Sunday, December 29, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor

Yesterday afternoon I thought it would be nice for Dean and I to visit some of our neighbors and bring them a belated Christmas card and "family newsletter".

One of the families was new to the neighborhood. I was somewhat nervous about Dean's presentation, but he had shaved off his beard and mustache for me for Christmas, so I thought this might be a good time for the introductions. He didn't look as wild and wooly as before The Shave, so we bravely ventured outside and enjoyed the last of our unseasonably warm weather.

It was nice to touch bases with these families who live almost on our doorstep, but who really live such separate lives. It reminded me of a neighbor we had a few years ago. Even though they were right across the street, I had no idea that she was a caregiver too. She took care of her mother.

I only learned about her challenges and isolation when she was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. It was stressful and traumatic for the whole family. Her brother, who lived somewhere else, had to step in and attend to the business of selling the house, putting their mom in a long term facility, and finding some mental health assistance for his sister.

All this family drama happened right across the street. I should have been there for them earlier, but was too wrapped up in caring for my own. Her story, when I finally learned of it, inspired me to be more proactive in helping other caregivers. It's so important to reach out to others for help. Caregivers must learn to take care of themselves, in addition to their loved ones.

God created human beings as social creatures. We were designed to be with each other, to care for each other, and to love each other. And the whole purpose is to equip us to have a relationship with our Creator. In taking a tiny step in knowing my neighbors, I pray I can stay connected with them, but more importantly, I can grow closer to God, who doesn't need a card and "letter" to know ALL about us.

My best Christmas present ever--a clean-shaven husband (he did keep a little "soul patch" though).

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bathroom Makeover!

It's been a hectic December so far, but one thing got completed yesterday: my NEW bathroom! Medicaid allowed us this home modification, which was supposed to be just a walk-in shower, instead of a became a ten-day remodeling project before it was over.

For years, I have had a dream of getting the floor replaced in that bathroom. The linoleum was probably almost fifty years old and had seen much better days. But when they decided to take out the tub and widen the doorway for wheelchair access, just in case we need it someday, it required much more than I thought it would.

They ended up replacing the flooring, painting the whole room, and putting in an exhaust fan system (to meet code), in addition to the new door. So basically, we had a bathroom makeover! I just keep walking in there now that it's done to absorb the beautiful bathroom they gave us. (see pictures below)

It was hard while they were working on it though. There were dust, paint fumes (not good for me), tools everywhere, and we had to desert the bedroom next to the bathroom all week for them to work in (meant the loss of our TV/toy/office room). Dean was incredibly patient with the changes in our lives while all this was going on. I think he sensed it was only temporary, so he was able to endure lots more than I thought he could.

I can't help but realize how abundantly God wants to bless our lives (more than we ever hoped for). And we are all capable of enduring trials far more than we think we can. Thank you, God, for our blessings, but also for the trials that enable us to enjoy them. Our final reward in heaven will be well worth what we have gone through here on earth.

notice the grab bars and pull-down shower seat
what a difference new floors make!
They even painted the cabinets under the sink and the vent on the floor, plus put up my towel racks! Thank you, North Star Construction!

Monday, December 9, 2013

My Plank

Believe it or not, I went out on a date with Dean tonight at Misty's Restaurant (probably the most popular steakhouse in town). I wasn't thinking of it as a date until it was over though. I shouldn't have been so negative about it the last few days, because Dean was really looking forward to it. I'm sure I killed a lot of his joy with my skeptical remarks.

You see, last week we got one of those marketing offers in the mail. Come and hear "information" about something, in exchange for a free meal. We have done it occasionally in the past, when our finances weren't as tight. But now it's just a painful reminder that there's a room full of fifty or so people, all with more money than you have. You definitely are not going to buy whatever they have to sell. And it's just not a good feeling for me.

Dean insisted that I call and make the reservations though, so I did. Just to appease him. I made it known that I was not on board with his request and frequently voiced my unhappiness over his decision to attend the "free" dinner.

Now my regret is that I didn't try to make it a more positive experience for him from the start. After watching him spill his drink almost as soon as we sat down, some of the old compassion started coming back for me. I saw that he was having a hard time cutting his steak (let alone eating it with his eight lonely remaining teeth), so I cut my steak in bite-size pieces before transferring it to his plate (our agreed-upon arrangement since I'm vegetarian).

Thinking back on our day, I recognize now the negativity I've had inside me lately. I'm always worried about Dean watching his language and behavior in front of our granddaughters, but I definitely need to watch my own words and actions and make sure they are full of the same patience and respect we encourage the girls to show their grandpa.

Jesus knew what He was saying when He told us not to judge, lest we be judged. (Matthew 7:1). And we see His sense of humor as He further describes it as looking for the splinter in your brother's eye, when you have a plank in your own! I pray God will show me how to get the plank out of my eye, so I can see clearly enough to help Dean with his little splinters.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Giver Husband

Mondays have taken on a whole new flavor since I've started watching my granddaughter during the day. It actually feels like the beginning of a work week now around here.

Dean has graciously agreed to attend another day at his adult day program--going there three times a week, rather than just two. I know it's asking a lot of him; it's not his favorite way to spend the day. But I'm sure thankful he's doing it for me.

I've convinced him that my work is doubled (actually multiplied more than that) when he is around when I'm babysitting. He asks and expects me to help him with things as much as I'm helping little Mae. I've been trying to get him to wait on himself more, even though I recognize he really does need some assistance. (This Sunday morning when he fixed our pancakes, for instance, he asked me if the peanut butter or the applesauce went on first.)

But there's also the fact that I try not to leave him alone with the girls for very long. It usually ends up with someone, usually him, getting upset about something. (Just like when some siblings can't be left alone for long.)

So you can see why my babysitting work is greater with him around. Going to his program more days is really going to lighten my load. I'm thankful that he loves me enough to do what he'd prefer not to do.

This makes me wonder if I'm willing to do what I dislike for God. Do I love Him enough to leave my comfortable house and do whatever it takes to serve Him? Are my stubborn desires getting in the way of God completing His work on earth? Lord, teach me to be as humble and giving a person as my husband. Caregivers aren't the only givers in this household.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Driving Me Crazy

My days are a blur of late. But one bright beam has entered. I won't have to do as much driving every day, as other arrangements have been made for transporting my granddaughter here for me to babysit.

I love my husband (the one with dementia) and I love my granddaughter (the "real" child), but it's very hard to tell them apart when they're both in a car. I can stand one repetitive singer (the one in the carseat), but their duets are something else.

I try not to discourage their performances though, because at least it distracts my backseat driver, who sits in the front seat, from his constant and often dangerous driving instructions. (If I went every time he said the way was clear, for instance, I would have died a thousand deaths by now.)

Isn't that typical of our lives though? The hardest part about getting to heaven is all the driving it takes. This is what wears us out so much. I'm so glad that our God has offered to do the driving for us. But when I have to be at the wheel, I'm glad He's teaching me not to listen to bad driving advice from others. There's a time to listen and a time to tune out. God will show us the times.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What a Pair

We just finished the second "trial" week of babysitting for our 3 1/2-yr.-old granddaughter every day--all day (well, during school hours--her sister is in kindergarten now). This way their mommy can get some sleep and hang on to her new third-shift employment which she just started.

The biggest unknown factor was my ability to cater to the demands of TWO toddlers during the day. Especially when there's such an age difference in the two. I think you know of whom I speak. Mae is just barely out of the "it's mine" stage, but she easily reverts to it when Grampa repeatedly wants to play with one of her toys, and there's the question, at least in her mind, of when and if she'll get it back.

