3 Things I’m Learning About Me by Caring for My Dad

3 Things I’m Learning About Me by Caring for My Dad

 

13 years ago my dad called me while I was at work.  He said, “Rayna, I’m worried.  I think something is wrong with my memory.”  My response was, “Oh dad, don’t worry about it.  We don’t’ know what normal aging looks like.  I’m sure you’re fine.”

He lost his parents before the age of 60 and my mom at the age of 65 after 12 years of Alzheimer’s. I went on to tell him to go ahead and see a doctor just to be assured that things are fine.

Unfortunately, he was right, there was a problem.  The diagnosis was Mild Cognitive Impairment which later progressed to Alzheimer’s.

In some ways, it seems like that was a timeline ago and in other ways it feels like yesterday.  As his disease has progressed so has his need for 24-hour care.  3 and half years ago I became one of those who provides that care so that he can stay in his home as he asked.

It would be a lot easier if I lived close by but it is 220 miles one way to stay with him and care for him.  For the first couple of years, I made the drive weekly but thankfully I have been able to cut back to every other weekend now.

As I reflect on this experience of caring for my dad’s needs as he lives with this disease 3 things stood out that I have learned about me.

I am a control freak. 

This is not a new revelation but until this experience I think I was doing better at trying not to try to control everything. Now I battle with feeling that I have to control everything to keep him safe.

I can see where being a control freak has served me well in some ways.  Controlling many of the trivial things in dad’s environment makes life easier and safer for him.  It is amazing how something as small as putting his baseball cap on can make him ready to go out the door, no matter what time of day or night it is.  Knowing this means the cap is always stored out of site.

But my desire to control everything can also bring him and me unnecessary stress.  For example, I would love for Dad to go to bed at the same time every night in order to help him get up easier in the morning but how do you tell your 84-year-old person it is bed time? I do it gently but many times that doesn’t matter. Dad has been an adult a long time and he wants to go to bed when he wants to not when I think he should.

There are too many other things for me to list that I would like to control and can’t in this situation.  When I forget to bring all of them to God then I get STRESSED, sad and upset.  Talking to the Lord about how hard the situation is brings comfort unlike anything else.

I know God is building my trust in Him through this so I just have to keep focused on Him and reminding myself God does truly control it all.

I am deeply Loved.

Farmer and I had been married for 5 years when he looked at me and said you need to take care of your dad, even if that means you need to move here and live with him.  Seriously, it was his idea.

I am so thankful for how well he has loved me as I have spent 50% of the week away from him week in and week out for almost 3 years.  No, he is not perfect just like I’m not, but his love and support has meant the world to me.

I am also deeply loved by my Lord.  His grace to live this day in and day out has blessed me beyond words.  His desire for me to love my daddy well has been whispered to me when dad is being difficult.  His desire for me to share His light and love with the others who are caring for my dad too has been a mission He has laid on my heart.  His love and forgiveness when I have not fulfilled this calling well has been there waiting for the asking.

Loving is easy when life is easy, it is much harder when things are difficult but living knowing you are Loved is the Best!

I am only human and this hurt.

It hurts to see your strong, smart, compassionate and loving daddy fade in and out.  I wish that I could figure out a way to serve him without it hurting so much but I am only human and it is supposed to hurt.

As a teenager when I experienced losing my mom I closed off my heart for a while.  The pain of what was happening just seemed too much.  When I finally broke down and allowed the Lord to talk with me about it He said if you feel no pain then you feel no joy either.  Rayna, I have both pain and joy for you.  Open your heart, I will help you carry the pain and bask in the joy.

There are times I feel overwhelmed with the sorrow and pain of watching dad struggle in this confusion and frustration.  That is when I realize I have been holding it in and not taking it to my heavenly Father for Him to carry it with me.

With all my heart, I wish God would just take it away but that’s what He has seen fit to do and most often that is not how this fallen world works.  Jesus said in John 16:33“ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Yep, that’s where Take Heart Coaching got its name.)

So, there they are, 3 things that I am learning from taking care of my daddy during this time in our lives.

Have you taken time to reflect on the lessons you have learned from your Dad?  This weekend might be an appropriate time to do that.  Life is not easy and your relationship with your dad might be a tough one but with prayer and reflection I’m sure there are some things you have learned from him. 


