Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Intangible Gifts

Ending my fourth year of blogging here with my 500th post, how fitting I'm writing this then at the turn of the New Year.

I seemed to sense early on that this blog would end up being about caregiving. Being a caregiver has consumed my life for over sixteen years now. My husband contributes greatly though to its success and I always give him credit for providing me such interesting content to write about.

To prove that our life may be hopefully more stable this coming year, Dean surprised me by folding the towels from the dryer this morning without even being asked. As he put the last one away in the closet (leaving me with the washcloths to do), he came to announce at the door of my computer room that he would like to list all the ways he helps me around the house. Here's all I do, he said, (as I mentally prepared to discount all his assertions):

  1. not much
  2. very little, and
  3. almost nothing
Well, he got no argument out of me with that one! Perhaps even his mental confusion is finally making a turn for the better.

This must mean that I do:
  1. very much,
  2. a whole lot, and
  3. everything
That does seem to sum up our roles around here. At least as far as the household affairs. But there are other areas that my husband shines.

He provides me with:
  • laughter
  • love, and
  • a purpose for living
 What would I do without him?

Maybe God isn't helping me with all the material things of the world these days either, but He's always there supplying me with intangible rewards that I wouldn't want to do without. (...another lesson of faith in the life of a caregiver)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

God Knows!

We were just getting settled into our old routines last month after Dean's return from rehab with his broken ankle and our lovely Thanksgiving with family, when things started going downhill for his health.

Several symptoms pointed to a drug interaction, similar to the ones he had last spring--slurred speech, sleeping more, just overall not-himself. We had just started him on a new blood pressure medicine after a doctor visit on Monday, but by Friday our home health nurse agreed that it might be time for an emergency room visit on the weekend sometime, due to his feet swelling and low pulse readings he was also experiencing. We honestly couldn't figure out what was going on.

I waited till Saturday morning, not wanting him to finish his birthday Friday with a trip to the hospital. By that morning he was doing so poorly that I feared even being able to get him safely to the hospital by myself (didn't want another fall on my watch). So I called an ambulance.

With a very low pulse and temperature reading, the hospital staff immediately suspected a sepsis situation and put him on antibiotics with an IV and spent all day running test after test to determine what could possibly be accounting for his condition.

By the end of the day they had him in ICU and still didn't have any clear diagnosis for us on Sunday, besides a possible blood-born infection called sepsis. Knowing it would help to know what kind of infection they might be battling, I finally came up with the idea that it might be related to his dental appointment earlier that month.

At that time, the dentists said his teeth, what few he had left, really needed attention. They pulled one that day and we were told to come back in December for more extractions. They didn't have time for more treatment that day, since we were being seen as an emergency visit.

When I mentioned this possible source of infection to the nurses on Monday, the doctors acted quickly by ordering a mouth/head scan that day. Sure enough, he had two rather large abscesses, no doubt causing most of the problem. The hospital dentist pulled the teeth that night, under light sedation. And he was able to transfer to oral antibiotics the next day.

The drug interaction may have contributed to his condition too, however. After stopping that medicine, he was able to keep his blood pressures normal with just one medicine, instead of two. Fortunately, that has continued since he's been home. Hopefully, we won't have to worry again about what blood pressure medicine to try next.

By Thursday, he was able to leave the hospital, but they were hesitant about sending him home, since he seemed so unsteady on his feet. They thought physical therapy in a rehab facility would allow him to gain more strength and walk better.

I assured them, however, after being with him all day and seeing him walk all around the unit, that he was about as good as it gets, even considering his dementia behaviors. I convinced them that with the home health agency sending therapists over after his broken ankle episode, our house is more fall-proof than it's ever been.

I just knew Dean would progress more quickly at home than he would in a facility, and they finally agreed that he could be sent home safely, with home health nurses and therapists to monitor the situation.

Our most immediate challenge now is to get his lungs healthier if we can. He seems to need oxygen during the day and night now. I am really nervous about this, mostly for the increased chance of him tripping over his tubing, but so far he's stayed upright and hasn't landed on the floor.

As his family caregiver, my knowledge of Dean aided the professionals in his treatment. I'm so thankful that God knows about all of us too. We can trust our care to Him. He knows what to do to get us to our Heavenly home, a place where there's no sickness, and we won't ever fall into sin again. I can't wait to breathe that Heavenly air. It will be my first DEEP breath...well, ever. (Those who know my shortness of breath can appreciate this!)

Still in ICU
Dean finally got to celebrate his 70th birthday at church after his unexpected hospital stay!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Appreciation Day

Holiday dinners here are happening less and less in the last few years, but with each one, I recall with fondness the many times Dean and I had friends over for Sabbath dinner in years past. There was hardly a week that we didn't invite someone over, or were invited out ourselves. Fellowship dinners at church were also special. But not as intimate and friendly as a home setting.

