Loving Beyond

Loving Beyond

Have you had the experience of going way beyond what you imagined you could?

When I was in High School I played VolleyballūüŹź¬†and I will never forget the workouts. My Freshman year I was sure I would die. No joke.

We ran, threw up and ran some more.  I adored my coach but she pushed me physically beyond what I could ever imagine I could do.

How about you?  Have you thought you found the end of your physical ability only to be pushed beyond that place?

I look back on those days and remember I would have given up and never learned the extent to which I could push myself. I gave¬†ūüíĮ% and then some and I did make it!¬† My coach knew I would.

I often think of the time I spent caring for my dad in the same way. There were many weeks that I was tired and just wanted to stay home or I was so frustrated,¬†I wasn’t sure how to keep providing the best care for him.¬†

BUT I was able to keep showing up and loving him.

ūüíē¬†Love was the most important thing I needed to bring to him¬†in each and every interaction.¬†

The journey of caregiving was longer than I first imagined but I’m thankful for the time I had to show Love to my dad when he needed it the most.

At times even Loving him beyond what I thought was possible!

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?

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