Then there's also Grampa's constant requests to "keep your feet off the furniture", "put your coat by the door", "pick up your dolly", etc., etc., punctuated with frequent calls to "come give me a hug" and "why don't you answer Grampa?"

But we are adjusting around here. Mae really does love her Grampa and most of the time they get along just fine. We have separate rooms for them to "play" in, and I do my best to keep them occupied separately, especially close to naptimes (either hers or his).

The bottom line is there are lots of grandmas out there, willing to sacrifice to keep their precious little ones out of daycare. I know I'm going to give it all I've got too. It's only for a short time anyway. Keeping in mind that they don't stay "little" very long makes it easier to bear. (Wish I could say that for Grampa, who's development seems quite fragile these days.)

It makes me wonder how God can cater to us human beings, as diverse and needy as we are. Thank heaven, He makes the sacrifice to keep us close to Him as our grandma, and reminds us that this time on earth is short enough to make it all worthwhile.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pill Panic

Don't know when I've felt such panic. The other day when we came home from the drug store with some new pain medication for Dean, I asked where the pills were. We had only been home a few minutes, but he announced that he had hid them. My heart must have skipped several beats when I immediately began every persuasion known to man (and woman) to get him to reveal the hiding place of his new powerful drug.

My first instinct for the hiding place turned out to be correct, but I didn't let him know that I had already located them in the top drawer of his dresser. I needed his willing compliance if I was going to be the administrator of this medication, a very necessary measure due to his memory issues.

And the "memory loss" argument finally won him over. By the next day, when he went to his adult day program, I had convinced him that I would put the amount of pills in the pill bottle that he needed just for that day, and hold the rest aside in another location (undisclosed to him, of course).

But then, I noticed that he was getting easily overdosed with the two pills he was allowed, resulting in slurred speech and being uneasy on his feet. So, I came up with an idea. A deceptive one, but necessary for his health and safety. I switched the few pills in the bottle to Tylenol. And if I felt he should have the "real stuff", I could give him one (just one) along with his daily pills in his pill organizer. (There's so many in there already he surely wouldn't notice one more.)

At one point I was wondering if my little "scheme" would be undetected. Because the Tylenol pills look totally different than the "real" pain pills. Different shape, different size. Would he trust me enough to accept the change without questioning the different-looking pills? Fortunately, I don't think he has so far even remembered that they are different. So, the crisis has been averted for this round.

Isn't it nice that our great God-Caregiver has the power and knows us well enough to give us substitutes when we need them? I pray that I can trust God enough to look out for my welfare, especially when my ability to make wise choices is seriously impaired. God has the situation under control, but we do need to reveal our "hiding places" and willingly allow Him to administer His will.

our trusty pill organizer, where one more pill won't be noticed

Monday, November 4, 2013

In My Heart

We were met this week with some sad news about a dear church friend who passed away. George may have been elderly, he may have had heart problems which were impacting his life quite heavily, but death always comes as a shock, doesn't it? You can prepare for a funeral, and have living arrangements for a surviving spouse in place, but you can never prepare one for the grief and loneliness that accompanies this most unwelcome of all experiences.

Dean and I both went to the visitation at the funeral home last night. Even though Dean has steered clear of our growing home church the last couple of years due to his dementia, I felt this might be a "safe place" for him to see some of his friends and express his grief to Virginia, since Dean knew the couple so well.

And he did a fair job of greeting every person there, even though he "recognized" many people he had never met, and couldn't remember the names of some of our closest friends. The highlight though was when he took Virginia's hand and asked to pray for her. It was a touching prayer and reminded me of the one he had long-distance on the phone with our sister-in-law after the sudden death of Dean's brother a couple of years ago.

Each death and funeral I attend is a painful reminder of what it will be like to lose Dean someday. I think what I will miss most will be his prayers. They may appear on the surface to be long and repetitive, but I try to listen closely, because he always surprises me with their depth.

The other night, for instance, he started out with the Lord's Prayer, but he made one slight change. He said, "...Thy will be done, in my heart as it is in heaven..." I'm sure this was not a mistake.

Help me, Lord, to accept in my heart whatever Your will demands.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Musings

Not sure what our Halloween holds for us tonight. I think I've convinced Dean that we are too poor to afford candy to pass out at the door this year. But I had to promise him that I'd buy him some candy when the sales go up after Halloween. That seemed to satisfy him enough. It appears getting candy himself has priority over giving it away this year.

See my last two Halloween posts to see what our church is doing again tonight--it really is a great alternative event (2012) and what my feelings are for the holiday itself (2011). You can find them on the labels at the bottom of this blog (under "Halloween") or just click on this link:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Phone Misuse

I've been having issues with Dean's phone use lately. First of all, a presenter at the Alzheimer's meeting that I attend now and then told us about all the scam artists that prey on seniors, many of them via phone calls. It's made me nervous about Dean answering the phone on his own. He's pretty vulnerable to that sort of thing, as we all are. Even though he doesn't have a credit card number to give out, he still knows his social security number, and on good days other personal information that shouldn't normally be given to strangers.

The other issue is when I get personal phone calls. I've caught him listening quietly on the other line--in other words, eavesdropping. He's lonely, so I understand his need to listen, but it's been very hard for me not to be impatient with him about this. I've admitted to listening to some of his calls (see first paragraph), but told him I would try to make sure he knew I was listening. And he should let me know the same. It's not polite to listen on the sly.

But what about our conversations with God? Isn't it wonderful that the Holy Spirit is there to make sure all our prayers are only heard by God Himself? No scam artist can reach us on that privileged prayer line. And no one can eavesdrop without our permission. Our personal prayers are always just that, very personal. I'm assured that one area of my life, my relationship with God, will always remain private.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our Daily Reference

We finally got a piece of mail today that I'd been looking for. For the past week or so, Dean's "meals on wheels" just didn't match up with the printed menu that they provided us a while back. I finally noticed that the menu was for Spring and Summer, so realized that we must already be getting Fall and Winter meals. We like to see what food is coming, and sadly, also sometimes need the food identified once it's here. So that menu in the mail was a welcome piece of information that promptly got posted in a prominent place.

Our lives change too, just like the seasons. We wonder why things that happen to us just don't match up with what should be happening at the time (why a marriage failed). Or why our feelings about events are so different than they used to be (consider the mind of a new parent). How we experience our relationships and respond to challenges in life are suddenly unrecognizable in us (as often happens to a caregiver), and we may flounder for a time in curious wonderment and question what life is all about.

Seasons are many. But the one thing that doesn't change is our need for a menu. And I can't think of a better menu for life than our Bibles. In it are examples to guide the young into making healthy choices, words of wisdom for adults to show them how to render loving service to God and others, and comfort and peace for the failing hearts of seniors. Yes, the Bible is one "menu" we should post prominently in our homes and use for daily reference. And it never changes with the seasons.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Escaped Pills

This morning when I was filling my own pill organizer, I noticed Dean's pill organizer had one of the little boxes open just a little. Much to my chagrin, Tuesday night's pill door was not only open, but there were three little "escapees" on the loose! Did they fall on the floor somewhere that only a curious dog or child would be able to locate and put in "solitaire" (i.e. their own mouth)?

Dean came into the kitchen at about that time and when I asked what he knew about the "pill break", he informed me that he had noticed that pills had dropped to the floor when he took his pills the night before. But not to worry, he found them and taken them along with his other pills. Well, there's a whole new thing to worry about...what pills were they?

