Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Need to Take Care of Yourself

You need to take care of yourself.” How many times have caregivers heard this? As a caregiver, one may be tempted to think, “I am so busy attending to the needs of my loved one. How can I possibly find time for myself?”  However, as a caregiver for my husband with an ever deteriorating neurological disease, I found that it was essential to at least seek to take care of myself. This was not selfish. It was important for me to take care of myself so that I would not fold under the pressure and become ill myself.  It was also necessary for my husband’s well-being. I could be the best I could be in meeting my husband’s needs only if I was also taking care of myself.  

A caregiver needs to attend to his or her emotional needs. If there is a face to face caregiver support group in one’s community, that might be helpful. If a caregiver knows someone else who is a caregiver, that also might be beneficial. By forming a relationship with that person, a caregiver may have found someone in whom he or she can confide. As a family caregiver, I personally found a lot of emotional support through an internet online support group and through blogging. Through reading other caregiver’s blogs, I was greatly helped and reassured that my feelings were normal and often very similar to other caregivers. Through blogging my own thoughts, I was also able to crystallize my feelings.   This helped me so much.  Also, a caregiver needs to get out and do enjoyable things alone or with friends from time to time. If this means asking someone to come in and tend to the caregiver’s loved one’s needs, then that is what has to happen. Total isolation is never good for anyone’s emotional needs.  

A caregiver also needs to attend to his or her physical needs. A caregiver has to protect his or her own needs in order to be able to attend to the needs of the loved one who requires their constant care. One way one can do that is through a healthy diet and exercise, whenever possible. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and it can help to prevent a lot of diseases.  

Further, a caregiver needs to attend to his or her spiritual needs. It is so important to develop an intimate spiritual relationship with the Lord. It is also important to stay deep in His Word, the Bible, and to constantly pray for the Lord’s guidance and strength. Without my relationship with the Lord and the wonderful promises in His Word, I think I would not have been able to hold up under the stresses of care-giving. 

Finally, a caregiver must be willing to ask for help. A caregiver must ask for help from God, but also sometimes from others. As a caregiver, I did not want to ask for help. Also, sometimes I did not know what kind of help others could give me. In the end, however, I realized that I absolutely could not do it alone. I had a C.N.A. lady come in two to three nights a week at bedtime, and at the very end my son was able to greatly step up and help also. In this way, I was able to keep my husband out of the nursing home. In other cases, a nursing home may be the only and best option.  A caregiver must have the courage and humility to accept and even pursue help as needed.  Take care of yourself in every way you can, dear caregiver!  

(This post is taken from my book DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers. The book is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dear-Caregiver-Sharon-Vander-Waal/dp/1629524263/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421452148&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Caregiver  It is further available at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dear-caregiver-sharon-vander-waal/1119198854?ean=9781629524269   Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have paperback and e-versions of my book. Finally it is also available at Xulon, my publisher: http://www.xulonpress.com/bookstore/bookdetail.php?PB_ISBN=9781629524269&HC_ISBN )


Sunday, January 18, 2015

God is Good

For seven weeks I am scheduled to teach a woman's Sunday school class in my church on the goodness of God.  Today was our second session.  It is easy to believe in the goodness of God when life runs smoothly, yet is God good on the days when life is difficult as well?  Is God good as you perhaps see your loved one deteriorate in his or her health?  Is God good when you are overwhelmed with the stresses of care-giving or other life stresses?  It may not always feel that way; but yes, God is good all the time, dear caregiver.

One way He shows His goodness is by His Father heart.  Read Psalm 103 and find out all his benefits and blessings to you.  Find out about His total forgiveness for all your sins.  He removes them as far as the east is from the west!  He blots them out from His memory.  Bask in that grace, dear caregiver. If God removes all your sins, will He not also give you everything else you need as a caregiver?  We can rest in His goodness even when we do not always understand His ways.  Knowing He is a God of goodness and love enables us to walk in obedience and trust.  Even the trials are sent to mold us to be more like Jesus.  They too show us God's goodness and love in the same way as a good parent shows their love for their children by directing and disciplining them.  Your Abba Father, your heavenly Daddy, loves you with an infinite love and goodness (Romans 8:15-17.)

