Caregiving and Suffering-Is There A Connection?

The answer to the above question is a resounding: YES!

Have you ever met a caregiver who wasn’t in some kind of pain; emotional or physical? It is what happens when you are the caregiver of a loved one.

As I was thinking about this today, I immediately saw the connection with what Jesus was having to endure. This is Holy Week. Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at what Jesus endured the last days of His life. He is, and always has been, our Primary Caregiver. No one has suffered more as a human being than Christ did for us. He had emotional and physical pain that none of us can possibly fathom in this day and time. Yet, Jesus endured that suffering. He prayed constantly to His Father in heaven.

During my time as a primary caregiver, I too, prayed to my Heavenly Father for endurance, strength, patience, love, understanding, guidance, trust and faith. Did it work? Absolutely! I believe with all of my heart there is no way I could have made it through each and every day without the strength of Jesus. He never said life would be easy and carefree. But He did show me that relying on Him for everything would help me to persevere through some of the most challenging times.

My hope and prayer for those of your who are caregivers, is to turn towards Jesus and ask for His help. He will not disappoint you. Then get down on your knees and thank Him for the opportunity for which He called you. YOU are special. YOU were handpicked to serve as a Caregiver for someone you love. That’s a calling my friends.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 says it best:

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” (Emphasis in bold are mine)

Caregiving A Second Time Around

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything on this blog. So much has happened in the last month that has taken me on another caregiving path.

On November 28, 2016 the nightmare of my life would begin. My sister and her family were vacationing in the Smoky Mountains when fires broke out. They were evacuating when it became evident that they were not going to be able to escape this horrific disaster.

My three adult nephews reluctantly left their parents at the insistence of their mom and dad. Miraculously, all three young men escaped. . .their parents perished in the fire.

The three brothers were transported to Vanderbilt Burn Center in critical but stable condition. On November 29th when I was notified of this disaster and not knowing if my sister and her husband were alive, I took the first flight to Nashville with my three daughters.  That’s when my new caregiving role began.

I love my nephews af if they were my own children. I had no reservations about going to be by their side and letting them know I would not leave them. I assured them I would care for them no matter how long it would take.

Another young woman who was like a daughter to my sister and husband, and very close to these young men joined with me as their primary caregivers once they were released from the hospital.

No one ever expects to become a caregiver of any kind, but life throws us curve balls all of the time. You step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.

Learning a new kind of caregiving was in store for me and the other young lady. We had to learn how to properly provide wound care. This is something I never thought I could do or would even be in a position to do. But with the good Lord’s help and this wonderful woman by my side, we both were able to care for these young men in the best possible way.

In many of my past posts I say how taxing and draining caregiving can be. I have to admit I was running on adrenaline most of the time not giving in to being tired or drained. My nephews needed special attention and primo care; I wasn’t about to let that change and neither was the woman who was in this with me. We were on a mission – to get these young men well and make sure they continued to heal in more ways than one.

I’m very happy to say that all three of these guys are healing beautifully and although they, and us, know it will be a long road before the emotional side heals, we’re still in this together helping one another through the healing process.

It seems I’m supposed to be a Caregiver in this lifetime of mine. If that is what the Lord has deemed me to be, who am I to argue with Him?

Once, again, I’m proud to be able to care for those I love so deeply.

Sundowning

sky-1477735_1280

I don’t know about you, but the time change of going back one hour takes me about a week to get use to. Who made the decision to “spring” forward and “fall” back any way?

If you think it might be hard on us, think about those individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

As the sun begins to set and darkness creeps in, a person with dementia has a very hard time adapting. This is what is referred to as “sundowning”.

Doctors and scientists aren’t exactly sure why this happens to people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, but they do have some theories. They think the changes in the brain of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s may affect their inner body clock. This is an area of the brain that controls when you sleep and when you’re awake; this begins to breakdown as the dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses.

Here are some common behaviors with sundowning:

  • Agitation
  • Disoriented
  • Irritation
  • Suspicious
  • Confusion
  • Demanding

The person might begin to yell, pace or even hallucinate. All of this is part of sundowning.

Be aware of all the different things that can cause your loved one to experience sundowning. As the light begins to fade there are more shadows which can create fear and confusion. They have a hard time knowing what’s a dream and what’s reality. Reassure, never argue or try to reason…it won’t work. Use a calm voice and keep the noise level down. Soft music is a great tool to soothe someone.

