Monday, May 30, 2011

Press On

Press On is the title of a beautiful song that I learned to love when I was a caregiver for my husband. The words were a source of encouragement to me. Perhaps you are already acquainted with this song, or perhaps you are not. Either way I would like to share the lyrics of this song with you in the following paragraphs.

Selah - Press On(Dan Burgess)

When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on

Here is a link to listening to this song:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Cry!

As I look back at my blog posts about my caregiving days when my husband was still living, I find I hardly ever sat down and had a good cry. Since my husband, Wayne’s death I have cried a lot. I often experienced some very deep and negative emotions during my caregiving days especially as my husband’s disease progressed. I very seldom cried, however. As I look back on my blog posts during my caregiving days, I can find really only one time when I journaled about crying.

I think as a caregiver I thought I had to be strong all the time, and so I didn’t want to let go of my emotions and cry. I think many caregivers feel the same way, as I did. Seldom crying and letting those emotions come out of me was probably not the best idea, however. Crying occasionally is a good release for one’s emotions. It tends to cleanse the soul so to speak.

It is also good to cry out to God. We need to be honest with God about our every emotion even the negative ones. God knows our feelings anyway without us telling Him. Many of the Psalms in the Old Testament are Psalms of lament and crying out to God. In fact there are more Psalms of lament than Psalms of praise. As long as we are turning to God and drawing closer to God and not turning away from God in bitterness, it is good to cry out to God.

Dear Christian Caregiver, just let the emotions come. If you do not want to cry in front of your loved one who is ill, find a quiet and private place to do so. Also come to God in prayer, and cry out to Him. Cry if you feel the need. Just cry!

Monday, May 16, 2011


As a caregiver have you ever asked the question “Why?” Why did my love one get this awful disease? Why are people older than him walking around seemingly healthy and carefree? Why does this disease have to rob us of the relationship we once enjoyed? Why was I as a caregiver assigned the often discouraging and always challenging task of caregiving?” I am sure as a caregiver I consciously or unconsciously asked these questions at one time or another. Seeing my husband deteriorate before my eyes during those caregiving years was very discouraging to me.

These are not easy questions to answer, however. We can give general answers to these questions, but the whys of the specifics of our lives sometimes is a mystery. We do know that we live in a broken world. The world was created perfect, but sin entered the world through Adam. Through Christ we as believers are forgiven and restored to a relationship with God. We still do temporarily live in a broken world, however. Hence, we are all called to do what we can do to bring compassion and healing to those who are hurting. Caregivers have a unique calling in this area, as they care for their loved ones who so desperately need their help.

So as said before we have some general answers to our “why?” questions, but we do not necessarily have specific answers to our set of circumstances. We do know God has a master plan, but we do not fully understand why He allows certain painful things in our lives. God never promised us a life free from heartache, however. To the contrary He said that there would be trouble, heartache, and challenges in this life. He also said that He will give us peace in the midst of it all. (John 16:33) We further know God uses the challenges to develop our characters and make us more like Himself.

Knowing these things helps, as we face the challenges and heartaches of caregiving. It does not answer all of our “why?” questions, however. Some of the answers to these questions will remain a mystery at least in this life. Some of these secret things we do not understand need to be left with God. (Deuteronomy 29:29) This is because God is so much above us that we do not have the capacity to understand God. He just wants us to trust Him.

Asking those “Why?” questions in our caregiving situations is normal. It also reminds us that we are human beings and that we are not ultimately in control. Sometimes caregivers have to fight so hard for the well-being of their loved ones that they may lose sight of the fact that they really are not in control of the situation. Everything ultimately belongs in the hands of God.

Perhaps a better question than the “Why?” question would be a question like “What can I learn through this, and how can I grow through this caregiving experience?” Another question might be “How can I bring glory to God through this whole caregiving experience?” Yet another question might be “How can I put one foot in front of the other and continue to persevere?”

Dear Caregiver, trust that God has the answers when you do not. He does not give us the answer to all of our questions. Instead He wants to give us Himself. We also need to trust that He has revealed enough of Himself, so we can live lives of purpose and obedience.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Our identities are so often wrapped up with our various roles in life. Our identities, however, really should be a reflection of whom we are inside. Our identities should reflect our values, passions, likes and dislikes, and our tastes.

My husband, Wayne, and I were married for over 39 years. During that time I was his wife, lover, and best friend. I was also the mother to our three sons and later a mother-in-law and a Grandma.

During the last years of my husband’s life I also took on the role of my husband’s caregiver. As my husband’s caregiver I was often bombarded with questions like, “How’s Wayne?” I never knew how to answer that question. Outside of a miracle my husband was NOT going to get better but only worse. He was not going to get over his disease like the common cold. There was no treatment for his disease, and his symptoms were predicted to continue to deteriorate. So how was I to answer a question like “How is Wayne?” People knew this, and I still was asked that question. I also felt that I was more than my husband’s caregiver, and I didn’t constantly want to be identified only as Wayne’s caregiver.

As my husband’s wife and caregiver I grieved each step backwards that he took in his disease. It was a painful seeing the love of my love deteriorate before my eyes. The role of being his caregiver did become almost all consuming. Because of this it also almost become my identity. After my husband’s death on January 2, 2011 my new status become widow. I now have to work my way through the grief process and struggle to find a new purpose and role in life.

As we said before, however, our identities are not equal to our roles in life. Our identities should reflect our inner beings and passions. The roles we play in life should merely be a sort of vehicle for fleshing out our identities. Also as a Christian our true identities are really only found in our relationship with our Lord. That relationship will get us through the most difficult of challenges and trials.

Dear Caregiver, the caregiving role can be so consuming that you forget who you are as a person. In the midst of the overwhelming decisions and challenges of caregiving it is important that you do not lose sight of who you are as a unique individual. Most importantly do not lose sight, Christian caregiver, of your significant identity in Christ.

Monday, May 2, 2011

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, but 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.

Caregiving long term for a loved one who has a disease in which he continually moves backwards in his health is emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenging. It is challenging for the person with the disease, but it also is challenging for that person’s caregiver. In many ways it is harder for the caregiver. Thus, it is important for the caregiver to attend to his or her own needs also.

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 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 the writing of my own blog posts I was able to crystallize my feelings. Just writing down those feelings helped me so much. Finally 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 their loved one who requires their constant care. One way one can do that is through exercise whenever possible. Exercise is a great stress reliever, and it can help to prevent a lot of diseases.

 I journaled the following on March 6, 2009 when I was right in the middle of my caregiving days:
“Yesterday and today were beautiful days outside at least for WI. So I took advantage of the nice weather and took a walk both days. It is amazing how just taking a half hour walk can lift one’s spirits in this caregiving experience.”

Further, a caregiver needs to attend to his or her spiritual needs. It is so important to develop a 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 His wonderful promises in His Word I think I would not have been able to hold up under the stresses of caregiving.

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. Either way 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. It is good advice. On January 10, 2009 I journaled the following: “I must take better care of myself; if I want to be any good as a caregiver to my husband. Most importantly I must continue my devotions and seek to draw ever closer to my Lord. I also must try to take better care of my body. This will relieve a lot of stress and fatigue. Lord, give me the strength to make some consistent changes.”