They ended up being "significant" pills, but evidently Dean was able to weather the storm overdose, because, after all, here he was at five in the morning, wide awake and telling me about it with coherent speech and everything.

When bigger things start falling out of their prescribed places in our lives, we follow a similar pattern of wondering, worrying, questioning, and searching. How patient a God we have, who allows us to experience these very human responses. In the end, we often don't get our questions answered, we never find what we're looking for, and it's especially then that our worry can spin out of control.

But God has given us a special tool to help us weather these very real storms of life. It's called faith. Nothing gets the emotions under control better than a healthy dose of this worry-buster. When we turn the controls over to God, He never steers us into waters we can't handle. Things find their perspective in the bigger picture that God Himself controls.

I needed this little reminder this morning. God has the answers and He's in control.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Been so busy this week taking care of myself that I haven't had time for much blogging. A monster cold came on like a lamb, but soon showed itself as a lion, and set me reeling again with two episodes of coughing that ended up as choking, near-911 calls. (Praise the Lord, this is the first cold I've had since last February though!)

Most of you know about my pulmonary restrictive disease, causing me to be on oxygen part of the time. My deformed chest cavity from scoliosis doesn't give me the room I need to breathe. When asked by the nurse if I was short of breath, it was tempting to report that all my breaths were short. I haven't had a deep breath in years, maybe never really. Wouldn't know one if it hit me!

But this blog isn't about me. It's about my caregiving life with my hubby dear. After returning home after a six-hour emergency room visit, my daughter (MY caregiver for the day) gave her dad the low-down on not overworking her momma while she's sick. Her lecture really seemed to influence his behavior these past few days. He has been much less needy himself and more observant of my needs, constantly asking what he can do to help.

One thing I've discovered with my illnesses though is that I need reminders for my care. Not taking my medicine or breathing treatments at regular intervals gets me in trouble every time. Seeing my medical arsenal on the washing machine may have reminded Dean of the seriousness of my condition too. It looked like this:

Living in a household with someone who has memory deficits keeps me looking for memory aids for both of us. I have to be doubly cognizant of remembering appointments, medicine times, getting bills paid on time, etc., etc.

How nice that God placed one reminder for us that happens at regular intervals, making it even easier to remember. How important to remember our "weekly date" with Him! He actually blessed a certain day and placed it in the Ten Commandments, so we would never lose it. What could be easier?

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Greater Power

Last week after lightning from a thunderstorm split a big tree in our neighbor's yard, Dean and I were both shocked to see the downed tree taking up her whole back yard. What a blessing it didn't land on her house!

But she was at wit's end as to how she was going to get rid of it. Dean, an ex-logger, immediately offered his services in cutting up the tree for her and getting it stacked as firewood that she could sell. Even though his power saw hadn't been used for about fifteen years and was buried in the far recesses of our garage, he didn't see why he couldn't come to her rescue and do the job.

The neighbor and I, and I'm sure anyone else who knows Dean very well, had our doubts that Dean could ever accomplish such a feat. Dean at 67, with a brain injury and dementia, who can't even put his own socks on any more and falls on a regular basis--chopping and stacking firewood? It seemed laughable, improbable, and totally unthinkable. But we humored him, knowing that chances are he'd forget about it by the next day and it would never happen.

Nothing more was said about it for a couple of days. Imagine my shock Saturday night when he announced that he had a busy day the next day. I asked what he would be doing, and he said, "I'll be cutting up that tree, that's what!" So Sunday morning he put on his jeans, work gloves, hat, and began the search for the chain saw in the garage. He finally managed to resurrect it from its greasy, dusty grave, began feeding it with oil and gas, and patiently pulling on the cord to start his reluctant forest friend.

I had a weekly blog to get out that day, but had to take intermittent breaks to check on Dean, who was alone in the neighbor's back yard, trying to start his poor, tired saw. I could hardly concentrate, thinking about him falling and lying over there alone with multiple lacerations on multiple limbs--not the trees', but his own!

My mechanic son-in-law assured me that the saw would never start, and we were counting on that to keep him safe. It was so sad to see him trying so hard to complete this one last logging feat though. As much as I dreaded hearing that saw start up, I found myself almost wishing it would, so I could see his face light up with joy and his hefty arms once more take up the saw and apply it to the wood all around him. We were both being transported back to another time, another decade, a newly married, young couple in the Montana Bitterroot Mountains.

But alas, it was not to be. As the day wore on, he finally allowed the saw to be taken over to our son-in-law's garage to see if he could perform some magic on it. But his final diagnosis for the saw was terminal. Dean's precious last link to his manhood is resting in peace once again in our garage.

Fortunately, Dean is taking the loss well. Our neighbor informed us that she has found someone to cut and take the tree, and Dean will never know whether he could have tackled the job or not. In actuality, his saw saved him from knowing...and saved him from getting hurt. I think I'll be hanging on to that power saw. It's a symbol to me of that Greater Power that we can rely on to get the job done, one way or another.

The Saw

my cowboy, logger, truck driver husband and I--sometimes I miss him

Monday, September 9, 2013

This Hope

For quite awhile this evening I've been trying to think of something of note to report in my blog. And then the most notable news ever came to me. Sunday as I was making my monthly routine calls to remind people of our brain injury support group that meets this Tuesday, one of our friends from the group sadly told me that her husband had passed away a week ago.

As I'm casually hoping to recall something noteworthy in my life, a fellow caregiver/survivor has had her world turned upside down this past week. He was such a caring man too, who came to all our meetings with his wife. She had a brain injury many years ago in an auto accident. The support group will never be the same without his quiet, cheerful, smiling presence. He will be sorely missed by all of us in the group.

Life is so fragile. And so is our grief. Grief is personal, it's diverse, and it's never going to go away so long as we're on this sinful planet. But someday, God promises to take away the sting of death. No more will we feel its bite. No more will we have to say good-bye.

"And God shall wipe all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4

Where would we be without this hope?

Monday, September 2, 2013


Nothing puts me in the shopping mood more than having money to do it, and since yesterday was the first of the month, my shopping list for things I've been waiting for most of last month was screaming for attention.

I generally like to do my shopping ALONE, early in the morning when Dean's at his day program. But this morning Dean was just barely awake and hadn't had his Sunday morning pancakes yet, so I took a chance and asked if he'd like to go shopping with me. (Didn't want him fixing his own pancakes while I was gone--he's forgetful about turning off the stove.) I couldn't believe how fast he got dressed, and mostly on his own, except for his socks. This man was hankering to go.

As we arrived, he hollered at a man clear across the parking lot and told him he had "neat shoes"--they were quite colorful, even that far away. The man must not have heard him, or was hoping no one else had--he just kept walking. I was dreading other awkward confrontations as we got closer to our destination. After trying a few "go carts", he finally settled on the one he wanted to ride in the store. I must say things went pretty smoothly while we were in the store and on the way home. So, my fears and dreads were not to be realized, at least for that day.

I would say that this is the case for 90% of my worries and fears. Most of them don't ever happen. So, why do I waste such valuable time on them? I John 4:18 tells us that "perfect love casts out fear". I hadn't fully seen that as applying to my worries as well. As I focus on God's love, my worries and fears do have a tendency to take back seat.