I loved planning and preparing a meal for others. I never knew who or how many Dean would invite to our home. I learned quickly in our marriage to be ready for last-minute invitations, especially for random visitors at church. But my, how times have changed since Dean's brain injury. It has impacted our life in so many ways.

This makes Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with family all the more precious to us both. I so enjoyed getting out the good china this year, planning the seating and dishes to be served, and having our loved ones gather around for a special meal.

This year, our daughter Kayla and I came up with a plan to get everyone to share what they appreciated about each other. She started by going around our circle of family members and telling what she appreciated about each one. Then invited the rest of us to do the same. Most of us did, and it was a touching and thought-provoking activity.

It was Thanksgiving at its best. Because what we should be most thankful for are not things, but people. By focusing on our loved ones and why they are special, we were drawn closer to the God who gave them to us.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Keeping the Best

Our life has been a flurry of home therapists, nurses, case managers, and the latest...a construction crew. Yes, we're having a "walker-friendly" ramp (with graduated steps) built outside our front door this week. Anything to prevent more falls is being considered. Even a toilet riser has been added to our bathroom decor. Trying to keep a particular old man in his place, which is home.

Arranging and keeping doctor appointments is also on the agenda, in addition to keeping his drugs organized and his blood pressure managed. Encouraging him to start wearing his C-pap again (he refused it during his two-month stay at the rehab center, while his broken ankle was mending). This was even more challenging when it was interrupted by a tooth extraction he had a few days ago, when he had to NOT wear the C-pap for a couple of nights.

Last night I bribed him into wearing the C-pap again by promising him homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner the next day. The promise of food never ceases to get his attention. But I groaned when I saw he could only eat soft foods right after his tooth extraction. I thought, "Yeah, right--try enforcing that one."

I was thankful for his new dentist though. When Dean asked to keep the tooth that was pulled, he at first told him "no", but upon seeing Dean's agitation, he changed it to a "yes", instructing his assistant to please wash it and put it in a plastic bag for him. Hallelujah, he prevented World War III!

Yes, it appears Dean's hoarding tendencies now include teeth. Well, at least he only has seven left, and my guess is they will be added to his "collection" in the not-so-far future. No one can accuse him of losing his teeth. He's saving his own way.

Dean reminds me of my own tendencies to demand and set the parameters of my life, when I should be leaving that up to God, who really knows what's best.

I'm also seeing with greater clarity the things in life that are truly worth saving. We all have a little of that hoarding instinct, but I must learn to let go of anything that isn't worth saving. That would include my doubts, worries, and resentment. But faith, hope, and love, I think I'll keep.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Back on the Merry-go-round

My life the last two days has lost its slow and easy pace that characterized the two months Dean was in rehab, with nurses and therapists tending his broken ankle. Suddenly my world revolves totally once again around this "ol' man" of mine named Dean.

And what a whirlwind we're in for, arranging appointments for home health and doctors, checking into home modifications we need for future fall prevention, overseeing pill distribution (I do believe we carry as much on our shelves as a small pharmacy), and just waiting on him hand and foot (the one that's still healing, that is).

It feels like I've just stepped back on the merry-go-round of life and around and around we go. It was indeed nice to step off that contraption for a short time of sweet respite, but it's not all bad getting back in the swirl of things. I actually thrive on activity, so getting back to our usual abnormal life around here and having Dean's happy, grateful face greet me every time we're in the same room is not all bad.

As soon as I heard when he was coming home, I knew I'd better hurry up and edit my own diary from sixteen years ago when Dean was injured by that tractor, and make sure it's available for Kindles on by Caregiver Month this November. This has been my goal all year!

I made my deadline, so look for "Diary of a New Caregiver: I Can't Do This, Lord" on (see the link in my blog here too). Share it with a caregiver you know this month--only 99 cents, just a quick, inspirational read for anyone, I hope. I pray you are as blessed in reading it as I was in writing it.

Without my years of caregiving, I would never have had the opportunity or desire to sharpen my writing skills. So I give God all the credit for this book. He empowered and inspired me to do it from start to finish!

Just live long enough and you'll know the Lord is with you too, no matter what you are facing in life. He's always in control, if you want Him to be. You CAN do it with Him!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Just For Me

As we near the time when Dean may come home from the rehabilitation facility after breaking his ankle last month, I will be forced to say good-bye to the sweet respite I've enjoyed since I've been "home alone" without him since September 2.

I honestly didn't realize how his presence impacted my daily routines until suddenly he was gone. I went for my monthly grocery shopping shortly after his hospital admittance, and from that point on, I knew that my life would hold changes. Not major changes, but many small ones.

