Thursday, July 13, 2017

Close Encounters

Yesterday was a terrific day at Waverly Care Center for Dean. I was able to persuade a friend of ours, Bill Fitts, to come and share his singing and guitar-playing with the folks there. I didn't realize he would be coming the exact time I was coming to visit Dean this week! So I got to sit in on his wonderful concert of songs from the 60s and 70s, everything from hymns to country to patriotic songs.

The residents loved it, and especially Dean, who, of course, loved seeing the familiar face of a friend, along with hearing the memory-laden, repertoire of songs that he brought with him to perform. Best of all, after the concert, Bill joined Dean and I in the dining room for a daily afternoon treat of ice cream.

Sharing ice cream with Bill illustrated to me the close way Jesus wants to communicate His love with us. Jesus not only put on a great show on His resurrection morning, but He followed it up with face-to-face quality time with His friends in the upper room.

I hope, Bill doesn't feel uncomfortable with my analogy here. It just reminds me how intimate God wants to be with each and every one of His friends on this earth (which often feels just as much of a "prison" as the care center feels to those who live there). God takes all the individual, personal time He has (which is, of course, infinite) to make sure we all feel as comforted and encouraged as we can possibly be.

Thank you, God, for your unfailing, loving presence in our lives!

And thanks to you too, Bill!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One Year Later

This is a must-write blogpost. I've been thinking for the past week about Dean's physical condition that drove him into the nursing home that he's in now. It's been exactly one year ago that his blood sugars were discovered to be so high. And I'm talking about high-high! Like 810, when we got him to ER.

Then in February, he got pneumonia (someone we know calls it "old-monia")--his second time for a septic infection--and we also found out he has C.O.P.D., not just sleep apnea that he had been diagnosed with a year before that. Evidently, his years of smoking are catching up with him at last.

But I'm happy to report that Dean has made a remarkable, if slow, recovery from both these life-changing conditions. He's not 100% cured of them, of course--they are chronic, to be sure. But for a man with TBI-induced dementia, he's come a long way, even though he's still a steady candidate for long-term care.

There's no way I could have had the positive outcomes his nurses have had, especially with MY pulmonary limitations. And I'm not ashamed to thank Medicaid for making his healthcare possible. Even with its flaws, without it, he never would have made it this far.

I still consider myself Dean's caregiver. But now I'm allowed to focus on making him happy, not healthy (leaving that mandate to the medical professionals). Part of my calling then was to help organize a picnic for Dean's TBI support group this month. Upon my suggestion, the location of our gathering was just a few blocks from Waverly Care Center, where Dean stays now. So, amazingly, we were able to transport him there.

The weather was perfect and everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities. For me, his smiles made it all worthwhile!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Look in the Mirror

This weekend we enjoyed the company of Dean's sister and brother-in-law from Michigan, as they stopped here on the way to Colorado to see his relatives for an annual visit. Amazingly, we were able to enjoy dining out at a restaurant with them, our daughter's family, and Dean and I, by loading him and his hefty wheelchair with oxygen tank, into their SUV.

The evening went smoothly (unlike our last visit, when I believe Dean's temper got the best of him a couple of times). We even stopped by the house here for some homemade strawberry pie before taking him back to the care center. His blood sugar levels have been acceptable now for some time, so we didn't have to stress out about his eating, as the case has been on previous outings. Even his oxygen saturation levels are improving, so that was less of a worry.

I was expecting Lynn to give me some feedback on how she felt her brother was doing. She hadn't seen him for two years, and she would have to notice the deterioration of his physical health, being in a wheelchair now.

Instead, at one point when we were getting out of the car, she gave me a hug and remarked on how much better I was looking these days, compared to two years ago. Really, I was shocked, but pleased, that someone noticed that about me. I hadn't taken the time to recognize any change in myself. But evidently, less stress does translate into something positive.

I'd like to think, of course, that Dean's health has benefited from his stay at the care center too. And I feel that indeed it has. I may have been able to achieve similar results with him at home, but I'm sure it would have taken much longer, at best. And I shudder at what my physical and mental state would have suffered in the process. I would gladly make the sacrifice, but am grateful God has shown me another way.

What a wonderful gift I was given by Lynn's comment. I could look in the mirror all day and not have seen what she saw. I'm glad she felt comfortable sharing it with me. It did my heart good to get "a second opinion", if you will, of how I am surviving this caregiving journey.

I must remember to pass this kind of encouragement on to all my caregiver friends. We sometimes forget to look in the mirror. God is there for us too.
"casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you"! 1 Peter 5:7

Dean and his sister, Lynn--2 years ago

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Perfect Solution

We recently passed the six-month mark for how long Dean's been in what's called a "long term" or "extended care" nursing facility. I thought at first that Dean was the only one having a hard time dealing with the reality of his increased medical needs, but I'm finding that it's just as hard for me to adjust to this unnatural living arrangement.

It was hard on me physically, taking care of Dean before his diagnoses of diabetes and COPD. I can only imagine the toll it would take on me now if I was having to add insulin shots, oxygen use, diet restrictions, and the continued, increased fall risk he's become.

None of these treatments alone would be out of the realm for a normal person to handle, but one must take into consideration his dementia from his TBI years ago. It's extremely difficult getting him to comply with all his treatments and restrictions. Even the nurses at the center have limited ability to treat him properly. I'm sure my success would not be any better than theirs. He would ultimately be making too many trips to the hospital, and they would be recommending his placement to be just what it is now.

Then, there's the factor of my own declining health. My pulmonary limitations cause me great fatigue and lack of energy. It's hard just taking care of myself! Adding another person would make me go down even faster. And how would that serve my husband?