There's a big market for worrying these days though. There's lots of speculation about what's going to happen in the world. Some people are drawn to preaching that is meant to "shake us up" with shocking stories and theories about end-time events. These tactics do "worry" some people into obedience. Then there are other preachers who tickle our ears with a "feels good" message, designed to make us feel good and worry less about obedience and focus instead on the prosperity and wealth God is just waiting to hand over to us here on earth. But Jesus tells us to take up our CROSS and follow Me. Not our crown. (Matthew 16:24)

I John 4: 1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." Remember, my friends, whether you're worrying too much or not enough, God's Word will provide us with just the right balance to see us through any trial. The Bible, our only safeguard.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Burden Lifter

My only sister, who I love dearly and haven't seen for almost three years, just spent ten days with me. It was such a morale booster to have her here. Even though I was in the same house, caregiving for the same man, it just didn't seem as daunting a task while she was here. And it wasn't because she took over my housekeeping or caregiving. She helped, yes, but I probably ended up doing the same amount of work. It was only her presence that somehow made the work seem lighter.

In the same vein, Jesus has promised to make our burdens lighter by just welcoming His presence into our lives. We still have the same cares of life to worry about, but they seem more bearable, because Jesus is there to share them. I should be as happy about Jesus visiting this household as I was to have my sister for awhile.

It was difficult to say good-bye to her at the airport. But the nice part about God's visit is that He never leaves. And He's the Visitor you don't want to let go. Just like my sister.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I've always wondered why I dread going places in the car with Dean. Nine times out of ten when I've lost patience with him, it's been while we are going someplace in a car. He may have been an excellent truck driver before his injury, but that also seems to qualify him as the worst "back seat driver" now.

Today was no exception, as I really came unglued just as we entered the parking lot of the eye doctor's office. This was our fourth time there in the past week, by the way. It's a long story, but needless to say, I wasn't calmed down enough to do anything but sit in the car while he went in and got the new lens for his glasses.

I got to thinking about why car trips were so difficult for us--especially for me. The thought came to me that in a car, we can't get away from each other. You can't go to another room, or take a walk around the block to cool off. You are stuck in the car with someone you can't deal with and don't want to deal with--and it isn't fun.

Satan loves us to feel trapped like this. He tries to arrange our lives so that we have no way out, so we have no where else to go but to be with him, to follow him, to be miserable with him. He wants to "take us for a ride".

God, on the other hand, bids us enter His house, where there is plenty of room to deal with our sin problems, whatever they are. We need this freedom to grow our patience, heal our anger, and understand our trials.

Next time Dean and I find ourselves in the car, I refuse to feel trapped. I'll just keep focused on the freedom that awaits us at home.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sister's Visit

I'm really getting excited about seeing my sister next week. She's coming here for a week and it will be the first time we've been together since our parents died in 2010. I am all aflutter, making shopping lists, grocery lists, menu lists, to-do lists. "Why all the frantic preparation?" I asked myself this morning. And here's the reasons I came up with:
  • My SISTER's coming to visit!!! I'm excited about it because she's my SISTER! (Would be doing the same for you, Brother, by the way.) When you feel a close attachment to someone, you want everything to be just right.
  • But, it's more than just wanting everything right for how it will reflect on me. I want the visit to be pleasing to HER. I'll sleep on the floor, if I have to. I want her to be comfortable here, so we can visit, visit, visit. (We usually stay up all night at least once or twice--like kids at a slumber party.)
  • I'm rather fond of preparing for her visit. It makes it almost seem like she's here already. One year my sister made the mistake of surprising my parents with a visit. But they were disappointed that they didn't know beforehand that she was coming, because half the pleasure was getting ready for her to come.
  • And the last reason I'm planning is because of my caregiver status. Dean is one facet of my life that is hard to plan on. When it comes to Dean, we'll just have to wing it most of the time. But I can have some things in place to ensure a smooth visit. Such as making sure he gets plenty of time to visit with her privately too. Making sure larger family gatherings are kept to a minimum. And making sure we have the foods available that he loves, for distraction purposes. And most important--making sure he doesn't forget his medications!
 All of this preparation also reminded me of the preparations Jesus is making for us to visit, or rather make a permanent stay with Him, in heaven. He said in John 14, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself."

I hope Jesus is having as much fun as I'm having this week. Linda, it will be so nice to be with you again. Personal visits are so much nicer than phone conversations. And I'm sure Jesus feels the same about our relationship. Think how different it will be to see Him face-to-face, and not just converse through the "prayer-phone line". "Come, Lord Jesus, come!"

My brother and sister--I'll take a visit with them any time!!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Like Children

The other day as I was transporting my daughter and granddaughters somewhere, we noticed little three-year-old Mae singing in the back seat. She was repeating her song over and over. My daughter commented that she was like her grandpa. (Dean, as I've indicated earlier, is a master song-repeater, of the "broken record" variety, getting stuck on the same song for days and weeks.)

I corrected her in saying that she wasn't copying Grandpa, but Grandpa was the one who was copying his granddaughter, and we both got a chuckle. Yes, repetitious singing is normal for a three-year-old, but it wasn't normal...well, you know the rest. There's nothing "normal" about dementia, as those who've lived with it can attest. Keeping your sense of humor is one of the ways you can help keep your sanity though.

I have found it humorous that one of Dean's latest songs he's been humming and singing is "Rock-a-bye Baby". Usually his songs are ones he's heard lately, so I couldn't understand how this one got into his brain. It was so different from the hymns he usually gets attached to.

After talking about Grandpa copying Julia though, it dawned on me that he may have heard the girls singing "Rock-a-bye Baby" to their dolls, or maybe he started singing it with them as they were trying to rock their doll-babies to sleep. So, this would confirm the copying-his-granddaughter theory.

Jesus told us to be as little children, loving and trusting. Dean is reminding us of that every day.

Dean holding one of his granddaughters a few years back.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Cover

A friend and I were chatting about someone we both knew, and one of us mentioned that she now has dementia. Due to our mutual experience with this, we both said we recognized it awhile back. Repeating yourself is often the first sign that gets noticed by friends and loved ones.

Then as I was leaving the house yesterday to run some errands, I asked Dean's home health nurse, who happened to be there, to remind Dean where I was going, when he got through with his shower. I laughingly told her that between repeating myself for his poor hearing and for his memory deficits, I was doubly cursed with repeating things.

It dawned on me as I got into the car that I was certainly repeating things more than most people. And with a chuckle to myself, I wondered how my family will know that I might be starting to have dementia. That's alright though; it will be nice to have a "cover" for my old age forgetfulness. I can blame it on being a caregiver!

There's another cover that I'm using a lot too. It's the cover found in Psalm 91:4. "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler." Yes, God is my refuge, my fortress, and my cover. I guess I can blame that on being a Christian.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Plan

I'm getting excited thinking about getting a bathroom makeover. Thanks to Dean's Medicaid waiver we qualify for more accessible facilities. Our current bathtub requires a 20-inch leg lift from the floor just to step into it. The shower chair and grab bars just aren't enough these days for safe bathing.

Plus they are going to give us a wider door and entryway for the bathroom that will accommodate a wheelchair should one be necessary at some point in the future. This may sound like an expensive project, but it really beats the cost of a nursing home; so I'm sure it will save in the long run, even if it only means one of us can stay home one or two months longer than we would without it.

Taking care of our needs both now and in the future reminds me of how God takes care of us. He looks out for us in the here and now, which is where we stay focused most of the time. But He also has our care mapped out for us in the future. I'm trying very hard to trust in His time schedule, because I know there's no way I could improve on it. God's clockwork is impeccable. The longer I live, the clearer it is to me that God is as powerful and omniscient as we've been told.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


The past few days I've had the pleasure of having our oldest granddaughter stay with us. She and Grandpa get along somewhat better than the youngest one, who's three, right now. They don't butt heads quite as much, and I'll let you come to your own conclusions on that one.

