Caregiver, You are an Advocate

The word advocate brings up different feelings in different people.  I seem to have deeply inborn need to stand up to injustice, especially for those who have no voice of their own.  My sister, on the other hand, is drawn with compassion to the person hurting.

The two of us made a great team in helping my Dad as he was no longer able to speak up for himself.  I hope that you are finding a team to support both you and your loved one as you are on this journey of caregiving.

Another person on my Dad’s team was his wonderful doctor.

During most of our journey, I would not have described Dad’s doctors as wonderful.  We more often than not felt unheard and pushed aside as we tried to advocate for him.

If you find yourself in this place with the doctors you are currently working with then find new doctors.  Again, if you don’t feel that your loved one’s doctor is on your team then you need to find a new team member.

It really can mean the difference between life or death.

Dad had successful surgery for melanoma in 2013 but developed MRSA after surgery.  After this struggle with infection, it seemed to become a consistent problem.  My sister and I would see symptoms of him getting sick and pursue medical help, before it laid him out completely, only to be told he was fine.  But within days he would be far from fine and it would take quite some time for him to bounce back.

It was so frustrating. We dealt with the same thing time and time again, until we found a doctor who listened to us and respected that fact that we knew Dad well and she could trust us.  The last few years of his life were thankfully much easier on all of us.

This is just one example of being an advocate as a caregiver, there are many more.

Being your loved ones’ advocate is one of the most important roles you will play as a FAMILY caregiver!

How have you found yourself being an advocate for your loved one?  Do you find it easy? I would love to hear how you handle your role as an advocate.

Caregiving During the Holidays

Being a family caregiver during the holidays might mean long time traditions have to change.  As both my parents Alzheimer’s disease progressed, we found they were unable to celebrate the holidays in the same ways that our family had in the past.

Mom became anxious when she was around a lot of people, so we found we had to stay home more.  Dad still enjoyed people just wasn’t able to go and do the things he used to on his own.  During my time caring for Dad, I was blessed to be able to join him in one of his traditions.

Each year Dad was able to attend a special performance of Kansas City Symphony.  He loved to see all the people, enjoy the holiday spirit and especially join in the carol sing-along they held at the very end of the concert.  Since I was there most Saturdays, I got the opportunity to make this a new tradition as well.

Each year we got dressed up in our holiday attire and ventured out to the concert.  After the concert, we would stop for a special treat of ice cream!  This year I will not be able to attend but I am enjoying the memories he and I were able to share!

If you find yourself at a point where the holidays are not what they once were due to the need to adjust to your Loved One’s changing abilities, take heart.  This season of caring will not last forever, but the new memories created will.

My prayer for you and your loved one is that you will find a way to make an intentional effort to make some new traditions or the very least new memories this holiday season!

A Grateful Heart Makes Caregiving Easier

The practice of giving thanks can impact your entire life. Scripture tells us in 1 Timothy 4:4 “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,”  Learning to receive everything with thanksgiving is difficult but very important.

While caring for my dad I found gratitude to be a VERY IMPORTANT part of my daily life.

A few years ago I found myself struggling with the demands of caregiving and frustrated with the decline in my dad’s ability.  One day while doing some yard work dad got his shoes extremely muddy. 

I had him take them off, then I took them to another room and left them there while I went to get a clean pair.

In just the few minutes I was gone he found the muddy shoes, put them on and walked around on the carpet.  Seriously, you have got to be kidding me, I thought.  Needless to say, I was very frustrated.

I had noticed in the last month it was becoming increasingly more difficult to enjoy the time I have with him.  My patience seemed to be running thin.

As I stepped back to examine this, explore why and pray about how to change it, the muddy shoes happened.  

My dad’s ability to understand and be helpful had significantly declined.  Yes, that is what Alzheimer’s is, a disease of decline.  But like all things that change gradually we often don’t see the change until something happens, that calls our attention to it.  So yes, he has changed.  Now how do I adjust?
Focusing on being present with my dad and not allowing the heartache of what he could no longer do affect my time with him was a step in the right direction.  In order to do that I had to focus on where he was now, not what he was.  I was able to do this pretty well early one but it became more challenging as those things which he could do became more limited each day.

That meant it was time to shift again. This shift involved learning more about Gratitude. 

Gratitude, I learned was a powerful tool in my caregiver’s toolbox.  Focusing on being Thankful is what I found that made all the difference.

I had to move into being grateful for him and the time with him.  Not because of what he can or can’t do but for the amazing person he is and was.

The key to having gratitude make an impact on your life is to truly stay focused on what you have right here and now.

It is so easy to look at a situation and fall into the land of comparison in order to find things to be thankful for.  True gratitude is focused on what you have in that moment.
As I learned to immersed myself in gratitude I found more peace in the moments of life with dad.  I am so thankful God has shown me how gratitude makes life better.  Of course, Dad’s abilities never improved but my heart of gratitude helped me to handle it with more love, grace, and peace than I ever imagined.