It helps alleviate my guilty conscience somewhat to document these reasons, but unfortunately the heart does not always listen, and I find myself constantly questioning whether I could indeed have kept Dean at home longer. And whether I should not at least give it another try.

But then I remember how hard it was to find his current placement. There's no guarantee that we'd find such a perfect location, with such top-notch nurses and care that he's being provided now. I'd hate to burn that bridge by attempting it at home again.

So, what does this caregiving dilemma provide me as far as educating my faith? It has allowed me to see the difficulty our Father God has in leaving us in the temporary care of the god of this earth. Oh, how He must long to sweep in and return us to our former happiness in the Garden of Eden. But the long term results must be considered. In order to return us to that glorious place, we must temporarily remain in another caregiver's hands for awhile. It doesn't appear right now to be the perfect solution, but someday we will see how it was the only one.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dean, the Inviter

This past weekend, I was all prepared to ask friends over for dinner after church. Something Dean and I used to do regularly before his accident. I've been getting tired of cooking just for myself though, and now that Dean's in a care center and I don't have the constraints and stress he brought to the table, I thought this would be the first week I'd have someone over to share a meal. I had something in the crock pot, and knew just the foods I'd serve.

Earlier in the week I had been unsuccessful in calling some people to invite them. Just couldn't make the connections with the few people that I felt comfortable asking. But, I thought this was no problem. When we had people over for dinner in previous years, we always found that people would come at the last minute, when invited.

Driving home from church, I felt quite uneasy that I hadn't been able to get enough courage to ask anyone over to eat. What's wrong here? It always worked before for us. What was different about things now?

But then, it suddenly dawned on me. Dean was the one who always asked people over to eat in years past. He had such an easy time talking to people, even complete strangers. I had totally relied on him to do the inviting.

I can see that I'm going to have to re-invent some things in my life. I miss many things about my partner Dean. But my partner Jesus is still on the job. And I will need to lean on Him more than ever.

Dean, our daughter and granddaughters--at Waverly Care Center

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My? Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday, but as with most caregivers and even busy parents, the celebration centered around someone else. This fact by no means detracted from its pleasure for me, of course. Actually, there's no happiness like seeing someone else given joy.

My main birthday wish is to make my husband happy. It isn't easy when he's in a nursing care center, a placement that neither of us ever wanted to see happen. But with both our medical and health issues, the decision just doesn't seem to be ours any more.

The birthday was brightened by the fact that my daughter and our two granddaughters, ages 6 and 8, accompanied me to the Waverly Care Center after school. We whisked Dean away (our first time trying this since his last hospital stay for pneumonia in February).

Our destination was simple enough. We headed for a local Runza drive-thru and ceremoniously parked and ate our meals while watching the cars go by on the highway. Before heading back, we stopped and watched the girls play at a playground park near the care center.

In addition to this event, I'm also looking forward to Sunday, April 23, when there will be a "come-and-go" party for me in the afternoon. It won't be at home here though as we've usually had it; but you guessed it, it will be at the care center. I couldn't enjoy my birthday more than to see Dean happily visiting with his friends all afternoon.

I can fully understand the pleasure God will have someday, when His children are all reunited and enjoying a wonderful time with Him in heaven! It will be HIS day, but I'm so happy His chief desire is to see us happy there.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Nevermores

This week I have been plagued by thoughts I can only describe as a strange feeling of grief in my heart for my loving spouse. It's strange, because the event that is causing the grief hasn't even happened. And yet, I am feeling the suffocating impact on my heart already.

I want to cry; in fact, I become so close to crying that I can taste the saltiness of my tears, but the relief tears can bring escapes me. I try to keep the tears bottled up as a treasure, so I will have plenty to relieve me when they are most needed. When they will really matter. When they will celebrate his life and honor his death.

Those who are in the act of caregiving understand this phenomenon of grief. It feels like piecemeal grieving. Here a little. There a little. And it becomes apparent the first time a "nevermore" is introduced in our lives. These eventually may include:
  • nevermore will he drive the family car
  • nevermore will he work to provide for our household
  • nevermore will he climb up and fix the roof or mow the lawn
Then somewhere down the line, you are struck with others...
  • nevermore will he walk unassisted, or walk at all
  • nevermore will he sleep in your bed, or even in the same room or house
  • nevermore will he eat your cooking, or taste his favorite casserole
  • nevermore will he walk through the door of your home, and be greeted by his happy canine friend
  • nevermore will he sit by you in church, and hold your hand during prayer
How many more nevermore's can I bear?
  • nevermore will he tell stories or jokes to his grandchildren and friends
  • nevermore will he say "I love you" and "forgive me" at the end of each day
  • nevermore will he send his heartfelt feelings and petitions to God in prayer
The only way I can survive these crushing "nevermore's" is to embrace the "forevermore's". I know they are waiting to comfort me when I need them most.
  • Forevermore he will sing God's praises (with the voice he always wished he had)
  • Forevermore he will pray and worship with God's people (on a beautiful mountain far surpassing the ones he loved on this earth)
  • Forevermore he will never be parted from or have to say good-bye to his friends (making it the best "camp meeting" he ever attended!)
 Whether grief comes suddenly or like a slow-motion train wreck, it can only be endured with faith that brings these cherished rewards.

When I find myself avoiding the past, consumed with the present, and dreading the future, all at the same time, there is this welcome time realm of the "forevermores" that beckons me into its loving arms and buoys me up with faith and hope.

Yes, I can bear the "nevermore's" because there is a "forevermore" that outshines them all.