Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Longing of Her Heart

Proverbs 13:12 (NIV) – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Those who know me know that I work hard to model my life after the (Holy) Scriptures. Those who don’t know me, if you follow my posts long enough, you’ll soon learn that about me <smile> Today’s post is centered on my opening words from the Bible.

I’ve fretted over the past few months every time I visit with mom. For over six months now, we’ve had the same conversation. This past week was no different. As I walked into her room, there was evidence once again that she was hoping to go home. Family portraits were stacked neatly on her dresser top. Clothing was stacked in a pile on her bed. She had removed from her walls the precious pictures made by budding artists, aka her great-grandchildren.
She was at dinner when I entered her room. My countenance fell as I was struck once again by the reality that mom wanted to go home, and I had to be the bad-guy who would once again tell her that ‘this is your new home’ (at the Nursing Home). Silently, I played the script in my head. Mom starts with, “I’m so glad I’m going home today.” Me, with great caution, “No, you are already home.” Joan (mom) shouts, “what? I don’t want to live here, why can’t I go home?” Me (Cindy) gently, “Because it isn’t safe for you there anymore.” Joan groaning defensively, “But, I can walk, I can talk, I can do everything by myself.” Cindy sadly, “I know you can and I’m so proud of you!”

Often over the past few weeks, I’ve wondered why this conversation wounds me so. Then it stuck me. Even with Alzheimer’s, there’s a hope deep within Mother’s spirit that she will once again be able to do the things she once did - that she will gather around our home table for a meal, at which she will be normal and whole again.
I can’t fulfill the longing of her heart. I feel so helpless. But, we serve a God who knows our needs, both mine and Joan’s. He cares for us like no earthly being can. He gives us ideas to help those we love, even when we are hopeless.

In my next post, I’ll share the idea I’ve stumbled upon. It’s not “home”, but it’s a chance for mom to feel somewhat normal and keep all of us from drowning in “hope deferred.” Stay tuned…

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Caregiver Burn Out (it's real)

As a child, we were often warned not to get too close to the fire or it would burn us. Our mothers shouted, "DON'T TOUCH THAT STOVE, or you will burn yourself!" The funny thing is, many of us continued to get closer to the campfire and/or the stove just to see what it would be like. What we found was that fire really is hot and it really does burn, especially our hands, feet or other extremities that we place near it.

When I was 10, I decided it would be a good idea to light a match and then douse it by dropping it into a glass full of gasoline. What was even worse was that I was doing this on the workbench in the garage. The same garage our family car was parked in. When my mother found out what I was doing, she ran out, grabbed a 2x4 and didn't know whether to hit me or the flames! The fire somehow went out before there was severe damage to the garage, me or the car. My guardian angel was certainly looking out for me that day!

Some of us still don't learn our lesson, even when we're in our 50's and 60's. This "sandwich generation" of ours doesn't have a manual or process for being a caregiver, so we do it all. We take care of our houses, our jobs, our husbands, our children, our elderly parents and now even our grandchildren. We're living longer because of terrific medical care, and working harder for fear we will run out of money before we die. We lend money to our kids because they are in a tight spot. Many times we give our parents money to help pay their medical bills and prescriptions. STOP, DON'T TOUCH THAT FIRE!

Eventually, we find ourselves at the bottom of the totem pole, holding the world on our shoulders. Why? Who told us we have to do this? Who told us it is our responsibility to care for everyone else? We can't keep going this way spending time and money and emotion as though it were endless. We need to step back from the fire before we get burned. We need to take care of ourselves before we reach a boiling point and explode. We need to stop throwing grease into the hot skillet, and turn down the dials on this pressure cooker we call our lives.

Caregiver Burn Out is real. How do I know? Because I've experienced it. Somewhere, somehow along the way, I lost my way and over-extended caring for my loved one. With the help of my husband, a fantastic counselor, my work and church community, I learned I had reached my own boiling point. I was fried and crispy like a KFC chicken leg. I was good for nothing or no one, not even myself.

Before you reach your boiling point, listen to those around you. They are your red flag, your fire extinguisher. Don't keep looking in the other direction for the fire hose. You've already been hit by it, and you don't even know it. Ask for professional help for yourself and your loved ones in need. Take the hand that is reaching out to you, and thank God that there are people in your life who truly care about you

Step back from the fire before you get burned. You can't dodge the flames forever if you keep standing too close. Reach for the one (God) who promises you won't get burned if you trust in Him.

Isaiah 43:2New International Version (NIV)

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.