Monday, December 31, 2012

Approaching a New Year

Today is the last day of 2012. Christmas has come and gone for another year, and we are again approaching a new year. Perhaps this year has been a good year for you, dear caregiver. Perhaps, however, this past year has not been a good one for you. Perhaps you have seen a severe decline in your loved one’s health; and you are grieving the fact that outside of a miracle your loved one will never be the person he or she once was.
Two years ago at this time my husband’s health had taken some severe nose dives downward. As I mentioned on a previous blog post we were able to all celebrate Christmas two years ago with our entire family. All three of our sons and their wives and all of our grandchildren were together that year for Christmas.
On Saturday, Jan 1, 2011 about a week later my husband, Wayne, turned 65. We spent a quiet day at home. I fixed him his favorite meal. Also he received phone calls from his sons who live far away and his grandchildren sang “Happy Birthday” to him on the phone. Later our local son’s family came briefly and those grandchildren sang “Happy Birthday” to him. I put him to bed like normal that evening. But sadly, on Sunday morning, January 2, 2011 my son and I discovered my husband had passed away during the night when we went to get him out of bed for the day.
Even though my husband’s health had declined significantly, I had no clue that I would find on that Sunday morning that my husband had passed away during the night. The process of the disease was supposed to take 6-10 years after diagnosis. Wayne lived only 4 ½ years after diagnosis. I knew that he would pass away some day, however; and I anticipated that the his eventual death would be somewhat easier because of the grieving I had already done. I had been slowly losing him for a long time. I found out, however, that certainly was not true. Death is so final on this earth. He was the love of my life for so many years.

My body reacted to the shock with chills, nausea, by feeling tired and wired at the same time, and by feelings of operating on auto pilot. I also found, however, that now I was beginning to release some tears which I could not release during all those years of having to remain strong in my role as caregiver.

I was so happy for my husband. He was released from a body which trapped him, and he was now in heaven. I was sad for myself and my family, as we would miss him. I also wondered what next? As difficult as caregiving truly was, it was my purpose for being on this earth for so long. I would have to rediscover a new purpose in the days ahead.

Dear caregiver, you may find this post more discouraging than helpful. If so I apologize. Death, however, may come some day for your loved one. Know, however, that your loved one as well as you, dear Christian caregiver, are in the hands of the Lord. God says all the days that we and our loved ones are meant to live on this earth are ordained by the Lord God. (Psalm 139:16) Hence, I plead with you to not engage in caregiver false guilt during your caregiving days or in the possible eventual death of your loved one. It is the devil’s trick to discourage you. Also caregiving for a family member can be all consuming. Hence, when it ends a caregiver can have a sense of loss of purpose. I know I did. Be assured that God will use even that to refine you and mature you. Eventually the Lord will slowly reveal His new purpose for your life, begin to heal you, and begin to add new joy to your life. What will this new year bring for you, dear Christian caregiver? No matter what is brings trust that the Lord will be with you each step of the way.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Treasure the Moments

In 2009 my son, Brian, his wife and little girl flew home from London. Although Brian has been home in between he had not been home for Christmas for about 7 years. That was a wonderful blessing. Our middle son, Troy, and his family live near by. That year we had hoped our oldest son, Derrick, and his family from Iowa could be here Christmas weekend, but they could not come because of the heavy snow and ice that bombarded their area and actually was pretty widespread. However, we had a fun Christmas party with Troy and Brian’s families that Christmas Eve.

In December of 2010 my son, Brian, his wife, and my little granddaughter again flew in from London. That year I guess I had mixed emotions about their upcoming arrival. I was glad to see my son and his wife, and I was excited about getting to interact with my little granddaughter. Their anticipated stay of two weeks was a long time, however. I was very busy taking care of my husband, Wayne, at the time and having people around so much (even family) would be emotionally tiring even when it was a good time.

It turned out that there were joyful moments, blessed moments, and chaotic moments that year. My son from London, his wife, and their two-year-old little girl were here from December 13 to December 27. My son, from IA who hadn’t been able to come the year before, his wife, and their two daughters were also here from the Wed. night before Christmas to Sunday the 26th. Our local son, his wife, and their four children were here part of that time especially on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It was wonderful having them all here for Christmas at one time. It had been a long time since that happened. My husband, Wayne, had an exceptionally good day on that Christmas Day. I consider that one of our blessed moments. That truly was a gift from above.

It was a joyful moment when I saw all of my grandchildren sitting around the table eating a snack or playing together downstairs. It was a blessed and joyful moment when all the grandkids would come in and crawl on bed and give their grandpa a kiss and hug after he was tucked in bed for the night. The blessed moments also came when everyone was considerate of Wayne’s schedule and the way things needed to be with him and even helped me with caring for him.

