to trust Him with more of me – to be more transparent before Him (it’s not like He doesn’t know anyway) and to rely on Him with more of me invested in the deal. Will you join me?

Monday, December 30, 2019

In the Press

At the end of each year, I usually spend some time in reflection. Even though I'm in a "down" patch emotionally right now, this year has had a lot of ups. I try to focus on those more than the downs, especially the ones that are right in my face. My goal for the coming year is to take the bigger plusses from this year and make them even larger positives next year.

As caregivers, it can be so difficult to feel like we accomplish anything. We tend to do the same things over and over. There is endless laundry, dishes, preparing meals, feeding, and more that simply have to happen every single day. Then on top of those things we have doctor's appointments, urgent care needs, or any sundry of other things we have to deal with when taking care of another whole person and all their affairs. Even though working through all the day-to-days is quite the accomplishment and we do it day after day, it can feel like we don't get anything at all done.

If we are not careful, or even if we are, it's easy to feel like we are pressed by the load we carry. In no way is it burdensome - we love our people, right? We do what we do because of that love. But there are times when it feels like it is crushing us or maybe we just don't feel like we can get ahead.

This morning, I was working on my next devotional for my online bookstore, and I found myself in Hebrews 12:2. Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. We were that joy. But in that moment, perhaps in Gethsemane when He was asking if there was any other way - the weight of all of us was resting on His soul. He gave up His will - for us. Don't we do something similar every single day?

Perhaps it's not on such a grande scale - we are not saving the world. But we do give up our desires, our hopes, our comfort, etc - for our loved ones. And we sit in the moment of each day saying Not my will, but Yours be done. We pray that for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our caregivees.

Today, I simply want to accept the will of God for my life whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, easy or difficult, breathtaking or crushing I submit it all to Him. There is a contentment that comes - a true soul peace as we stop fighting the crushing. It's a release to say - this isn't how I had it planned out - but I will submit to You no matter what life brings. God's will doesn't change because we are caregivers - He still has good thoughts towards us. He still has good plans for us. We are still more than conquerors through him even if we are caregiving. My thoughts will be on purposefully pursuing His will in my situation and not my own... will you join me in this quest?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Safe and Stylish: A Designers Guide to Decorating for Elder Care



Just because something is safe doesn’t mean it can’t look good, too. When you’re looking to create a stylish space for a senior, or a family caring for an older adult with memory impairments, you must consider their abilities as well as the people around them in your plan. Here are a few tips on how to get it done.

Cater to their wants with modified amenities

During your initial consultation, determine what the people in the home prioritize. Does the senior enjoy cooking or gardening? Is he or she more interested in reading or watching television? Once you know the senior’s interests, you’ll have a better idea about what will lend best to his or her quality of life. You might, for instance, design a wheelchair-accessible indoor garden or outfit the kitchen with a microwave oven that is easy to use with knobs instead of push buttons.

Go high tech

Computers and electronics aren’t just for gaming teens or busy executives. Today’s technology can be integrated in a home’s design to keep seniors safe and extend at least some independence. Alzheimers.net notes that picture phones, GPS tracking devices, and clocks made specifically for dementia patients are valuable additions to a senior’s home. Likewise, you might suggest installing smart plugs and devices throughout the home so that seniors can control lights, radios, and televisions with their voice, even from another room. 

Ensure everyone has a private space in which to retreat when needed

Most Alzheimer’s patients eventually require around-the-clock care. And while this is a labor of love for most family members, they will not only need a home that’s set up with their loved one’s needs in mind, but the caregiver will also need a place of respite. Create one room where the caregivers can walk away for a few moments to relax and recharge. Make this area a workspace for paid care providers, too, such as nursing assistants and housekeepers, so they can plan without interruptions or distractions.

Be minimalistic

The entire home should be safe and navigable, including the bathroom and kitchen, where seniors are most likely to get hurt. Avoid area rugs and look for flooring that doesn’t get slippery when wet. Design a living area without low-lying furniture, such as coffee and end tables. Opt instead for a sofa or sectional with built-in storage that eliminates the needs for these tripping hazards.

Create a space that emphasizes relaxation

For many seniors, a failure to effectively manage stress can make memory issues worse. Look for ways to incorporate relaxation and exercise into their day by establishing a wellness flow throughout the home. Keep books within reach, make access to the outdoors easy, and add pieces of furniture that hide journals, music, or art supplies they can reach when they want to take their mind off their condition.

Make organization a priority

As with all home design, keeping things organized is the key to keeping things safe. Clutter is dangerous to a senior’s physical and mental health. Use items that serve a dual purpose, such as a slow-cooker and pressure cooker combination in the kitchen or electric reclining furniture in the living room.