Nevertheless, having a five-year-old around this week brought out my old schoolteacher vibes, and I was anxious to test her reading powers. Their weekly library visits seem to be making them quite the literary types already. But I was curious about whether the oldest was ready for any sight words.

My sister, a substitute teacher, told me about an idea for sight words that seemed quite effective. A teacher put their sight words on the doorpost of the classroom and each student had to say them as they came in the room.

So we tried that method here at home and had some surprising results. The words we chose were put on the bathroom and kitchen doors, and all family members had to remember to say them before entering these rooms. Lorraine and I both thought Grandpa would need to be reminded the most to say the "passwords" because he's so forgetful; but we were amazed that he almost always remembered to say them. And not only that, he reminded us to say them more than we had to remind him!

This activity reminded me of a similar one that the children of Israel were instructed to perform during the Passover. They were told to put blood on the doorposts of their homes, as a reminder of the blood that was sacrificed for them to be freed from the bonds of slavery. The "password" for them was special indeed, and we are still told to be mindful of Christ's blood that was shed for us, which frees us from sin.

What a teaching tool that must have been for the Israelites, and still is for every follower of God today. It should be on the mind of every Christian as they participate in the Communion Service, instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper.

We all need a reminder now and then.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Toddler Behavior

This morning Dean was a bit of a "behavior problem child" (my new term for it, after observing the actions of my just-turned-three granddaughter). He flared up, just like a toddler would, when at one point he didn't get his way about something, and then resorted to pushing my buttons repeatedly in childish retaliation.

In my earlier days of parenthood, I probably wouldn't have been so patient. But I guess I'm just more mature now and have had LOTS of patience practice, so I was able to just ignore his silly antics. (Just in case you're wondering, he kept rolling his window all the way down while we were on the interstate, hoping I'd complain about all the hot air blowing on us.)

He apologized for it later in the day, for which I am fortunate. Not all caregivers are blessed with someone still capable of heartfelt remorse. It's nice to have his spoken requests for forgiveness, along with his often-expressed words of love. It makes caregiving so much more bearable.

I can understand God's patience a little better through this. He keeps His merciful forgiveness available to all who simply ask for it. And besides, He's had eons of patience practice under His belt. It pleasures Him to receive our repentance, but I'm sure it also pains Him immensely when we fail to reciprocate His love by neglecting to express our love and praise to Him for all He's done.

I still made him a special Fourth of July meal. Feeding him is my number one way to keep him happy and well-behaved!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Waiting for Answers

It seems impossible that there is nothing much going on with Dean right now to report, but the truth is things are floating along pretty well, with just a few bumps in the road, but no major detours...

Until his chore provider found out she will need doctor's approval to continue his exercise regimen. He's been responding so well to her program, increasing and adding sets right and left, and getting stronger and healthier from it, I'm sure. He just is not capable of exercising without close supervision. He needs a personal trainer, and that's just the role she's been for him. But we have had to halt the exercise until this little piece of red tape gets tied up. Hopefully, not cut.

I'm also wondering about the need for reducing one of his medications again, due to some side effects. This possibility always has me on edge. Will he need something else to replace it? Or will he be able to function alright without it? Will we be able to exist with him without it or something else? Our home will seem like a pharmaceutical laboratory for awhile until these questions are answered.

This state of mental turmoil must be similar to what the angels feel concerning the outcome of our sinful planet. Will enough of us humans ever get our acts together and start responding to the salvation remedy, provided by our Creator God? Will we be able to function, living our lives solely for our Lord and Master? And will we and the angels learn to co-exist in the Kingdom being prepared for us all to enjoy?

Thankfully, God took the initiative in seeing that these questions will have answers. We'll just have to wait and see what the outcome looks like in that glorious Day of our Lord.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What Time Did You Say?

Every night I review in my mind what needs to be done the next day. Last night I started to panic because I couldn't think of many things that needed done. Had I forgotten something major? Usually I was swamped. Would I get bored and start pacing the house all day if I ran out of things to do? Could I stay off my social media and internet with that much time on my hands before my eyes started to burn?

I had very few dishes in the sink or clothes in the hamper. About all I could think of was to shower, vacuum, and change the bottom of the bird cage. After a couple of phone calls, I was free the rest of the day. Dean was at his adult day program and so I had most of the morning to myself.

Then I remembered a committee meeting that afternoon for the Respite Network. I had written in 3 p.m. for it on my personal calender. So I left for the meeting in time, not thinking for a minute that all the other monthly meetings had been at 1:30 to 3:00.

Needless to say, no one was there when I arrived. I couldn't understand why, and even asked a secretary there to see where the meeting was held, even then thinking I must have the location wrong. But when she said that the meeting was at 1:30, I felt like such a dunce. How glad I was that the meeting had let out on time. I would have felt pretty silly walking in at the time they were finishing up.

The lesson for me in all this was that it isn't just when I'm swamped with things to do that mistakes can be made. I am capable of making them even when things are relatively calm and easy. I have to let God have control always. Not just when things are crazy and I'm all frazzled. I need Him during the relaxed times of my life as well.

Next time I have time on my hands, I'm giving it to God. My schedule is His, from beginning to end.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who's Dependent?

I had my eyes opened last weekend when Dean and I stopped to get an ice cream cone at a drive-thru. I've learned to order his ice cream in a bowl, instead of a cone (he can't lick fast enough). The bowl comes with a spoon in a cellophane wrapper. After briefly trying to get the spoon free, he handed it to me to tear open. It suddenly dawned on me just how dependent he is, compared to how he was before the accident. It's very similar to being with my toddler granddaughters.

You have to understand that this was a man, who at one time could fix or build or do almost anything: from roofing a house, laying a carpet, cutting down a tree, to decorating a cake. That image of him briefly came to my mind that day, and tears welled up in my eyes at the reminder.

Then I thought about all the things around the house that he also struggles with and I usually end up doing: using the electric can opener, twisting off bread ties, opening milk cartons, replacing the toilet paper roll, emptying the trash. It isn't just about doing all the driving or helping him dress (shoes and socks are the hardest). No wonder I feel overwhelmed with having to do everything at home.

Dean's dependence has brought even more forcefully to me how dependent I am on God. Jesus told us in John 15:5, "...without me ye can do nothing". Caregiving does not make me feel independent, although it can make me feel I'm the one in control at times. I must remember, however, God is the one in control and I am totally dependent on Him.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dean's Love Poem

Last week on one of the days Dean goes to an adult day program, one of the activities they had for them there was a choice between playing a game or sitting down and writing a poem. Not surprisingly, my romantic husband chose to write a poem, in the wake of our 37th anniversary.

He handed this handwritten note to me, when he got home. It said:

"My Wife is the Best
An Angel
A Queen
She says no to no one

37 trips around the sun
and five days more
She finds a way
She's amazing
Without her I'd feel like an empty person.
God answered my prayer"

How wise of us all to turn down the "games of life" and focus on the "loves of our life".

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Dean's sister Lynn and brother-in-law John came for a visit today. They live in another state and we seldom get to see each other. His family was having a big family reunion in town, but we had our own little one right here in our cozy living room this morning--a much better place for Dean to be able to reconnect with his only sis.

Lynn helped me identify and mark some of their family photos, a task I hadn't even asked Dean to tackle. It surprised me how his sister could get stories out of him that I hadn't heard before though. As it often happens with dementia, his long-term memory is still pretty intact. I had hesitated to have him help me on his own simply because I know how frustrated he gets with such activities.