In choosing food items from the store shelves, without consideration of his unique eating habits, I began to taste some of the differences my life would enjoy. Literally taste them. I focused on foods I liked, instead of the low-calorie, soft foods he needed. I bought the granola with nuts, for instance. I indulged in more than one vegetarian entree, knowing that he wouldn't devour the whole expensive package in one or two sittings. I didn't have to purchase plenty of juices or cheeses, leaving money for my favorites instead, like frozen waffles or guacamole.

When I came home, I gradually made other changes. Such as removing his personal dishes from the dish rack, where he liked to keep them even after they had dried. Moving his pill organizer off the microwave so mine would be easier to access. I even started sleeping on his side of the bed, because it's by the door and therefore closer to the bathroom.

What a feeling of relief that I didn't have to turn off the light every time I left a room, immediately put my purse and keys where they weren't seen as soon as I came home, change the toilet paper roll as soon as one was empty and then hoping he didn't find where I'd hidden the empty roll. Strategize how to keep his hoarding tendencies under wrap, which included toilet paper rolls, or anything made of plastic, cardboard, glass, or metal. Make sure there was nothing on the floor for him to trip on. And I'm sure I'm leaving out other behaviors and routines that I have been freed from since he's been in rehab!

But it hasn't been all fun and games. I've felt an emptiness with him gone. If I didn't know that our separation was not permanent, it would be much harder to bear. I had a taste of that kind of despair the first week after the accident though, when we didn't know if this rehab would turn into long-term care.

Dementia is so unpredictable, and none of us knew what taking him out of his home environment for so long would do to him. It was very discouraging to think that he may never be coming home again. I'm so thankful that this scenario didn't materialize this time, but am fully aware that it may still be part of our future.

All in all, I'm happy about my little "vacation" here at home, but not when I think of all the pain and suffering Dean's had to endure to make it happen. The pain seems to far outweigh the little benefits I've enjoyed.

It reminds me of the pain Jesus endured to allow me to go to heaven someday. Lord, I'm not worth it! Surely He suffered far more than I deserve. But like a devoted Husband, out of love, Christ would do it all over again. Just for me.

Dean with daughter and granddaughters

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Watch That First Step!

So much has happened in the last ten days that my head is still swimming. I'm not sure what the rest of me is doing, but whatever it is, it ain't fun.

Dean fell down some stairs and broke his ankle. No big deal, right? Just take him in to emergency and get him fixed right up.

But wait a minute, that must be somebody else's life, cause it sure isn't going to fly around here! There are so many other issues going on with Dean's health that we are reeling with how complicated his recovery is becoming.

The hospital wanted to let him out in two days, but when they found out he was on Medicare, they kept him for three. After just one night at the rehab center though, he was found very lethargic with his vitals not looking good, so they rushed back to the ER. Let me clarify that a bit, I'm the one who found him non-responsive when I went in to visit the next day.

Turned out he had what they thought was pneumonia, fluid on and around his lungs, so after three more days in the hospital, they finally discharged him to a different rehab center. These last three days in a rehab unit have also had their ups and downs.

I'm trying to stay positive about all this, but unless he starts complying with the doctors and nurses' orders, this recovery is going to take much longer than the six weeks we were told at first. So I'm still feeling very anxious about how this nightmare will end.

Things have slowed down considerably on the caregiving end. I only go to his rehab center once a day for a couple of hours, and then he calls me in the evening. Life in the house alone is very freeing, but then again very lonely. My emotions are all over the map. Upbeat and hopeful one day, but fearful and doubting the next.

I'm so glad God has a handle on all this, because I'm feeling very out of control here. The outcome is totally up to our merciful God. And that thought is what keeps me going.

Smiling--but only on the outside!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Listen to Your Man

One of the troubling parts of caregiving for someone with dementia is that at times they are not very adept at describing their symptoms. Dean's been complaining off and on about his mouth hurting, with a particular tooth as the culprit, for a couple of weeks.

He's also using a C-pap with oxygen at night now, so I attributed some of his mouth complaints to the very dry mouth it can give you. (This dryness is an on-going battle due to some of his meds though too.)

Especially since the pain seemed to come and go, I put off calling the dentist. But finally got him an appointment this week. It turned out to be an abscess and the dentist immediately started a root canal for it, sending us home with an antibiotic prescription to fill. We'll return tomorrow to see how it's doing.

Needless to say, I felt quite irresponsible for not getting him to the dentist sooner. He only has eight lower teeth left. I should have been more observant, listening to and taking his complaints more seriously.

What a wonderful God we have though. He not only listens to our complaints, but He is aware of our needs much better than we are. Like Dean, we often don't know exactly what our problem is, let alone how to express it. But God is the perfect Caregiver--never missing a beat when it comes to giving us appropriate care.