The overwhelming and chaotic moments came when they were all cooking in the kitchen at the same time and asking me where things were. The overwhelming moments came when the clutter starting piling up with having so many people around so much. The overwhelming moments came when I felt as if I needed and wanted to be there for everyone especially my grandkids, and I still needed to meet my husband’s needs. The overwhelming moments also came when it felt as if I was crowded out of my own space, so to speak.

Those moments were the last Christmas my husband spent with us, however. They are moments we can look back at and treasure as a family. Treasure all the moments with your loved one this Christmas, dear Christian caregiver.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Will You Rejoice?

The Christmas season is often associated with the word rejoice. At first glance it would seem ridiculous to associate rejoicing with family caregiving. The four and one half years from my husband’s diagnosis of his neurological disease to his death on January 2, 2011 were very difficult years for my husband and I. In that time my husband, Wayne, went from still working, to walking with a cane, to a walker, and then to a wheelchair and a sit to stand lift. Wayne’s disease affected everything. It affected his mobility, his balance, his speech, his eating habits, and even his personality.

Yet when I look back there was so much for which to be thankful even then. There was so much for which I could rejoice. What about you dear Christian caregiver, can you rejoice this Christmas in spite of the heartaches of caregiving?

The emotional feelings that surface with caregiving can be intense at times. I missed the way things used to be. Every change downward in my husband’s health was emotionally draining and scary. Also the physical demands of caregiving were heavy, and most of the decisions fell on me those last years.

So what was there to rejoice about in this situation? For one thing I knew that I was becoming a much stronger person through all those caregiving experiences. I was having to do things which I had never done before. This was good, as it strengthened my character and confidence.

More importantly it strengthened my faith and my love for my God. Over and over I saw things fall into place when I felt I could no longer hold up. Right when I was at my lowest point of despair in the last months of my husband’s disease, my prayers were answered by the ability of my son to step up and help. Also I was able to procure a sit to stand lift. I saw over and over again this kind of answer to prayer. So I was sad about my husband’s illness. It was the heartbreak of my life. But I rejoiced in God’s provisions from above.

I also rejoiced in my three sons and their wives. I rejoiced in my then seven wonderful grandchildren. I rejoiced in their beautiful and sweet spirits and in their love for their Grandpa and I. I rejoiced that I was a breast cancer survivor. I rejoiced in the daily blessings such as the sun shining. I rejoiced in my salvation through Jesus Christ. My prayer at the time was “Lord, help me to remember these blessings when I become sad or overwhelmed with the challenges of caregiving.”

Dear Christian caregiver, the challenges of family caregiving are often discouraging and overwhelming, but the Lord is with you today and every day. His blessings are with you every day also. In what will you rejoice this Christmas season, dear caregiver?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Walk in Peace

Family caregiving is often a very long uphill walk. It is fatiguing emotionally and physically. It is essential that you cling very tightly to the hand of the Lord, dear caregiver. Be aware of His presence with you each step of the way. This is the way to not only survival in your caregiving walk but also to peace.

Trust God enough to not strive to control or predict the future, dear caregiver. When you try to project your and your loved one’s life too far into the future you are trying to do this on your own. You are seeking to be self-sufficient. This will not work. Instead daily refresh yourself in God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Spend time in prayer. Take time to be still in His presence. We all desperately need His help.

Seek to live in the present, dear caregiver, depending on the Lord alone for each moment. I remember as a caregiver feeling so inadequate. That was actually a true assessment. The other fact we must remember, however, is that God has abundantly promised to be our strength. He has abundantly promised to supply all our needs.

Caregiving is so overwhelming that there is no way that I could have handled it without the Lord’s strength and presence in my life. You cannot either, dear caregiver. The truth of the matter, however, is that we need the Lord’s help with everything. Don’t divide your life, dear caregiver, into things you feel you can handle yourself and things for which you need the Lord’s help. You and I need His help for every single area of our lives. If we give all our needs to Him, we can walk through life with confidence and peace.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Be Conscious of His Presence

Dear Christian caregiver, it is vitally important that you stay conscious of the Lord’s presence step by step throughout your day. The Lord’s presence with you is both a protection and a promise. He will always be with you, and He will never leave you. Go gently through each day keeping your eyes on the Lord. He will open up the path He has planned for you step by step. Just trust Him along the way.

Life as a family caregiver is overwhelming at times. The challenges and difficulties are numerous. The promise of the Lord’s constant presence is a protection against the pitfalls of despair and self-pity. It is also a protection against worry about the future. When you think about your future and the future of your loved one envision the Lord in that future, because the Lord has promised to always be with you. Keep your eyes focused on the Lord.

Look to the Lord continually for help in the challenges of family caregiving. You are the God appointed comforter and help for your loved one. Often you need comfort yourself, however. When you need comfort, the Lord wants to enfold you in His arms. As you receive His comfort you will be a better channel of comfort to your loved one for whom you are caring and also perhaps for other people.