Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Take Me Home!

For years now, Dean and I have attended a support group for people with brain injuries. Although the group is primarily for the TBI population, we, their caregivers, have as much to gain from attending as do the survivors of head trauma.

This point was brought out to me at last night's meeting. Since November is National Family Caregivers Month, we wanted to highlight the caregivers among us. So, the topic centered on the needs and challenges of the caregivers who were present.

Some of the positive benefits that were mentioned included...

  • a sense of giving back to someone, 
  • the satisfaction of knowing that our loved one is getting the best care possible, 
  • increased meaning and purpose in life, and 
  • a feeling that we are modeling a tradition of caring for others to emulate.

We not only have an obligation to advocate for our loved one's needs, but for the needs of other caregivers, faced with similar struggles. This was done in a big way at the state level the day before at the Nebraska Capitol Building.

The governor signed a proclamation recognizing November as the month for caregivers. Three caregivers who were there to receive that proclamation included myself, a friend from my church, and another gentleman caregiver from our brain injury support group. It was a moment of pride to be among the many caregivers attending.

Also, that day we were provided a wonderful luncheon and more recognition at the governor's mansion, right next to the Capitol. The afterglow of this event was quickly overshadowed by two phone messages, left to me by Dean (my husband), upon my return home.

His messages went like this:
"It's 2:35 p.m. I woke up and couldn't find you. I've been looking for you everywhere. I don't know what to do. I love you, bye."

"This is Dean again. It's 2:38, and I'm trying to find you. I'm looking to go home. How did I get here? Please find me and take me home. Love you, bye."

His voice sounded so small and pitiful. Like a small child's. Although I have heard these cries from Dean before (he tends to get disoriented after his naps sometimes), they particularly touched me after having just come from such a privileged formal dinner, at a mansion no less.

How it must move the heart of God to hear the cries of His children down on this earth. He wants to sweep down and take us in His arms of love, as much as I wanted to reach out to Dean that day. Praise God, that day will come though. Like Dean, we must be patient and wait for our Supreme Caregiver to return and make all things right.

 That's me, second from the right--Joanne, third from the right, and Bill, the third from the left
(two blue shirts).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Hardest Lesson of Our Life

Perhaps because Dean's been in long-term care for over a year now, I'm feeling more and more at a loss for finding"lessons of faith" to share on this blog. There are just fewer and fewer learning experiences to draw from my caregiving.

In addition, my grandmother babysitting has slowed down, due to the girls getting older and work hours changing for their parents.

Even my pets (a small dog and a cockatiel) are getting older now, sleeping more, and I'm afraid I won't have them around much longer to care for.

But God certainly hasn't stopped teaching me about faith and my need to depend on Him. As we get deeper and deeper into our senior years, the hardest lesson we may have to learn is how to depend on others, instead of being the one they depend on.

Dean's experience at the care center is certainly a model for me to follow. I'm sure the hardest part of being there, and why he calls it "jail", is because others must do things for him that he used to do for himself.

In the same way, I must allow God to do everything for me. In addition to giving others a blessing, we must learn the most gracious way to receive those blessings. Yes, that may truly be the hardest lesson we must learn in our lifetime.

Receiving a gift is as important as getting it!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Who's That Matter

Being able to converse every day on the phone, and seeing him several times a week has helped the feelings of separation from being apart from each other, but it's still hard for Dean to understand why he can't return to our home of 17 years. It's funny, because he really didn't consider it "home" before. He said he was just existing here in Nebraska. His real home was in the Northwest somewhere.

That was probably a healthier way to look at it. Because anywhere we live on this earth is the same as  it was for Abraham, living in tents as he did for so many years. This faithful man was waiting "for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." We too must keep our eyes on that Holy City, the New Jerusalem. It takes a lot of faith, but God is giving us the opportunity to grow that faith through our tent-dwelling experiences here on earth.

It's amazing, but the closest I feel to Dean is when we're praying together. Perhaps, because it brings us closer to that heavenly home, even to the throne room of God.

Adjusting to Dean being in a care facility got a little easier for us both this week when I saw something online. I shared this quote with Dean, "It's not what we have in life, but WHO we have that matters." Let's look more for the "who's", and especially for the most important WHO, our Lord and Savior. It's not even about the promised mansion, but about all our loved ones being there.

It's not what we have in life, but WHO we have that matters!

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!