One of my favorite Bible verses, I Peter 5:7: "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you."

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Faller Gets a Walker

What a wonderful idea it was to get Dean to agree to using a walker. He's a regular "faller"--not the timberman variety that he used to call himself in his logging days--but the kind where you either kiss the sidewalk or tumble on the carpet.

Fortunately, he hasn't had any serious injuries from his falls. I've seen him as he goes down and it reminds me of one of the big trees he used to fall out in Montana...slow at first, then speeding up just before the final collapse.

But despite his graceful falling techniques, the doctor agreed that it was time to graduate from his cane to a walker. Since Medicare picked up most of the tab and Medicaid the rest, I talked Dean into getting the prescription filled the same day, before he had a chance to change his mind.

He has seemed right proud of his new "buggy" and has brought it with him on many of his outings. Still working on getting more home use out of it though.

But here's the one piece of the puzzle that I hadn't anticipated. Someone has to lift that "buggy" in and out of the car when he brings it with us. So far I've convinced him that he's that somebody, because honestly, it is beyond my weight lifting limit, especially when you factor in all the shortness of breath it gives me.

So he's agreed to muscle it in and out of the car, like I say, so far. Dreading it when he refuses or gets too frail to do it himself. But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

What this experience has taught me though is that what might seem like a brilliant idea to us at the time may end up having unforeseen consequences. It certainly did for me this time.

That's why I love having God to pave my way. He sees the big picture. Even when I don't follow His exact plan, if I stay close to Him, He'll guide me to my final destination--one way or another.

Thank you, God, for being my fallback "muscle" Man. And when I rush ahead with my plans, help me stop and rest awhile on a seat just like the one for Dean's walker.

It's even got brakes!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

More of the Same

Having survived last May, with its many trips to the emergency room because of my bronchitis and Dean's blood pressure issues, I thought I had seen enough of these maladies for awhile. But apparently not.

About a week ago I got another cold. This one is not a "category 5" like the one last spring, but it is definitely a 2 or 3. People who hear me on the phone think I've just come down with it, but no, this congestion has been around for over a week now.

And then Dean's blood pressure started running, not high again, but too low! So we've had to adjust his medication once again and still waiting to see if it gets back to normal.

But as a whole, nothing will be back to normal around here since they delivered Dean's C-PAP machine the other day. Did I mention it comes with an oxygen concentrator too? His sleep apnea will finally be addressed--IF Dean is compliant about following the "program".

I thought having one breathing machine in the house to deal with (my own) was enough of a hassle, but this will mean I will have it DOUBLE. So far, Dean hasn't even mastered getting the mask on by himself. But I know I will be the one to fill and empty his humidifier, rinse out the mask and hoses every week, make sure he turns the concentrator on and off, keep his filters changed, and daily remind him to use his nose spray and dry mouth spray.

The idea is so he will get a better night's sleep. But it looks like for awhile, it will be at the expense of mine! Not only will I have my own nighttime potty breaks, but now will have to get up for his too.

All this extra work just reminds me of the sacrifice Jesus makes for each of us. So much of life's duties are beyond our ability to perform. Jesus quietly comes in and completes those tasks that we are too weak to do for ourselves.

A friend was recently sounding very worried about how I am going to be able to handle all Dean's needs, both now and in the future. But I just have to remember that Jesus has our life totally figured out. I trust in His plan. Just as Dean trusts that I will make his life here and now as comfortable and enjoyable as I can, Jesus wants that for me too. I feel His love with every caregiving move I make.


...and Hers.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When the Bough Breaks...

Friday an amazing thing happened. A large tree branch fell down and landed on our driveway, just inches from the tail end of our car. There was no wind involved, no lightning or thunderstorm in sight. It was sunny and nice outside. But there it was. Taking up half our front yard, after a neighbor helped Dean drag it off the driveway. The branch didn't appear rotten or dying at all. It was the strangest thing!

I called the man who mows our lawn, hoping he'd have some ideas on how to remove this "tree" from our yard. Larry said he'd see to it and not to worry. He needed to buy another chain saw anyway and would be by in a day or two to take care of it.

Today he came and I finally knew the reason God let this branch fall. Dean went out to see Larry and his new chain saw when he came by to cut up the huge "tree". After a time, I looked out the window and saw Dean bending over cutting on the tree with Larry's new saw!

I grabbed my camera and caught Dean using the chain saw. Even though it was much smaller than the one he was used to, I know it must have brought back a lot of pleasant memories for Dean when he logged in Montana and Idaho. I overheard him telling some of his logging stories to Larry as they worked.

I marveled at my wonderful God, who cares enough about one old man to let a tree branch fall, simply to allow him the joy of reliving some of his past.

Glad no one was hurt! It was a BIG one!!!

Dean using a chain saw--WOW!