Another way God shows His love for you and His goodness is by being a place of refuge for you.  In fact the Lord is your only true refuge, dear caregiver.  You can run to Him to regroup and to be restored when care-giving responsibilities and concerns are wearing you down.  You can hide under the shelter of His wings.  Check out Psalm 91 in regards to God's refuge available to you, dear caregiver.  In practical terms you can seek His refuge through prayer, Bible reading,
Biblical music, and perhaps counsel and help from others.  He is always there to comfort and shelter you, dear caregiver.

The password or entrance to His comfort and refuge is honesty about your feelings, dear caregiver.  It is pouring out your heart to Him.  It is also gratitude in the midst of the heartaches.  Life is hard, but God is good.  Family care-giving can be very difficult and stressful, but God is always good, dear caregiver.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Your Shepherd

Recently during my devotions I was reading chapter ten in the book of John in the New Testament.  I was reminded of some very comforting things.  First, our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, calls us by name and leads us.  He does not drive us.  He goes ahead of us, and all we have to do is follow Him.  All we have to do is listen for His voice and follow Him (John 10:4).

I don't know about you, dear caregiver, but often I felt overwhelmed by the day to day challenges of care-giving.  I also feared what the future held, as I saw my husband's body deteriorate step by step.  In my weak human nature as a widow I still give way to fear at times when I think about the future.  But God's Word clearly tells us that our Shepherd leads us.  All we have to do is listen for His voice which we already know, and follow Him!

Our Shepherd also comes that we "may have life and have it to the full."  Yes, even in the challenges and heartaches of care-giving or any other life trial, God's Word promises us joy and fullness.  Joy in the Lord and pain can coexist.  Remember other things often distract and even "steal and kill and destroy," but there is fullness of joy in the Lord. (John 10:10)

Our Shepherd loves us so much that He lay down His life for us, His sheep (John 10:11)  He also knows us, His sheep, and the sheep know Him!  This is the same kind of intimacy that exists between the Heavenly Father who knows the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Son who knows the Father (John 10:14-15).

Finally we as the Shepherd's sheep can never be snatched out of the Shepherd's hand!  (John 10:28) Care-giving challenges and heartaches can weigh a caregiver's heart down.  Other life challenges can as well.  Know, however, dear caregiver, that nothing can snatch you out to the Shepherd's hand!  Even if God takes you or your loved one to Himself in Heaven; you and your loved one are eternally secure, if you are truly His sheep,

If you are a child of God and one of His sheep, He goes ahead of you and leads the way.  You also then have fullness of life, deep intimacy with the Shepherd, and eternal security because of His sacrifice on the cross.  Is not that awesome comfort, dear caregiver?



  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sweet Memories

On January 1 it would have been my husband's 69th birthday.  Yes, he was a New Year's Day baby. On January 2, 2011, a little over four years ago my husband graduated to Heaven, his eternal home.  I still miss him even after four years.  One does not just forget about over 39 years of marriage.

Our marriage was a good marriage, and he was the love of my life.  Yet those care-giving years were very difficult years, as I saw my husband's body become more and more disabled.  They were years that were difficult emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Yet they were also years where I grew in my dependence on the Lord and in my love for the Lord.  The Lord is with you each step of the way as well, dear caregiver, and He is molding you more and more into His image through all you are experiencing as a family caregiver.

I look back now on the sweet memories of the days before my husband was diagnosed with his neurological disease.  I hope you will indulge me today in this anniversary week of his death by allowing me to share some sweet memories of those days.  Click on the link below to see some pictures I have on one of my Pinterest boards displaying these sweet memories.  I hope you too have and are building sweet memories, dear caregiver.

http://www.pinterest.com/jesuschild54/sweet-memories 


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Hope Not Worries

(The following post is from a blog post that I published in 2013. May the Lord bless your Christmas, dear caregiver.)

December is the month that we think of Christmas and hope. Dear Christian caregiver, is your life weighed down with care and worry this Christmas season; or is it filled with hope? I remember my care-giving years during which I saw my husband continue to decline in his health step by step. It was tempting at such times to give up hope. Hope is something all of us can possess no matter how difficult our circumstances, however.