There was one relative she was telling us about who I was really interested in--perhaps because of my own breathing and oxygen problems. Dean's grandpa on his father's side was reportedly not a good provider. First of all, this was during the Great Depression. But he was nevertheless considered a good-for-nothing, and forced his grandmother to work and support their children. She later divorced him and continued to provide for her four children on her own. Then Lynn told me that he had asthma.

I instantly thought of my own great grandpa, who had asthma and an almost identical story of not working, leaving my great grandmother to support their eight children during the Depression. He was thought to be pretty worthless by the family, even to this day too.

Having experienced shortness of breath and several episodes of calling 911, I can relate to the debilitating effects of asthma, or any pulmonary problem. Keep in mind that there was no medical support of any kind back then for lung patients--no nebulizers, medicines, or inhalers. I doubt there was even portable oxygen for home use. Both of our grandfathers died at an early age, and from the sound of their stories may have suffered from mental depression as well.

This brought home to me how one's reputation can suffer unjustly and how important our understanding of disabilities is. My hope is that people now will become familiar enough with dementia, and all the other "invisible" disabilities out there, and that the memories we leave will be seen in a kinder light.

And of course, the greatest legacy of all is the life that reflects the Father's love. After all, God has a reputation to guard as well.

Dean and Lynn


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dean's Prayer-Song

One way that I know Dean has worsened dementia, due to his brain injury, is that he now has a harder time with repeating the same song over and over. He did that a lot the first few years after his accident, but now it is one of the "symptoms" that has come back to haunt us.

I say haunt us, because although my voice is not solo quality either, I've at least been able to muster a decent enough sound to sing in choirs. I'm not sure Dean would fit in a choir. Let's just say he's able to make a joyful noise with a congregation. I'm sure his hearing deficit is mostly to blame though, because he does have a rich, low voice that I mostly love. (He did remind me the other day that he sang in a choir once. I'm thinking--high school academy, maybe?)

In any event, the song he seems to be stuck on recently is called "An Evening Prayer". It's a beautiful song. When I was "complaining" about his humming it all the time recently though--after humming my own different songs all day, in a futile effort to get him to change his tune--he told me that it's not just a song to him. It's really his prayer. When he said that, I gave up, and just let him have "his prayer-song".

An Evening Prayer

If I have wounded any soul today,
If I have caused one foot to go astray,
If I have walked in my own willful way,
Dear Lord, forgive!

If I have uttered idle words or vain,
If I have turned aside from want or pain,
Lest I myself shall suffer through the strain,
Dear Lord, forgive!

If I have been perverse or hard, or cold,
If I have longed for shelter in Thy fold,
When Thou hast given me some fort to hold,
Dear Lord, forgive!

Forgive the sins I have confessed to Thee;
Forgive the secret sins I do not see;
O guide me, love me and my keeper be,
Dear Lord, Amen.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Real Flowers for Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. I feel some guilt that I didn't go just 50 miles away to decorate my parents' graves. But knowing them as I did, they wouldn't mind too much. They would understand my reasons.

Dad always gave me a little gas money when I came to visit or to help them, so I know he would understand my lack of funds. And Mom, being blind, did not need flowers on her grave. The sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees would be enough for her enjoyment. She relied on memories and would endorse my remembrance of them, rather than my actual presence.

I felt closer to them by going through some of their belongings this weekend. Yes, there are still some boxes of paperwork from their house that needed my attention. It was nice to see these remnants of their life, even though the sorting was at times painful.

Instead of needing flowers on their grave, I have flowers in my yard that come up every year and remind me of them. Just as these perennials come up after lying dormant in the ground for winter, Mom and Dad are lying in wait for that glorious resurrection Morning when Jesus breaks through the sky and comes back to take us all home with Him.

from Mom, iris bulbs that came from her yard

we planted geraniums for the sides of the swing (their custom--as a matter of fact, it's their swing!)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Gift of Hope

Yesterday I went to a great support group for Alzheimer's and dementia. I knew the facilitator of the group and she asked me to talk about caregiving. We did discuss many aspects of caregiving, such as how it has changed over the last generation or two, what some of our common problems are, what feelings all caregivers share, and how to recognize signs of burnout and prevent it.

I was a bit more nervous about presenting to this group of seasoned caregivers. It was quite unlike the group of mixed, women caregivers at the women's retreat last fall. I pressed for more discussion this time, instead of waiting for questions at the end. So they actually carried the show and it went very well. Everyone had something to contribute--ideas and examples that spoke for themselves.

One thing I did notice though was how easy it was to veer off the topic of caregivers and start talking about our care recipients. They just were welded into the equation and you couldn't really separate the two. We exist because of them. The feelings and burdens we have are directly tied in to the persons we care for.

And there's nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that's what makes family caregivers such good ones. We already have a bond with these individuals, which makes our loads easier to bear.

I'm sure God's sacrifice for us was made easier because of the tremendous love He has for His created beings. There was a close bond between us from the moment He breathed into Adam the breath of life. We should not wonder at the lengths God, the Father, would go through to not only save us, but to care for us from day to day.

Sure, God can't make everything smooth and happy for us all the time now--just as we can't make everything pleasant for the loved ones we care for. But God has made promises for our future--a future so bright, it's beyond our imagination. And isn't that the best gift we can give and have as caregivers? The gift of hope.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Energy for the Walk

Dean had a gloriously wonderful time last Friday on the Senior One-Mile Walk. We got to our designated meeting place with Pastor Andy, but I neglected to remember how close it was to the bakery. I turned my head briefly and Dean was in the shop, ordering himself a pastry. He offered to share with me, and I readily agreed, mostly to lighten the damage for him.

Isn't that what God is all about? He shares our fate, by allowing His Son's cruel death on the cross. Anything to lighten our burden. Thank you, God, for being the Ultimate Caregiver.

I watch our calories. Dean consumes them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Walking a Mile in His Shoes

I should have known last week, when Dean insisted on buying himself a pair of tennis shoes, that he was serious about the annual one-mile Walk for Seniors that he signed up for. I've known for awhile that his chore provider, who told us about the walk, and who has been encouraging him to walk and exercise in preparation for it, would not be able to accompany him next Friday, the day of the Walk. And I also knew that our daughter babysits on Friday and would not be able to be his "walking buddy".

Since I'm his "buddy" for so much of life already, I just assumed that it would fall on me to be with him that day. For weeks, I've pictured myself walking by his side, looking for obstacles that he might trip on, making sure he didn't get confused about where he was or how many laps he'd taken, and being there to calm him down if he got frustrated about anything.

All of that I'm pretty good at. But then it dawned on me that the one thing I'm not good at is WALKING A MILE! Even though we'd be going at a snail's pace, I'd be out of breath after the first 30 seconds of walking. I shudder to think how winded I'd be at the end, even with my portable oxygen tank. It would look like I'd just run a 25-mi. marathon without stopping.

So, I broke down a few days ago and asked for help, something we caregivers are most reluctant to do. One of our pastors readily agreed to accompany Dean on the Walk. It's such a relief to know that Dean will be in able hands that day. I can kick back and enjoy the morning. I have to admit I was not looking forward to the dreaded task of walking with him.