Special thanks to Larry for a job well-done, and going beyond the call of duty!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Home Alone

A preliminary assessment with a small monitor that Dean wore at home one night led to a decision for a complete sleep study to check his breathing while he slept, which meant a possible diagnosis of sleep apnea.

When they called me to schedule it at one of the sleep clinics here in town, I asked numerous questions about their setup and procedures out of concern for Dean's peculiar night-time needs. When I described his fall risk and symptoms of dementia, she determined that a hospital setting might be warranted for his safety.

So after four emergency room visits last month between the two of us (see my previous post), when each time a hospital stay seemed quite possible, Dean finally earned his hospital stay just to monitor his nighttime sleeping habits! And it wasn't even through the emergency room!

I wasn't about to complain though. It would mean a night of freedom for me, and since it was in the hospital, that also meant freedom from worry. On the way home, after dropping him off at the hospital in the evening, I thought about how to celebrate my night alone. Should I go shopping, eat at a restaurant, go see a friend?

But then I thought, no, I'll just go home and enjoy my freedom there. It would be a night of relaxation. I would choose a DVD to watch, without haggling over the choice with someone and having to pause it every time that person got up to leave the room. I would leave lights on in rooms I left, without having to go back and turn them off if I forgot. I would leave the toilet seat up or down as I pleased, and not even change the toilet paper roll immediately when it ran out. I might not even pick up after myself. My purse and keys would remain ON the table, instead of under it out of sight.

The evening was sounding more and more inviting. Only occasionally did I harbor thoughts of how Dean was faring at the hospital. Or how the hospital staff was faring with him there.

It wasn't until I got home with him the next morning that I learned that perhaps he was not enjoying his night away as much as I was. When I got there he seemed perfectly happy, feasting on his second pastry and downing a glass of orange juice.

The truth came out in the answering machine messages that awaited me when I got home. Three times he had called and told me that I could come and get him any time. He sounded rather desperate to get home, so it was good I got there when I did.

Evidently they had tried a C-PAP on him during the night, when he showed signs of needing one to see if it would make a difference. He said his nose felt like it was burning, with all that air blowing in there. Oh, my, I hope we can resolve this and find the best overall solution if he does have sleep apnea. I'm trying not to think about it.

Those messages on our answering machine still play in my mind though. I too am anxious to go home...home to heaven, where true rest and relaxation exists for an eternity, and not just a brief night while our loved ones struggle somewhere else. Help me not to lose my zeal for that homecoming called The Second Coming. "This world is not my home..."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Pressure's On

Can't believe so much has happened in the short time since my last post on this blog. I not only ended up in ER once for my bronchitis, but a few days later I drove myself there again when my jaw swelled up enormously in just a couple of hours! Forgive me for worrying about my airways closing with a big knot there bigger than a goose egg on the side of my neck, and not feeling safe to wait for the doctor's office to maybe be able to see me that day. So I just went.

The ER staff totally understood my concerns and supported the decision to come there. But it turned out to just be a salivary gland stone that had blocked up my salivary gland, causing it to swell so much so quickly. With some simple home treatments, I was able to get my jaw back to a normal size. I guess all the medicines I was using to dry up my bronchitis caused the stone to develop.

Then it was Dean's turn to see ER. He began having an adverse reaction to a second blood pressure medicine we were trying him on. I drove him there myself the first time. He was sleeping almost full-time, slurring his words, and was very wobbly on his already wobbly legs. It was increasing fast, and on the weekend, so what do you do?

Then the next night, after we cut the medicine in half as they prescribed, he had another reaction. This time with more mental complications. To make a long story short, I ended up having to call 911 to fetch him back in the middle of the night when he decided to leave the house on his own, not telling me where he went. The police and our neighbors were looking everywhere for him, but fortunately he was found safe and sound a couple of blocks away at the corner gas station. He was resting on a chair they provided for him, with the store clerks about to call the police themselves to see where this obviously delusional old man belonged.

I wish that were the only health crises. But the next night Dean was running blood pressures so high, one of the home health agency nurses did not believe my report and said I wasn't taking it right. So, I ignored her dismissive attitude and called the doctor's office myself, even though it was after hours. So thankful there was an emergency number for his doctor and I immediately called it. He returned my call quickly and said to go ahead and start him on the new medicine he had just prescribed for him in his office earlier that day. Well, that brought the pressure right down. But we're still watching it to see if it will keep it stable enough. It still spikes up there now and then.

Not sure what God is trying to show me with these trials happening all at once. We haven't been to the ER or hospital this many times in the last decade. And now all this in the space of only one month! It may be just a reminder that the closing events of this earth's history will be rapid ones too.

As my mind's spinning with the urgency and seriousness of our situation in this one household, what would it be like if everyone in the world experienced similar crises one right on top of the other?

