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?
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
My entire life like most little girls I have always wanted to be a mommy. I never imagined I would be a mom of 2 precious children I never got to hold, cuddle, kiss or even have to discipline.
After my first marriage ended I was still hopeful I would remarry and have children. No I would not be the young mom I thought I would be but I never dreamed I would not be a mom someday.
Then it happened. Ron and I had been married over 2 years and I was finally pregnant. If you have struggled with infertility you know what the monthly rollercoaster ride is like. I didn’t even bother to take a test until I as a few weeks late. We were so excited! I was so sick.
It was an answered to many hours of prayers for sure.
Then it happened. Just the Friday before our fist doctor’s appointment, I started spotting. It wasn’t much so I was totally unprepared for the news that Monday.
As the nurse did the ultrasound she told us there were twins. But the look on her face was not one of joy, rather concern. Our first baby, Isaac, looked to have stop developing at a little less than 8 weeks. The second baby, Lillian, was much bigger, at least 10 weeks old but there was no movement. The doctor came in to confirm neither of them had made it.
I was in shock. My heart was shattered! How could this be happening? They were the answer to my prayers!
After losing the twins life went on and I did my best to trust God in this and wait for my chance to be a mom. The longer time went by and we still were not pregnant the more my heart crumbled. I had been through tough stuff before and always found God Good but this time I struggled.
How could God give me two babies and never let me hold them, play with them, or even celebrate their life? It felt cruel not good! I really struggled getting past it.
Thankfully I had a good friend who lead me to the lap of God and encouraged me to ask Him to understand. Our father always wants to talk to us and bring healing, we often just don’t know how to ask for it.
That day my Lord helped me to see His eternal perspective. He had answered my prayer. I am a mom. In my mind’s eye and in my heart He showed me my two beautiful children. They were on his lap laughing and happy. He reminded me that just because they did not grow up here on earth did not mean they didn’t exist; they just went on ahead.
They are waiting for me in heaven and we will spend eternity together.
That day I started to call them by name, Isaac & Lillian and I embraced motherhood. Mother’s Day has always been a difficult holiday for me. Between losing my mom to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis at 16 and the struggle of infertility and now miscarriage I would rather just sleep all day to be honest.
But now I have the vision of my mom, Isaac and Lillian all together in Heaven with my Lord and I praise my Great God for answered prayer.
Of course I would rather have had them live here with me first but I know that God is faithful, loving and good and I trust that eternity will be long enough!
Is there something that you have experienced that doesn’t make sense or goes against the character of God? Go to Him. Ask to understand, He will give you clarity around the situation if you ask with an open heart. People often stay stuck in the whys of hurts when clarity can help you move forward. Clarity gives us hope.
Being able to ask God what I needed to heal gave me clarity and brought healing I wasn’t even sure was possible.
When has God met you in a place that helped you find clarity?