Someone else has promised me much needed rest too, a time to kick back. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He says to take His yoke. Of course, I can't do that without putting my own yokes and burdens down first. Lord, help me not hesitate to take you up on this offer for help. I need to quit thinking it all depends on me, when actually none of it does. It's your yoke I want to wear. Mine is much too heavy. I get out of breath just thinking about it!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sleepless Nights

Some nights I have a hard time sleeping, and there are other nights when Dean can't sleep. There seems to be a change though after thirty-plus years of marriage. We don't usually keep each other awake when this happens. I can turn my light on to read, get up several times, but Dean doesn't skip a snore. And likewise, he can have trouble sleeping and go out to the living room recliner for several hours before I even know he's gone from bed.

There was one period that I was super vigilant about his getting up in the middle of the night here recently though, and that's when he was having a hard time on one of his medicines and had a lot of mental confusion and vivid dreams. As much as it took away from my sleep, I was usually able to wake up several times when he did in the night, wanting to be there to reassure him and let him know that "it was just a dream." It reminded me of parents when there's a new baby in the house. Suddenly young adults, who could sleep through a tornado siren, can hear their baby's slightest whimper.

I got to wondering if God isn't like that with us. How close and attuned He is to us when we're the most needy. Even though I'd like to think that God is intimately close all the time, I think He has the ability to make that relationship even more rich and comforting, when we're in our darkest hours. No matter what happens, no matter how hard life gets, God can be trusted to be there for us, assuring us that "it's just for a little while."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hunger Pangs

So, we cut one of Dean's medications in half, in hopes of it harnessing some of his weight gain. His appetite seems to know no bounds these days, but I have to say it hasn't improved since the change. I'm thinking his raging hunger is also due to his brain injury. If he sees food, he will eat it these days.

I have to be super vigilant with grocery shopping. All junk foods are out. Even if it's a healthy snack food, I can't have it around unless it's something that's low in calories, like fresh grapes or bananas. Those are the kinds of things I push for his snacking.

I also have to watch my leftovers. As soon as I feel we've both had enough supper, I have to whisk the food away to the fridge and hopefully hide it, before he "finishes it off". Yesterday I fixed him some of his favorite foods for supper (to make amends for turning down his pleas to go buy ice cream the last two days).

I got detoured on my computer after eating supper, and he comes in the bedroom and announces that he had finished off the scalloped potatoes. I panicked because I had made a really large casserole of this particular entree that he likes so well.

I raced into the kitchen to see how much was actually left and was relieved to see that he hadn't eaten it all the way down yet. But almost. Rather scary stuff. It immediately got stored on the top shelf of the refrigerator. It seems the top and bottom storage areas are the ones he notices the least, so I reserve them for foods he should stay away from.

Lord, please do that with all my temptations. I know you can't eliminate all of them, but put them where I won't be as apt to see them. You can store my impatience and worry on the top shelf somewhere. And please hide that pride somewhere down in the lower bins, way in the back.

There's actually some potatoes left in this 2 qt. casserole dish. Can't believe the two of us ate this much!

Friday, April 26, 2013


The caregiver retreat I attended the last two days must have been a success. Today Dean is at his adult day program, which he regularly attends on Friday, but I can't believe all the relaxing I've been able to fit into my morning since he's been gone.

Normally I'm in a frenzy, trying to get as much accomplished as possible, but today I took the message they were pointing out to us at the retreat to heart and just did everything at a more leisurely pace, and it has worked. I not only got in my shower time, a nap, and some relaxing on the back deck (finally feels warm enough to do that), but also got some closets worked on, a load of clothes laundered, a phone call made, and now am even writing this blog (forgive me if it's a short one). Who would have thought?

I debated about whether to go to Wal-mart to pick up a couple of items we're about to run out of, but the crowds there didn't sound conducive to my new "me-time" awareness effort, so I've put it off for another time.

I might even have the fortitude stored in me to think of taking Dean with me to the store this week-end. Notice I said "think". *wink*

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dinner with a Friend

Yesterday turned out to be an amazing day, even though I had my doubts when Dean woke up with a hoarse voice and wisely opted out of going to his twice-a-week adult day program. Couldn't help but sigh, because I had so many errands on my agenda while he was safely tucked away in someone else's care.

His disorientation and mental confusion has improved enough though that I decided to just go ahead with my plans and leave him with DVDs to watch and microwaveable food, and stop in quickly or call him during the times I had to be out. He seems to do just fine for an hour or two on his own.

My most enjoyable "errand" was meeting a lady friend, who offered to take me out to eat somewhere for my birthday. Couldn't remember when I'd last done that. It was incredibly sweet to have some adult conversation with a peer, who wasn't my daughter or sister. It really meant a lot to have that womanly-sharing time.

As many with spouses who have dementia, it's easy to reduce your social life to almost nothing. I tried having people over for dinner after church sometimes in the years since Dean's tractor accident. There were a few years this was possible, but it's become increasingly more stressful since his dementia has increased. So, I have virtually stopped trying, except for occasional suppers with close family members. And I love cooking for others, so it's something I really miss.

I am looking forward to a two-day caregiver retreat this month though. But the retreat that I most look forward to is one out of this world. There we will have the most heavenly social life we can imagine. And the party never ends.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why Memorize?

On the way to our monthly brain injury support group, I reminded Dean that it was going to be "talent night", our once-a-year opportunity to share something special with the group, following a nice potluck supper.

Dean started reciting a bawdy poem from his barroom days in his youth, but I stopped him in his tracks and reminded him that there might be children present. He said he could censure it, but I had my doubts about his ability to "clean it up" enough for a mixed audience. There wasn't any more said about it, so I thought he agreed with my assessment.

Imagine my horror at the meeting when they asked him if he had any talent and he started reciting the quite "colorful" rhyme, having to pause and clear his throat at very frequent, vital intervals. We made it through without too much embarrassment, and I had to admire his ability to remember something so well after decades of learning it and filter it fairly well.

It made me marvel also at the brain's ability in general to retrieve memorized information, and was a reminder to me that memorization is not a skill to be taken lightly. I wish I had memorized far more good things when I was young. I've memorized several Bible passages in the last few years, but I know it would have been easier to remember them when I was young and the recall would be more reliable. Even with dementia, Dean's recall was impeccable.

I hope to encourage my granddaughters to memorize Bible verses. Because one verse tells us, "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee." Psalm 119:11 It isn't just for show; it will help them all through life to stay away from sin and stay close to God. It's part of our spiritual armor. Ephesians 6:17.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chasing After Dad

We just spent the last two days at a state brain injury conference in Kearney, Nebraska. That would be Dean, our daughter, and I. It was an action-packed time, full of adventures and felt like a big family reunion, since this was the seventh annual one they have had and we've attended.

We three adults shared a motel room this time, but our daughter didn't object too much until she found out how much her dad snores. She knew after last year what her duties were and thought they would actually be simplified by her being in the same room with us. I don't know how many times last year her dad forgot his room-key and they had to borrow one from the desk or come looking for me in the convention center somewhere.

One time last year we found each other in the vendor area. I'm thinking I spotted them first because they were pretty hard to miss. Dean had on his cowboy hat, a towel draped over his shoulder, and, most noticeable, feet that were bare. They were on their way to or from the pool, but had forgotten his roomkey. I came to recognize our daughter's furtive eye-rolling, a carryover from her teens, and would let her lean in to secretly whisper in my ear, "Mom, you're a saint!"

This year started out with a bang too. Or rather a plop. Dean fell full-body on the sidewalk outside her apartment as we were getting ready to leave. He thought he could step down from a foot-high retaining wall like the rest of us, and of course went down like a dishrag. Fortunately, our son-in-law was there to help hoist his 250 plus-lb. body back to an upright position. He wasn't hurt, but we were all certainly placed on red-alert to watch for falls again this time around.

