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!

Finding HOPE While Living with Loss

Finding HOPE While Living with Loss   

 Loss has visited close to home recently.  From a good friend who lost her mom to a dear friend who lost her battle with cancer.  Loss is difficult for everyone.

How do we find hope in the midst of loss is a difficult question to struggle with?  I have experienced hope during loss in a couple of different ways.

Sometimes there is hope even after loss when there is also new life.

The birth of my grandkids brought some hope even in the season of grieving the loss of my own children through miscarriage.

Their little lives brought joy and laughter even through the time of sadness.  I have also had a new a new dog bring hope and comfort when I have lost my best dog friend.

Most often I have experienced hope after loss through encounters with my Loving Father.  Some of the greatest losses in my life have been followed by hope filled experiences with God’s love.

When my mom passed away, though she had been sick for 12 years, it seemed like a shock.  I was not ready to let her go.

She died on a Saturday evening and the next morning while worshiping and grieving during church service, God blessed me with the reminder that Mom was worshiping that morning too.

She had been nonverbal for at least the last 8 years of her life (due to Alzheimer’s disease) so the thought of her standing at the feet of Jesus singing praises to Him face to face brought amazing comfort and joy.

The grief was made more bearable with the reminder of where she was that morning and for eternity yet to come.

The second time I experienced God’s great comfort was just a couple of years ago, when I was still struggling with the grief of losing my only children by miscarriage.

It was a difficult struggle for years, there were so many unanswered questions.  Why would the Lord let me get pregnant only to lose my children before they ever got to take their first breath and experience my love for them.

I had so many hopes and dreams.  Being a mom had been the desire of my heart for as long as I could remember.

Again, the Lord graciously reminded me that their death was not the end of their life.  They were safe with Him and my Mom in heaven.  When that truth came to me the overwhelming peace that followed was beyond description.

I had struggled for so long with questions and confusion regarding this loss but all of that became unimportant.  They were ok and I would meet them someday, peace & hope replaced all the anger and confusion that had just been there.

Today as I grieve the passing of my friend and grieve the disappearing of my dad, I find hope in the character of God.  I know that God is Good.

I know that God loves me no matter what happens in this life, and that truth motivates me to hold on to HOPE today and the many days to come.

 

How do you find Hope, even in the midst of grief?  

How does what you believe change your everyday life?

How does what you believe change your everyday life?

Do you believe in Santa Claus?   Do you believe in happily ever after?   Do you believe in God’s word?

How you answer each of these questions will change the way you live. 

If you believe in Santa you will get better gifts, or so I hear.  If you believe in happily ever after you might work harder to invest your marriage so it is happy.  If you believe in God’s word you will know His character and how He feels about you and that will change everything.

Believe has two different definitions: one means to accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of something the second on is to hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose. Even how you believe something will change your life.

Believing something is truth versus an opinion are worlds apart. 

Sometimes experiencing hard times can mess with your believing.  Things have been difficult with Dad lately.

He is experiencing some new physical issues that have left him very tired and often even more confused.  Sadly, with those feelings he is very agitated and can be unkind.  My dad has always been a gentleman, kind and respectful.  It is very difficult to see him like this, not to mention being the person he is unkind to.

My heart has been saddened and heavy.  As I spilled my heart out to God about how hard this season with Dad is, He asked me, “Rayna, do you still believe I am good?”

This was a question I struggled with years ago when my first marriage came to an end.  It was so hard to understand how I could be experiencing this when it was the last thing I wanted.

How could God let this happen?Psalm 33:4-5

With this question came some exploring of God’s character.  Was it about Him letting this happen or was it really, could God still be good if this is His will for my life?

Struggling with this core belief has changed how I live.

Being rooted in the truth that God is Good helps me to respond to hard times with hope and peace.

When our house burned down, God is Good.

When my dog dies, God is Good.

When I get an, “I love you, Graham.” from Owen, God is Good.

When the harvest is abundant, God is Good.

When the crops are destroyed by flood, God is Good.

When my Dad is struggling and not nice, God is still Good.

What are you believing about God that needs a closer look?  How can you move your belief from opinion to truth?


If you are not sure where to start, I can help.  Coaching might be just what you need to make that shift.   Learn more about coaching here or contact me to talk about what coaching with me would look like for you!

 


“If you wish to know God, you must know his Word. If you wish to perceive His power, you must see how He works by his Word. If you wish to know His purpose before it comes to pass, you can only discover it by His Word.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

The Loving Arms of God

The Loving Arms of God

   I started my week with some sad news.  One of my best friends from college, Tammy, lost her dad Sunday night.  He passed away after suffering from the horrifying disease, Alzheimer’s.  

Deu 33:7 a I don’t think it had been 2 full years since Tammy called me in tears when he was diagnosed.  She knew I could relate on a deeper level since I lost my mom years ago this disease and my dad was diagnosed almost 10 years ago now.  

Hearing of Tammy’s loss broke my heart and hit me hard.  It caused me think about my crazy life and to be thankful for my dad.

It is so hard for me to think of losing my dad.  As I journey with him through his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s it’s on my mind a lot that the craziness of traveling 220 miles one-way week in and week out, being away from my husband and family 3 days at a time will not be forever. Things are not easy and I am often tired but I am also thankful to be able to help take care of my dad.

This week my heart was also overjoyed with the love of a very special kiddo.

Tuesdays are Owen days.  Owen is my 23-month old grandson and he is a blast!  We have spent Tuesday’s together since he was 6 weeks old.  We very rarely miss our time together. But last week was he was out of town at his other grandma’s house and I missed my Owen day.

So when this Tuesday came around I just couldn’t wait to spend time with him, to just focus on him and do whatever he wanted to do.  It is funny to me that one of his favorite things to do is to climb on top of a chair or the playschool slide (we have in our living room when he visits) and stand there, look around pretending like he’s not looking at me and then just fall into my arms. Graha, & Owen

This week he added the wonderful sound of his sweet voice saying, “Graham” (which is what he calls me.)  as he fell!  It just melts my heart to have him fall into my arms, calling out my name, laughing, looking for a hug, maybe even a kiss or two, followed by some tickles too.

Spending the day with my Owen was just what I needed!

After my day with Owen I was praying for Tammy and her family.  Letting go is so hard to do.  As I prayed for them the Lord brought the image of my Owen to mind.

Owen falling forward with all confidence into my arms lovingly calling out my name with a smile and a giggle and no doubts that I would be there to catch him.

What a beautiful picture of trust!

With that image came a challenge from the Lord, do you trust me, like he trusts you?  Are you trusting me with your daddy and his health?

To be honest my answer is it depends on the day.  Some days it is easier to trust than others. When dad has an off day or he struggles with a caregiver I want to step in and fight for him.  Tell the doctors to change medications, or find new people to help with his care.  And though these might be things I need to do, what God reminded me that day was that first of all I need to jump into His arms and let him love on me and then go do what it is asked of me.

I am trying to remember to do that each day.  Turn to Him first in trust and then go take care of the things life requires.

I still dread the thought of my dad’s passing but I am trusting that when it is time to let go of my dad I will be able to just fall face first into my Heavenly Father arms and trust him to take me through the saying goodbye part of this journey too.  I don’t look forward to it, I know it won’t be easy but I also know that my Heavenly daddy will always catch me and I will be ok.

   I’m so thankful for the reminder God gave me of His love for me through my Owen!  How does God show his love for you?

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.

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