During this holiday season we are also reminded of the birth of Jesus Christ. Over 2,000 years ago before Jesus was born most of the people were living without very much hope. Then in Luke chapter one of the Bible an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was being blessed by God’s grace in becoming the mother of Jesus. Jesus Christ was coming as the Savior for His people.

Mary’s response to this was openhearted acceptance. (See Luke 1:38 in the Bible.) Mary would suffer many immediate problems being the mother of Jesus. She would also experience many heartaches in her future. Because Mary now had hope, however, she was willing to accept God’s will for her life with joy. A life secure in the Lord’s hope can move with confidence through life in spite of difficulties and challenges

Life as a caregiver can be very heartbreaking and challenging. There are times when the circumstances of care-giving can feel overwhelming. But like Mary in the Bible we too can have hope no matter what our circumstances. Dear Christian caregiver, rest your care-giving heartaches with the Lord. Know that He is the source of strength and hope. His hope is not a wishful thinking type hope, but it is a hope based on His certain promises in the Bible. His hope is
secure and will never leave you.

( I will be taking the next week off, because I will have family visiting in my home.  I will be back with a new blog post on January 4 or 5.  Use this time to read some of my old blog posts, and have a blessed Christmas, dear caregiver.)




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Stress or Joy?

My husband passed away about a week after Christmas four years ago.  I remember that Christmas. All my sons' families were able to be home that year.  It had been a number of years since we were all together at the same time because of distances between where we live from each other.  Perhaps we subconsciously knew there would not be another Christmas with my husband being present with us. Yet I do not think any of us anticipated that in a little over a week, my husband, Wayne, would be with the Lord.  That Christmas there were chaotic moments and good moments with so many people under one roof, but it is a memory which no one can take from us.

What memories are you creating, dear caregiver?  Sometimes care-giving can be overwhelming with its responsibilities.  In that scenario who feels like the extra hassle of Christmas decorating and giving?  If your loved one is very ill, somehow it may even seem out of place.  

Yet perhaps we are putting the emphasis the wrong place.  Is not Christmas about the birth of the Lord Jesus, of His coming to this fallen world to save us?  So if your loved one is a believer, even if he or she is not with you next Christmas; you both have something to celebrate.  This life is not the end of all things.  We have an eternity ahead of us!  

So we do not have to win contests about the best decorated house in the city or the most expensive gifts.  I live alone now since my husband's passing.  My Christmas decorating took perhaps only an hour this year.  Dear caregiver, let your Christmas be about celebrating the Lord this year and the eternity which is ahead.  Let it also be about your relationship with your family and friends and especially about your loved one for whom you are caring.  Make a memory.  Minimize the stress and accent the joy.


(On another note give yourself or another caregiver a gift of love this Christmas-My book:  DEAR CAREGIVER Reflections for Family Caregivers.  I wrote this book out of a love and understanding for caregivers.  I wrote it from my own experience as a family caregiver.  Click on the Amazon or Xulon links on the right hand side of the screen  to purchase the book.  If you prefer you can also get it directly from me by e-mailing me for specifics,  My e-mail address is on the top right hand of the page.)

    

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Story to Tell

I had a book signing for my book at a Christian book store yesterday. It went well and was a blessing. Two other authors were there as well. It was nice sharing with the other authors and a few of the people who came to the table as well. One lady bought a book for a relative who is only 18 and a caregiver for her uncle. I was pretty impressed with that. It was and is a blessing to share my story and hope that someone's life is blessed and helped. This also mixes with a stirring up of sad emotions in me of those difficult care-giving days and the loss of my husband, Wayne. Yet what a platform for also discussing God's goodness and redemption of difficult times. It was a joy to interact yesterday with people who understand this.

Sometimes when we are in the midst of difficult trials such as family care-giving can produce, it is difficult to see that God is not only blessing us in the midst of the heartaches; but He will also redeem those situations to be used to help others and to advance His kingdom later on in our future lives.

Dear Christian caregiver, know that what you are doing now is so vital in the kingdom of God.  It is such noble work for the cause of the Lord.  It will also be used in the days ahead, as you tell your own story of God's grace. You may not write a book, but you will and do have a story to tell.  Also your care-giving story is producing in you an empathy and love and compassion for others that will be a huge blessing and inspiration to them in the days ahead.  There will be awesome beauty from the ashes.