After the first day's busy agenda, we three headed to the pool and spa in the motel for a little relaxation time. Dean was doing alright in the hot tub and then a quick dip in the pool. And then he wanted to go sit on the patio outdoors. It was early evening and getting rather chilly out there, so our daughter and I remained inside, knowing it was no use trying to change his mind. After letting him sit there in our view through the window for a short while, we knew one of us would have to fetch him back inside before he got too chilled.

Our daughter looked longingly at me and said, "Can you do it, Mom? I've been chasing him all day." I started laughing so hard, I could hardly get out my reply. "Well, I've been chasing him EVERY day!" And then we both about split our guts laughing, one of the best coping tools you can bring with you to a full-of-surprises brain injury convention, especially with characters like our "outlaw cowboy" in attendance.

King of the Remote

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Caregiver Guilt

It's been a difficult week and month. First, my mother's only sister passed away in California, bringing many flashes of mom's final illness and death in 2010. I can't imagine the recent pain of my niece and her husband as they dealt with all the caregiving and final arrangements without the support of siblings. They are to be commended for their brave decisions and actions these last terribly busy weeks. I pray for comfort in their grief as they try to take up their normal duties at home now.

Besides all the feelings that came with my aunt's passing, I've also been trying to ignore my own feelings of guilt. There, I've said it. It's definitely guilt. I feel guilty for not being happy over Dean's improvement in health since we stopped one of his medicines.

The simple fact is that he was much easier to care for when he was sleeping most of the day and wasn't having any emotional outbursts. Sure, he was having vivid dreams and even hallucinations, and had much more memory loss. His overall health and strength seemed to be slipping away. I was terribly worried about him and it took a second opinion of another specialist to pinpoint what the problem was.

But now that he's back to his ol' ornery self, I find myself wistfully wanting him back in "la-la land". It's a selfish wish for sure, but if I totally come clean and confess, maybe I can quit feeling sorry for myself. There are joys in this difficult task of caregiving. I just have to look for them again.

Taken this Easter Sunday, at our in-laws' church...a joyful occasion!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ernie's Tribute

Yesterday I attended the funeral of someone many in our church would call a spiritual giant. He was just-turned-98 Ernest Long and he was a favorite for people to visit, because instead of blessing him, you were always the one who felt blessed. This was mentioned repeatedly by those who spoke at his funeral.

Ernie attended my Sabbath School class many times over the past few years. I sometimes made it a point to speak to him privately before class, because he always had a wise thought gem about the lesson that he wanted to make sure got shared with the class.

Pastors found that their prayer for Ernie after a home or hospital visit was followed by a passionate prayer by Ernie for the pastor that often brought a tear to the eye. His name certainly described his prayer life--earnest.

One of the secrets to this fervent prayer life of his may be attributed to a book he shared with me on one of my visits. The author was E.M. Bounds. I found this Christian classic of the nineteenth century a powerful guide to revitalizing one's prayer life and something I really needed at the time.

Ernie's life of devotion to family, his country (as evidenced by his many military honors), and most of all to his faith will be a powerful legacy to all who had the privilege of knowing him. The church yesterday was not packed, but was definitely full. If all of the lives he touched over the past 98 years could have been there, they would have had to rent a sports stadium. May you rest in peace, dear friend, knowing that you were loved and will be sorely missed.

Of all he had, Ernie was most proud of the roses in his yard!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Big Change

Dean really has to be improving for me to take him where we went this afternoon. It was an Alzheimer's support group that meets socially at a small cafe near our house every month to have pie and just share each others' company. It was the first time we have attended, and those "first times" are always hardest for me, it seems.  Consequently, I have put it off for months now, simply because I wasn't sure if Dean would fit in, would stay awake, or would become frustrated with...well, almost anything.

But Dean did wonderfully well in interacting with the small group, all seated about two big tables, pushed together for the dozen or so of us. We were about half and half caregivers and those with dementia, so it was a perfect mix for some lively conversation and some excellent pie. Dean and I shared a sour cream raisin slice.

And Dean, of course, held up his end of the conversation well. The storyteller in him was rejoicing with his fresh audience, and it was clear to see that Dean was in his element, telling about heating our home exclusively with a wood stove (which we did in the 70s), and about his brother, a mason by trade, refusing to finish the fireplace in his own home, because the tax auditor told him a finished fireplace would increase their taxes too much. Yep, these brothers were definitely cut from the same cloth.

What gave me the courage to venture out with Dean today was a comment, relayed to me by the director of his adult day program. One of the staff there, who has known him the longest, made the statement that she sees the "old Dean" back. That was so comforting to hear. Up until that point, I felt like the only one noticing the change since we cut off one of his medicines, but it was great to hear it confirmed.

I'm really looking forward to the day when I really have the "old Dean" back. The one before his tractor accident, the one before sin entered his life, the one that he will have for eternity. "...for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." I Corinthians 15:52

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Too Late

I thought I was leaving in plenty of time yesterday to make it to the governor's signing of the proclamation for March being Brain Injury Awareness Month at the Nebraska State Capitol Building. There were forces working against me though.

With last month's snowstorm and the cancellation of the proclamation signings that were scheduled then, there were organizations, causes, and consequently people attending for both months. Therefore, I ended up having to park over three blocks away, but thankfully it was on a residential street, so didn't have to worry about feeding a meter.

After a grueling, long walk in the freezing weather, I was approaching the south entrance of the building and I couldn't remember if it was one that had public access. I had always gone in from another direction. As cold as it was and as short of breath as I was, I was dreading having to walk another block just to go in another door.

The thought struck me when I didn't see many people entering or exiting on this side that maybe I wouldn't be able to get in for security reasons. I wondered wildly if it would be this difficult getting in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.

We've been told there will only be one narrow gate to that magnificent structure though. And none will enter who God deems unsafe to be there. Heaven must be free from sin. Talk about a security system we can trust. As we trust God, He can trust us. What a beautiful relationship we can have with Him. And how glorious it will be to see Him signing proclamations throughout eternity.

By the way, I was too late for the signing at our state capitol. Quite disappointed. But was there for a board meeting, so the day wasn't lost.

Where the signing took place

takes up a whole city block!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Close Buddies

As I look over the past week, the past few days actually, I've noticed an improvement in the "dream" area. Dean hasn't been living his dreams, like he was there for awhile. It's been nice not to have to worry about him waking up, ready to act out whatever he was dreaming about. I like it when he knows who I am in the morning.

It may have been the last medicine we stopped entirely. It was only a pill we split in half, but it must have made some kind of difference. He also went to Easterday (his adult day program) on both of his scheduled days last week. Much to my enjoyment.

He's still taking quite long naps, like five or six hours, as opposed to eight or nine. And occasionally getting up in the middle of the night and not going back to sleep for several hours. A problem I've had myself recently. Maybe it's the weather.

One thing I have to share that just happened early this morning. Out of the blue, it seemed in his sleep as we both lay in bed (I was lying there awake, trying to go back to sleep myself), Dean said a very brief and heartfelt prayer to God. It was so sweet and I just felt God's presence in the room. Usually his prayers of late have been very long, slurred, and repetitive. But this one was just as clear as a bell.

What a blessing it is to have the Holy Spirit convey our prayers to God. He does all the translating for us, even when we are at a total loss for words. I do believe it will be easier for me to trust Dean to God's care today. I know they are still close buddies.

Dean's new lift recliner (it seems to do more reclining than lifting these days)