If you’re working with a family that may not be able to afford every home alteration, you can help them find home-modification grants or alternative solutions that will balance their wants, needs, and budget. Remember, the end goal is to create an environment that provides both safety and serenity for seniors. By customizing their home in a way that keeps them safe without sacrificing their personal sense of style, you will help them hold on to the best years of their life and enjoy those that are left.



Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Adversity Hasn't Won Yet!

Yesterday, I had an incident with one of my clients. At first, it seemed huge and I was angry, refusing to discuss the situation until I could simmer down. Even afterwards, I was silently fuming thinking I'd just let the client go and work for others who are more appreciative of my writing skills. lol

This morning, I went for a swim at the fitness center and it allowed me plenty of time to think. There's no music, no technology, no nothing - so it's quiet with just the sound of the water lapping at the sides of the pool. Back and forth I go and for a while, my head is swimming around in thoughts too.

As I was praying about how to handle the situation properly, I kind of heard this thought as I asked myself how can I use this situation to become a better writer? And it reminded me that adversity doesn't have to destroy us - it can make us better and stronger. The decisions we make in those instances either make us or break us.

My mind then jumped to when my son first had his wreck, now over 11 years ago. I recall going to the chapel in the bottom floor of the hospital and praying something like Lord, don't let this make me bitter or hard - My prayer early on was that adversity would shape me - help me draw closer to Him and that He'd still be able to use me in it.

James and Peter both started their letters by asking the readers to be patient in tribulation and struggles. Early Christians were encouraged to let patience have its complete work and that in the midst of trials. Peter explained to the young church that they should rejoice when faith is tried because in the end - we'll receive a reward for hanging in there. James told the 12 tribes, consider it JOY when you face various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance and LET endurance have its complete work so you can be mature. 

As we face this day as caregivers, no matter what happened to get us to this point, may we hold our heads up knowing we are still in the fight. We are enduring. We are still faith-full. We are still pursuing Him - our adversity has not won. It has not taken us from Him, cannot take us from His love, and has not distracted us for long enough that we haven't returned to Him with our heart time and time again.

Today, I will give myself a fist-bump for hanging in there - and you give yourself one too! Here we are in the midst of struggles, adversity, and trials, still pursuing His heart. Maybe we should give ourselves a break! I'll meditate on His strength IN me today and think about how it's been His strength that has carried me through to this point. I'll also thank Him for the growth whether I actually see it or feel it or not - and I'll thank Him for not abandoning me on those dark, whiny nights. Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

It's Okay to Ask

Sometimes, I am not sure what to do with such a wide range of emotions that are associated with caregiving. There is daily grief over what was, the shaded future, and what could have been. There's a sense of loss that is different for each caregiver. For me, it's the loss of my son although his body is still here. I also feel the loss of relationship with him and the future we were supposed to share as he matured, married and began a career and family. With my mom, it's a different loss due to her dementia. There is the loss of the relationship, as well as the loss of her memories of all the things we shared over the years. The grief, losses, and social isolation can chip away at my heart and soul as I fade into quietness.

As believers, how do we deal with these things? Where is that line of faith? We know all too well that there are no "Christmas Miracles" in real life. Not for us anyway. But that's a lot to carry, isn't it? It can be so difficult to navigate through a wide range of emotions on any given day.

I have to take my heart back to hope. Is there any? Sometimes, it really doesn't look like it - but there is always hope as long as we are breathing in and breathing out.to be honest, I'm not sure I always know what that hope looks or feels like. But since I've made it a practice to hide His word in my heart, my mind wanders over to Psalm 42.

The sons of Korah start the psalm out describing their deep desire for God. They call it a thirst - like the deer longs to be refreshed by the brooks. This first little bit has been used in worship choruses for years, but if you did a bit deeper into the psalm you find that they were trying to find God in dire circumstances, just like we do as caregivers sometimes.

The writers were seeking God in a hard circumstance, not worshipping Him in Sunday morning church. They share feelings of despair, feeling forgotten by God, and oppression of the enemy. For us, the enemy may look like brain injury, dementia, or something else. But our soul becomes disturbed (v.11) like the Sons of Korah.

But then they end the psalm in the most unusual way - with a declaration of trusting Him. They turn to ask themselves - why are you discouraged oh my soul? So, it must be okay to ask, right? I can't tell you how many times (every day) I've asked. And it's okay. Especially when it's followed with - I shall yet praise Him - the help of my countenance and my God. Still declaring in the midst of things so hard to understand - that He is still my God and I will continue to trust whether I can or cannot see.