I would love to hear what you have realized you have learned from your dad.  Comment below!

3 Ways to Help Your Parents as They Age

“Honor your father and mother” (1)      Aging parents are a part of life, after all we all get older.  The difficult thing about getting older is that things seem to start wearing out.  All of us will reach a point where we can’t do what we used to, even to the point where we cannot take care of ourselves as we need to.

Watching a parent age can be very difficult but nothing is more difficult than the time in which you have to make the transition of stepping in to help your parent as they age.

I am in the that phase of life right now.  My dad is 83 and he has to have 24-hour care and companionship due to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Even if we were not dealing with this divesting disease, he would be reaching a time in life where he would need more help taking care of this home or even his health.

Here are 3 ways to gracefully handle this new phase of life:

  1. Realize you are not experiencing a role reversal.

Many people refer to this time in life as a role reversal, you become the parent and your parent becomes the child.  That is not true.  You parent is still your parent and always be.  They are just aging and are not able to do all the things they used to do for themselves.

As I have watched my dad’s disease progress I have been sure to keep our roles in the forefront of my mind.  He is my dad in need of my help not a child.  This has helped me stay present in the moment.  Instead of trying to reteach something or reacting to a mistake he makes over and over again in frustration. I try to just take a deep breath and remind myself he can’t help it.

It can be divesting to your parent to find themselves in a place where they can’t do all the things they used to do so easily.

How you treat them will make all the difference in the world.   No adult wants to be treated like a child! Though you might be doing things for your parent that you do for your children please remember this is the person who changed your diaper, taught you to walk and loved you through the teenage years.  They are still your parent!

  1. Always show honor to your parent.

Exodus 20:12 tells us to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

There is no expiration date on this command.

Though this time of transition is difficult always keep in mind you are to treat them with honor.  There are so many changes happening in their life when you keep honor and respect as a part of your relationship it will make the changes easier to deal with.

As with all people, we need to treat our parents the same way we want to be treated.

As my family has faced the many changes brought about with age and disease I have always strived to keep the golden rule in mind.  Someday I will be the one needing help.  How would I want to be treated?

How would you feel if you were no longer allowed to drive and expected to give up your favorite activities?  Look for other options.  It might be time for your parent to stop driving but finding alternative transportation will be crucial to keeping them healthy.

My dad has always been very physically fit and he loves sports so when we reached the stage in his disease that the doctor said we needed to take away the keys I looked high and low to find someone to take over the part he could no longer do, drive.

He still loved participating in playing volleyball 3 times per week and work outing at the gym the other 3 days.  He was able to continue playing volleyball for 3 more years and he still lifts weights at the gym 3 times per week.  Needing more help in life meant he had to give up the keys but not the activities he loves so much.

Losing independence is difficult, treating your parent with honor will make it easier to accept.

  1. Appreciate them for who they are right now as well as who they have been to you your whole life.

We hear it over and over again but there is a lot of truth in the statement, stay in the moment.  Pooh has some wisdom to share in around this:

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne

Staying in the moment with your parent can really help you emotionally deal with how much life has changed for you and your parent.  Make each day together a favorite day. 

We all love to have fun.  No matter our age laughter is good medicine for the soul.  Challenge yourself to find ways to have fun together.Dad ping pong 2016

As Dad became more limited in the things he could do we searched for other things he had enjoyed in the past.  I remembered playing ping pong with him when I was little so we gave it a try.  He loved it and was still really good.  Soon we replace the formal living room with a ping pong table.  It has been the source of tons of fun for us, as well as for the others caring for him.

All of us enjoy things we are good at much more than something that is a struggle.  Keep searching to find the things that still bring joy to your parent, it will create the opportunity for new good memories.

Appreciating them in the moment will help you cherish the time you spend with them now as you know they will not always be here.  Your time and support will mean more to your parent than you can imagine.

Watching our parents age is not easy no matter how you look at it.  I hope you have found my 3 tips to gracefully help your parents as they age helpful.

If you are facing challenges with this transition in your life, coaching might be just what you need to handle it better.  I would love to help.  Please contact me and we can set up a time to visit and see if coaching is a good fit for you.

If you have additional tips or ideas to deal with aging parents I would love to have you share them below.