But the greatest comfort is that God was right there with us through it all. I don't doubt for a minute that things will be calm again here soon for the Thompsons. Just as those final days at the end of time will lead to a beautiful eternity in heaven, without sin or suffering ever to enter our lives again.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Caregiving for Me

Two weeks ago I came down with a monster cold. It was so bad even the first day, with my wimpy lungs, that I went to see the doctor for some additional medicines. Even though I had already started using my nebulizer and cough expectorant, I knew that prednisone and even an antibiotic would probably be added. And it was.

I still went home with the fear that this cold would not end without a call to 911 when my coughing spasms would turn into a choking episode. With less than half of my lungs functioning due to a deformed chest cavity (scoliosis), I just don't have the pulmonary power needed to cough up phlegm or even a tiny piece of food or water that might get lodged in my windpipe.

Three days later after an intense coughing spell, I had the phone in my hand almost ready to punch the 911, before I started to get my breath back. A week after that I actually did dial the 911 when I started to choke again, but told the paramedics I was alright and they didn't have to come.

The very next morning I had to call 911, when I couldn't get any air due to the phlegm closing off my breathing. Even though I had thankfully started breathing by the time they got there, and was using my nebulizer, they insisted I needed to go in to ER. Still in my nightgown, I thought to ask for my purse as we went out the door.

The worse part of my ambulance ride was when I looked in my purse and didn't see my car keys! Sometimes I just leave them lying by the purse and sometimes they are in. I was terrified that Dean would get in the car and drive himself to the hospital! He would be OK driving even though he hasn't been a licensed driver for fifteen years, but would he actually be able to find his way to the hospital without getting lost? I doubted it.

My cell phone was in my purse, however, so I managed to call my daughter when I got to the hospital. Bless her heart, her dad had called her about what had happened, just as she was getting off her night shift and gotten almost asleep. But she said she was on the way to the hospital. I tried to divert her to our house first, but she was determined to be by my side and was almost there.

The happy ending was that after a few tests and they didn't see pneumonia or any sign of infection, I was allowed to go home before noon, with another round of meds to get filled at the drug store. I was so thankful that my daughter was there to take me home, and the house was still standing when we got there, although Dean had been pretty shook up over it all.

I had assumed that he would go ahead and take his van to his day program that day, but he hadn't been able to get his socks on, so had stayed home. How could this man have taken care of himself, if I had been admitted to the hospital? I hope I never find out. But it was comforting to know that my daughter and son-in-law are here to step up to the plate and help. I even have a nephew fifty miles away, who would have dropped everything to come, had I needed him.

One thing that brought a smile was when Dean and I went to church this weekend, and they handed him a microphone to share a prayer request. He asked that people pray that his wife not have another coughing "spree". Yep, that described it pretty well. Some people have shopping sprees; I have coughing sprees.

I was indeed thankful that prayers did see us both through this eventful week. But as soon as I feel better, I'm going shopping instead.

my "at home" hospital

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Moms in My Life

Today being Mother's Day, I am overcome with emotions from several different fronts. I'm missing my own mother, appreciating my daughter's motherhood of two special granddaughters, recognizing the enormous sacrifice and love of all the women I have known in our family and church circle.

But taking it down to a personal level, as a caregiver, I'm reminded that motherhood doesn't end when a child is grown. We all require a little mothering as we get older. Just a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. Not all moms are as good at that as others, but it's something we need to keep practicing, especially when our  grown children no longer need our physical intervention as much as our emotional and moral support. (And conversely, we mothers need it too. That's why sisterhood was invented.)

Even Dean, who seems to be requiring more and more assistance with the tasks of life, is still in just as much need for someone who understands and appreciates him and his quirky ways, as he is with needing someone to help put his socks on.

As I contemplate our changing family roles, I am tending to embrace my role as caregiver/mother more on a day like today, Mother's Day. I can more easily find reason to celebrate my role, however it transforms itself with Dean over the next few years. I'm ready to be whatever he needs, because it continues to strengthen my relationship with him and with God. And what else is there?

my sister, mother, and I in 2005 (trip to Florida)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Blowing Up Balloons

Another blurp in the medical history books for a Mr. Dean, aka Idaho or Shortcut, (my everloving caregivee-husband). Never thought I'd have to take him to the doctor for blowing up a balloon too hard. Yes, believe it or not, he seems to have ruptured one of his salivary glands (parotid gland, if you want to get medically technical).

I swear he was trying to make as many annoying noises as he could with this balloon he got ahold of the other day. I finally got tired of asking him to tone it down. He was obviously enjoying the highly-pitched squeaks and fart sounds he was creating.