Today, in the midst of pain, disappointment, and struggle I will declare - You O Lord are the help of my countenance - You lift me up! You are still my help and I will still trust You and praise You. Will you join me?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

It’s All the Hard Part


Nothing is easy about caregiving, in my opinion. Some days are overall easier than others, maybe. And eventually we tend to adjust to a new normal, don’t we? For me, it’s taken some time to get into a groove and stay there. That’s actually how I adjust to many of the daily responsibilities. When I need to add something new, I find a spot for it in what I am already doing and once I fit it into my “groove” it becomes a new norm too.

As caregivers, we have so much on our plate it can be hard to juggle it all. And it’s not just a hectic spot – it’s every single day  - day after day. It can be easy to lose sight of life itself. Most caregivers I’ve had a chance to cyber-chat with get frustrated with people who tell them they need to take care of themselves or they need to take a break – but offer no real solution for how to do so. Not to mention how friends seem to vanish over time and social isolation becomes a real deal that gnaws away at our very existence. But alas, we adjust and continue to do what we must do for our loved ones.

Pressing on when it gets difficult makes me think of a scripture. Hebrews 12:1-2 says this:

Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith
Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,
Despising the shame  and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
(NASB)

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth sharing again. I recall the day I stood by my son’s hospital bed, right after I’d brought him home. I was still heartbroken and was also in caregiver’s shock as I had no idea what it was going to look like. It was certainly figuring it out a day at a time thing. Lol. As I looked at my adult son sleeping, I was overwhelmed by the love I had for him. I knew I would stay beside him no matter what that road looked like, for I was bound by love. And in that moment, I realized this was the same love that held Jesus to the cross. His intense love and compassion for us was why He faced the cross, to begin with – and it’s what held Him to the cross when He had the power to walk away.

He looked out over time and saw us in our caregiving situations and endured the cross so He could perfect our faith. Those days when we just are not sure we can put one foot in front of the other or it takes all our strength just to breathe – we can look at Him and realized He endured pain for us because He cherishes us, He loves us. And we can take one more step, one more breath.

I think I didn’t really understand love until that moment that day. It’s helped me sort through many days – none of them easy.

Today, I’ll keep my thoughts focused on His great love for me. My meditations will be on how He didn’t get off that cross because it hurt – He knew WE needed Him to stay there. He endured – I can endure. I can run this caregiver’s race that is set before me with patience because of what He has done. I’ll thank Him for the grace to make one more hard day – will you join me?

Monday, December 2, 2019

Where Were You?


This weekend I paid for a sitter so I could get out in nature a bit. I’ve heard the saying that you go into the woods to find your soul. There is definitely something healing about a nice walk in nature. Well, this wasn’t really a walk, there was a LOT of rock climbing. But it was good for my soul and my body.

I think hiking is good because it gets your mind totally off caregiving, work, and life. For a few hours you’ve got to focus on where you are, where you are going and not getting lost! It takes every bit of you and demands you be “all in” for a little while. But while you are immersed in a nice hike and enjoying the fresh air – it really does bring a cleansing to the soul. As I got to this one area with beautiful rock formations and interesting plant life even here in early winter, I paused. I looked around at the beauty of nature and I realized the load of life had been lifted off my shoulders. Nature had done its job. I said, “thank you” out loud. Then began to thank God for all He created.

As I looked around at all the rock formations, I thought of how small it when compared with all His creation. I thought of the scriptures that mention how He holds the waters of the world in the palm of His hand. Then I thought of my favorite passage on creation. It’s in Job 38. Verse 4 stood out in my mind as God asks Job, Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? As I continued to hike and look at the wonders of creation, I thought of that phrase Where were you? Oddly enough it made me feel small and huge all at the same time.

On one hand, I recognized the power of God and how big He really is. But I also realized He takes time to speak to us. It was also significant to me that He was addressing this question to Job, the one so admired for facing great adversity and coming through it with faith intact.

So, I marveled that I felt so close to God out in the wilderness. I marveled that as insignificant as I feel in the grander scheme of things, He took time to touch my heart. I was refreshed, renewed, and recommitted to serving Him with all I had. My soul was calm – and that had been the point of the hike.

I thought about how God used nature throughout the scriptures. He spoke to Moses in a burning bush, made water run out of a rock, and today, He used it to speak to my heart once again.

Today, I will meditate on His majesty. My thoughts will be on the wonders of creation and how He still speaks to us today when we take time to listen. I’ll take time to listen to Him today – I’ll find that quiet place for my soul to reach out to Him once again. And of course, I’ll continue to trust Him for one more day. Will you join me?