If you’ve been with your loved one all day and you begin tiring or become irritable, your loved one will pick up on your emotions and before you know it, they are mirroring you! Yes, caregivers are likely to become annoyed at the end of the day because they are worn out and need some rest. That’s the time to “call it a day”. If you live with your loved one, have someone else relieve you so you can get some sleep/rest. If your loved one lives in a facility, it’s time for you to go home for the night.

Just remember, sundowning is not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Don’t feel like your loved one is the only one who experiences this, they aren’t.

If you still have questions and concerns about sundowning there is a plethora of information on the web that can help. The Alzheimer’s Association is, of course, another great resource.

I say this all of the time: Never hesitate to ask questions or for help. There are so many people ready and willing to support you through your journey. God Bless!

 

Strength & Gentleness

Today while perusing Pinterest (yes, I’m a fan!) I came across this quote. Reading it I thought what a great affirmation for Caregivers.

 :

As caregivers it’s equally important to be strong and gentle at the same time. After all, strength is one of the many characteristics it takes to be in the role of a caregiver.

However, it’s more than just being “strong” in your role. It’s how you apply that strength in order to connect with the person you’re caring for. That’s where the “gentleness” comes in.

You might be thinking that your strength is all that gets you through each day. That may be true. But stop and put yourself in your loved ones shoes. How much strength has it taken for them to get through an hour of a day or even ten minutes trying to get dressed?

When a caregiver shows strength and gentleness at the same time, they can usually get their loved one to cooperate a little easier. Using your strength with a calming voice (gentleness) goes a long way not only for you but your loved one as well.

It takes a lot of energy to be a caregiver, I know, I used to be that person. I can honestly say it took all my strength every single day, but I also found that I couldn’t just be “strong”, I had to be as gentle as possible in order to deal with the task at hand. I’m not saying it’s easy to combine the two, but once you do you’ll see a change take place with your loved one.

Maybe you are the personality type that thinks because you lack patience you can’t be gentle. Honestly, even if  you’re not the patient type you can still be gentle. The old saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”, has never been more true for a caregiver. Try and remember that the next time you become frustrated with your loved one.

If you struggle with strength and gentleness, let the above quote be your new affirmation. For those of you who already combine the two, be grateful!

Focus

health-664031_1280 (1)

Where is the focus of a caregiver? Where should it be?

You might be thinking, “That’s a crazy question. Of course the focus is on my loved one.”

It’s not so crazy of a question if you really give it some thought.

Yes, part of the focus is on the person you’re caring for. But shouldn’t the focus also be on YOU?

Think about it:

  • Are you staying healthy?
  • Are you getting enough sleep
  • Are you taking a day for yourself (ever)?
  • Is your day filled with fear, negativity, resentment and all the “what if’s”?

If you answered “no” to the first three and “yes” to the last point,  then you need to start doing some focusing on you.

In my opinion, caregivers have one of the hardest, unrewarding and challenging job on the planet! There’s (usually) no income, no incentives, no bonuses and no perks that typical jobs sometimes offer. So what else is there to focus on, right?

Focus on the gift you were given. What giftThere’s a gift involved? As a matter of fact, there is. You, have been given the privilege to care for someone you love very much. Someone who has been a huge influence in your life. Someone who has made a difference in your life in the past, or maybe the present. Someone you love so much you wouldn’t dare think of anyone besides you to take care of them. And you know what? You do an amazing job as a caregiver. Yes, go right ahead and pat yourself on the back. You deserve some recognition for all that you have done and are doing right at this very time.

I find it somewhat fitting to quote part of a song by Donna Summers from 1983:

“_____years have come and gone

And she’s seen a lot of tears of the ones who come in.

They really seem to need her there.

It’s a sacrifcie working day to day.

For little money just tips for pay.

But it’s worth it all just to hear them say that they care.”

I left the number of years blank on purpose. The song says 28 years. For me, I can insert 19 years. You can insert your own time to make it fit for you. I also left in the part about the money because some of you might be getting paid even if it’s a small amount.

The point is, everyone works hard at being a caregiver day in and day out. It’s truly a sacrifice, but you are needed! We love and care about those in our charge and we would go to the end of the earth to do what is best for them. So why not do the same for yourself?

Try to focus a little more on yourself so you can be all you need to be as a Caregiver.