Then I noticed the sounds stopped and he brought to my attention a great big egg-sized lump on the left side of his face, right below his ear on the jawline. Naturally, I went into panic mode inside and asked him how long it had been there. Well, of course, he didn't know. He just felt this pop or something on the side of his face after blowing real hard on the balloon, and there it was!

I tried to stay cool, calm, and collected and careful enough not to feel the lump too vigorously, so as not to burst it or anything. But I was naturally curious whether this would go away by itself. It was evening time, so thought I'd let it wait till the next day before I starting dialing some medical professionals.

Everyone I talked to the next day said it probably needed medical attention, because it was still there in the morning, though not as big. So I took him to the doctor's office that afternoon (their after-hours-you-don't-need-an-appointment time). Fortunately the diagnosis was not as complicated as I'd feared and the doctor just prescribed an antibiotic in case some bacteria might escape. He suspected it would go away on its own though, so we're just waiting to see.

What could I possibly have learned from this silly experience, you ask? Well, I, like Dean's balloon-blowing, have a tendency to blow things out of proportion sometimes. Causing my "worry-wart", like a lump, tendencies to overpower my otherwise calm exterior. During these times I'm sure there must be a worry lump there someplace, if I took the time to look for it.

But, most of the time my worries prove to be unfounded. The final "diagnosis" is not nearly as dramatic as I'd feared. I need the Lord's help not to blow so hard on my "balloons" too.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Eyeglasses Search

The other night found Dean and I once again searching for a misplaced item. His eyeglasses had been missing for a couple of days and I was finally determined to look everywhere for them. He thought they must be in his eyeglass case because it was missing too.

Normally he keeps the case on his bedside stand. So I proceeded to scour that area first. Standing on my head practically to see if it had fallen at the head of the bed or even under the bed. With no success there, I fanned my search out to other areas of the bedroom and then all rooms of the house.

How totally ridiculous I felt when Dean came to bed that night. He lifted one of his two pillows to fluff before lying down, and you guessed it...there was the glasses case! Safely tucked under his pillow.

When trials have come in the past to this household, I've often wondered where God is. No matter how frantically I've searched for God though, it's usually not until I lay down to "rest" that His presence becomes obvious.

Perhaps this is why God gave us a "day of rest". He mysteriously does seem easier to find on the day He blessed for that purpose. Some say that keeping the Sabbath is obeying through our works, but true Sabbath observance is not about works--not about searching frantically on our own--but resting in Jesus and what He's done for us already.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Silly Pleasures

I've heard of people with dementia having wandering behaviors, and I just naturally think of them taking a walk through the neighborhood...actually someone else's neighborhood by the time they get through. Police are often called to assist in these haphazard excursions of the elderly.

But I would like to declare another genre of wandering behavior. It might be called telephone wander lust. Every time Dean sees an 800-number lately he feels compelled to call it. I can't tell you how many times I have rescued him from being a scam target.

The nurse at his doctor's office even called me the other day, wondering if we had put in a request for a back brace. I timidly explained that it was the result of one of his calls, answering a TV ad. It's getting downright scary what he might get himself involved in. And I don't know how to reel him in from this silly and potentially harmful practice.

Most of the time he just gets them to mail us information, as if we don't get enough junk mail already. And speaking of mail. I've also had to be careful of his mailing in postcards and ordering "stuff" with any postage paid invitations that he happens to come across. It doesn't matter what it is, if the word "free" is on it, he wants it. I'm trying to be the first one to the mailbox these days, but it isn't always easy.

I'm not sure why these activities are so enjoyable to him. I think he just has a desire to reach out and feel like he's still a normal human being, who can conduct business on his own.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh with him and allow him these pleasures as long as I can. My first instinct is to get rid of the television, toss out our landline phone, and get our mail delivered to a post office box. But then again, I'll probably just wait and see where it all goes.

After all, isn't God just as patient with some of my silly pleasures?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Long Stretch

Last night, Dean struck me in the middle of the night. Yes, he's done it before--just stretched his arm over to see if I'm still in bed, but making contact with my nose instead. It's similar to what we do to each other verbally during the day.

We don't mean it. It just happens. And like after our nocturnal mishap, it doesn't take long to forgive each other and move on. Caregiving is fraught with episodes of close verbal contact, that often end up as the "crash and clash" variety.

This is one time Dean's short term memory does us both good though. I need to apologize right away before he forgets the experience. And he needs to apologize right away for the same reason. It sure works for us.

Quick repentance and forgiveness is one lesson the Lord has taught me through this caregiving journey. Life is too short for grudges, guilt, and remorse. It's best to come clean as soon as possible. Even when you get slugged in the face in the middle of the night.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Team Challenge

Last night our son-in-law came over to set up a new wireless printer for me. Could have done it myself, but wouldn't have been easy; and besides it was a chance to see the grandkids for an evening.

