Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where Is Your Home?

As some of you may have heard, Dean's overnight home visit last month worked out well. There were no emergencies, crises, or traumas. All in all, it was a relaxing time, and Dean didn't seem to mind going back to the care center, as we feared.

The biggest stress was just the worry during the preparation, prior to his visit. Of course, six insulin shots a day didn't help my misgivings, let alone how Dean might resist going back. But as it turned out, I wouldn't mind a repeat visit once a month or so. (It did inform me though that I'm not able to do it full-time. Lots more work for me with him home.)

After just coming out of a two-day quarantine at the care center this week for stomach flu, with all the residents having to stay in their rooms, Dean is really itching to come home again. So I've promised him another home visit soon. He struggles with why he has to be there, instead of home. He tells me on the phone that if I want him home, it could happen.

I've had to repeatedly explain to him that it's not what I want, but what I'm able to do. His medical issues really need 24-hour nursing now. I can't give him that, as much as I'd like to. My health isn't perfect either, I remind him. I can usually get him to understand before our phone calls end, but I'm never sure how much understanding he'll retain.

Anyone would feel the same in his position though, I'm sure. "There's no place like home", as the famous song tells us. But another song must be remembered, "This world is not my home."

My brother and sister sit in the path of a massive hurricane, getting ready to flee, if necessary. None of us is guaranteed a home, or even a house, on this earth. It can be taken from us in a heartbeat. I long for that home above...nothing can take that one away from us.

not a mansion, but it's home

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Our Home-Alone Experiment

Dean asks me, with almost every phone conversation and visit now, what I'm doing to get him out of the care facility that he's been in since last November. Not that he dislikes it there, as much as he'd just rather be home with me. I'm sure any of us would feel the same way in his shoes.

So, I felt impressed to look into having him home for a short overnight visit. We've had him on several outings, but I just felt it was time to try him out for a little longer stay at home and see how he does.

My daughter and his nurses and therapists have given me a thumbs up, so towards the end of this week, he will be able to enjoy the comforts of home for a couple of days. I'm hoping it will be a mental boost for him, and a confirmation that I'm doing all I can to make his life enjoyable, although I think he already knows that, in his heart.

Each home visit will be an "experiment" though, because with dementia, everything you do is a trial run. The results will be different every time, no doubt. But I think I am strong enough for this. I'll let you know how I survive when it's over.

Medicaid allows us fifteen days a year for this purpose, so that will be helpful in explaining to him why the visit will have to be short. So long as his health stays stable, as it seems to be right now (even though he hardly ever uses his oxygen), we can plan on more "experiments".

In the meantime, I'm stocking up on all his favorite food and video choices, and just praying for the best outcome. With God, I know it will be alright.

relaxing, as in "falling asleep", at home a few years ago--I hope this will be him later this week!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Living OUR Dream

A couple of days ago, I happened to notice on Facebook that a long-lost school friend from Florida and her husband were passing through Nebraska in their camper. We hurriedly made plans to meet the next day at a truck stop, just off the Interstate.

It was a bit unnerving, since we hadn't seen each other in person for almost fifty years! But my nerves calmed down when Cindi saw me, watching for their arrival through the truck stop restaurant window, and waved excitedly to me as soon as they pulled up to the gas pump. We immediately got a warm hug from each other and then enjoyed a leisurely, chatty lunch, catching up on our lives, but mostly reminiscing about our junior and high school days.

For me, there was a touch of sadness though, mostly in anticipation of our meeting, because I would be facing it without my husband. It just didn't seem natural or fair to share an event like this without him by my side (he's been in a long-term care facility for almost a year now). When Dean and I were young, we had often talked about spending our retirement traveling across the country like my friends were doing. I wasn't sure just how it would feel to see them "living our dream".

But as Cindi shared some of their own life disappointments, my unsettling thoughts were totally forgotten. God has a different path for each of us. It's designed just for us, not to make life difficult or messy as it sometimes is, but to make sure that we stay connected with Him.

After fifty years, I still felt a connection with Cindi. It was almost like yesterday that we sat on the grounds of our junior high school, eating our lunch, and trying to figure out how to navigate the perplexing world of seventh-grade education. I was not used to my sister's absence (she was a grade behind me), so Cindi's friendship that year helped me fill the gap and survive what would have been a very lonely time indeed.

Amazingly, Cindi has done it again, by breezing in to help me survive another time in my life that I feel totally disconnected with someone who I have come to depend on, maybe a bit too much. What a merciful God we have to give us friends, who know just when to show up and know just how to cheer us up.

So good to see you again, Cindi (on the right). It was like we'd never been apart!

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.