How can gratitude help you handle your role as a caregiver better?

Saying Goodbye to My Daddy

Saying Goodbye to My Daddy

I had been praying for over a year now that when it was time for Dad to say Good-bye I would be able to stop fighting for him and let him go.

I’m a fighter you know, I have always been that way, I’m convinced God made me that way.  I wanted to be ready to let Dad go so I would not bring him undue pain and fight a fight that wasn’t mine.

I knew he would not live forever but I never expected that I would be saying goodbye now.  I knew he was sick, but I never dreamed June 25, 2018, would be the day I would say goodbye to my Daddy.

Dad had surgery for a blood clot on May 20th. He did surprisingly well with the surgery and started on the bumpy road to recovery.  We had to place him in a rehab facility to get his strength and mobility back but the day he was released to go home he seemed to be improving.

Since he couldn’t safely navigate the stairs in his raised ranch home we did a quick update of the basement and moved him in.  He seemed to know he was home and relax into the new routine.  It did my heart good to see him home.

He continued therapy and was in good spirits, but his recovery soon started to slow down.  The wound on his leg wasn’t healing and he didn’t seem to want to eat much.  I continued to pray for wisdom and strength to care for him at home with my sister and our caregiver team.  It was a much bigger job than I expected.

I was exhausted emotionally and physically from the long days.  I continued to spend time with the Lord, asking for wisdom and grace.  There was a lot of stress and I can’t say I handled every moment of every day well, but God is Good and provided all I needed.

Thursday morning, I awoke early and went to Dad’s bedside as I had the 5 mornings before, but this day Dad seemed different.  He was in less pain, he was more affectionate, and he seemed to radiate peace. He wasn’t interested in eating, he just wanted to hold my hand.

I sat with him and I prayed silently as I had each morning, praying for Dad’s healing, for my heart and for me to love all those around me well.

As I talked with the Lord about Dad’s healing that morning He reminded me of my prayer throughout the last year to know when the right time was to stop fighting and to gracefully let him go.

He went on to whisper to my heart it was time, it was time to make the shift.  I said really, Lord?  He said yes.  I said really?  He said yes.  Help me do that Lord, I’m not ready.  But as I looked at Dad I knew he was.

Later that day for the first time the home health nurse told us Dad was dying.  His body was tired, and he was not going to pull through.  It was difficult to hear but I already knew it in my heart, the Lord had prepared me.

I will not say that the next 3 days were easy nor was watching my Dad pass away an easy experience but what I can say is that our God is Good and faithful!  On one of the most difficult days of my life, I felt loved, cherished and strengthened by the Lord.

I’m so thankful for all the days I had to share with my dad.  I’m thankful for the relationship with my Lord that allowed the struggles of caring for Dad to be more than just struggles but also opportunities to grow in my relationship with Him, with Dad, my sister and the many caregivers who touched our lives.

This month has been a difficult one.  I am just starting the transition of life without my Daddy.  I am so thankful that I have experienced the truth of Isaiah 41:10 and I will continue to calm the truth of His promise in the days to come.

“So, do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41

What interesting thing are you going to do with your lemons?

You have heard it said, that when life gives you lemons just make lemonade. maya angelou quote graphic

I found this quote by Maya Angelou and I like it even better, after all I love lemon pie.

Back on topic….

It seems that some people find it easier to make something of the lemons of life than others do.

Lemon meringue pie, lemon bars, lemon shortbread cookies or lemonade, it isn’t important what you make.  It is important that you learn to make the best of the lemons life hands you.  The best way to do this is to Change Your Thinking!

I can see your eye roll now.  I know it sounds too simple.  But think about it…..

We have all experienced something difficult in life at the same time someone we know or love has been right there experiencing it too.  Did you both respond the same way?

You had the same parents and upbringing as your sibling/s, do you remember it the same way?

You and your coworker lost your job the same day the business laid you all off and closed its doors.  Did you rebound the same?

Why is the same event experienced differently? 

When life hands us a lemon the questions we ask ourselves will determine what happens next.  Marilee Adams, PHD says that the questions we ask ourselves determines our actions and finally our results.

 

I’m not saying just think positive and everything will be fine.  I have lived life too long to believe it is that simple but I do think how we think is an important part of learning to live with peace and hope no matter what life brings.

 

So what interesting things are you going to make with you lemons?  Do you need some help learning to think differently about life’s lemons?

Don’t miss my upcoming opportunity to learn more about how your thinking impacts your relationships and success at work.

I would love to have you join me as we explore Marliee Adams, PHD concept of Question Thinking during the month of August.  I will be highlighting Question Thinking and then offering a workshop opportunity on how to make this powerful shift in your thinking.

Think Question Change Coming Soon

Be sure to like and mark Take Heart Transitions as see first on Facebook .

 Like Take Heart HERE

 

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!

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