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

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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.

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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!