In order to get the house quieter though while he worked, our daughter took her dad somewhere so it was just the kids and I in the house. Believe me, it was an even trade-off. Two little girls for one big man/child.

The noise factor from the girls was kept confined to the hallway where they ran back and forth with Superman-style capes (really small blankets), trying to run fast enough to make the capes lift like parachutes.

It reminded me of a report I got from our daughter after a recent store trip she had with her dad. She said he challenged someone else riding in a department store power-chair to race him. So believe it or not, they both raced their "buggies" from one end of the store to the other to see whose cart was fastest.

Life itself is a race. Sometimes I feel like retiring my track shoes, but the people around me indicate that I'd better stay in the race awhile longer. God isn't through with this caregiver yet. And I'd better do all I can to stay fit in order to keep up with the team.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day Sleepover Interruption

What a joyous Valentine's Day we had this weekend! Just like Christmas being about the children, we were blessed with more time with our two adorable granddaughters coming over for a "sleepover". I'm sure their parents didn't mind another "date-night" on their schedule as well.

We try to space these events every few months, mostly because it isn't easy for me to juggle the care of an active preschooler and a first grader, and a sometimes-immature, well alot-of-times, immature old man.

The last thing I told him before we went to sleep was to be sure and let the girls sleep (they prefer camping out on the living room floor) and not get them up for Sunday pancakes too soon. Dean has been mysteriously waking up in the wee hours of the morning a lot, and I was hoping for once he would stay in bed and not pursue his word-search puzzles and solitaire out on the dining room table--just a stone's throw from where they'd be sleeping.

After finally getting them to sleep by ten o'clock, I was not pleased to wake up at about four and hear three voices coming from the other end of the house. Dean had been up since three, he said, and decided it was time for pancakes. The kitchen sounds and smells must have wakened the girls, who had declined the pancake invitation, saying they'd rather wait for grandma.

I tried to remain calm, thankful for the few hours of sleep I had just had, but doubtful if any more were coming. I hurried the girls into my big bed to encourage them back to sleep, and gave strict orders to the man in my life to sleep in his recliner (which he does half the time anyway) if he needed to.

All was not lost; the girls did drift back to sleep to the sounds of grandma's oxygen concentrator, but the same sleep escaped me for the moment, to be substituted for a nice nap the next day.

Dean remained on his own turf in the living room. But I felt compelled to check the stove a couple of times, just to assure that his pancakes were cooked appropriately. One black one left on a plate did not make me feel comfortable about his turning the stove off when he was done.

There have been many times in my own life that I'm sure I overlooked God's final instructions for me, leading to various degrees of crises He's had to see me through. How gracious and patient God is to "check up" on me as well.

I try to comfort myself with the thought that no matter how much turbulence I experience in my flight to heaven, God is the pilot, seatbelt, and flight attendant, overseeing reaching my final destination on schedule. What a great Caregiver He is!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Ultimate Snow Day

Everyone looks forward to a "snow day" now and then when schools and jobs implore you to stay home and be safe from the frigid weather. We had one again this week, and I must say it was a welcome but brief reprieve from our daily routine. As we tend to linger in bed a bit longer in the morning, we have mental images of lounging by a warm fire and sipping on hot chocolate all day.

However, I found myself rescheduling appointments and finding out when the next meeting that was cancelled might reconvene. And most annoying was that the same caregiving tasks needed to be done, leaving me little time to even make that hot chocolate, let alone sip on it.

I'm sure even schoolchildren were disappointed to discover that their school assignments were not overlooked that day, but squeezed tightly into their already heavy schedules.

This has left me with a new appreciation of heaven. When the Lord declares a "snow day" up there (and I have a hunch it might be about every seventh day--Isaiah 66:23), we will truly have a rest and a reprieve from all the normal, but pleasant, duties that await us in our new home. Praise to God for designing and declaring the ultimate "snow day".

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Mystery Whistler

As many married folk have been known to do, we have accused each other of snoring during the night, with expected denials by the accused party.

Last night was no different. Once again, just as I would be about to drop off to sleep, I repeatedly found myself awakened by an annoying whistling sound that just had to be coming from one of Dean's famous snoring episodes.

Curiously enough he would stop whistling the minute I woke up, turned off my bi-pap machine, took off my nasal mask, and began to ask him to stop making the noise. After about the third time, it began to dawn on me that my nasal mask must have been losing its "seal" and causing the offending whistle. Dean had informed me that sometimes I whistled in my sleep, but I naturally didn't believe him.

Jesus' plea came alive for me: "Judge not...why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3) For me it would be "why do you accuse your husband of snoring, but do not consider your own annoying whistles?"

Even caregivers need to take their eyes off others and look at their own needy selves for a reality check now and then.

Machine that gave me a whistle and a laugh!