Life: Just a Few Handbreadths

As I take care of Momma, the familial aspect of Alzheimer’s disease sometimes scares me. That fear isn’t all bad, in that it helps me realize that it is true that my lifetime is just a “few handbreadths,” a “mere vapor” that will pass before I know it. What I do with my days really does matter. Continue reading “Life: Just a Few Handbreadths”

Friends Read Between the Lines

According to Facebook, I have 498 friends!

I will admit. I really enjoy Facebook. I love keeping in touch with friends – old and new – via this social media phenomenon. I find it outrageously amazing that I can connect with a few of my “besties” – keeping tabs on their kids and grandkids via anecdotal stories, posted photographs, and funny videos. So many of my friends now live several states away, so every post they make invites me to share in their world. I can also catch a glimpse of what is going on in the lives of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and sundry shirtail relatives and family members I rarely see (and a few I’ve never really met in person), friends I went to grade school with (and haven’t seen in 45 years), neighbors who’ve moved away years ago…and the list goes on.

My own children are on Facebook. I assure you that this grandma loves to read their posts and see the pictures they share.

Yes, Facebook friendships are fun. But the best kind of friendships – true friendships –  are those characterized by faithfulness. These friendships are truly priceless. I have more than my fair share of that type of friend, but let me tell you about two of my faithful friends who have blessed me immeasurably.

Paula & Shary
Paula and Shary – faithful friends

I’d like you to meet Paula and Shary.

We three went to the same church for years and years. We raised our families in the church together, grew in the Lord together, and shared the joy of friendship. Now we three live too many miles apart and rarely see one another. In fact, Shary finally had enough Wisconsin winters and moved to North Carolina! Last September, Paula hosted a sweet little luncheon in her Pewaukee home so that the three of us could spend time with one another while Shary was visiting in Wisconsin. It was if we had never parted. The afternoon just flew by.

At the end of our afternoon tea, the three of us embraced in a little prayer huddle in the middle of Paula’s living room. My heart was so moved as each one of us took a turn lifting one another up in prayer. I tell you, Paula and I know there is no better feeling than being covered in the warm blanket of dear Shary’s intercessory prayer.

Paula and Shary have exemplified the title of “faithful friend” in my life. I cannot begin to tell you how much they have encouraged me in my journey of caring for my mother as she struggles with Alzheimer’s. These two ladies not only pray regularly for me, but they look for ways to be an encouragement.

Faithful friends read between the lines. They look for ways to be a blessing.

Shary “read between the lines” when she picked up on my comment about how much receiving mail means to my shut-in mother. Since then, every so often, Momma is delighted to open a beautiful card from Shary. Within each card is a sweet note and assurance of prayer. Mom reads those cards over and over again. Those cards keep on giving, as mom rediscovers the cards and rereads them again and again. Not only does Shary send cards, but even her daughter and grandchildren got involved at Christmas filling my mom’s mailbox with their love and best wishes.

Dominoes
“Wow, I would love those dominoes!! No more counting dots!”

Most recently, I made a comment on one of Paula’s Facebook photos (pictured). Having just recently played dominoes with my family using a set of dominoes that has a number of tiles with dots that missed being painted, I exclaimed on her post, “Wow, I would love those dominoes!! No more counting dots!”

My kind and thoughtful friend Paula read between the lines. Before I knew it, a package with my name on it was delivered to my doorstep. My very own set of no-dots dominoes just like the ones in her picture!

Tonight, I’m thanking the Lord for these two precious friends and their very encouraging acts of kindness. I praise God that these two ladies paid attention to the “nudging” of the Holy Spirit to bless me in these special ways. May the Lord grant me a faithful heart like theirs – one that seeks to bless others by reading between the lines.

 

 

 

God’s Grace through Others

Getting my mother to leave her apartment for ANY reason is difficult these days. Mom had an appointment with her memory doctor on Thursday and I was very relieved it was Viv’s turn to get her ready to go. I told my sister she’d need to start about 2 hours beforehand, gave her a few tips, and warned her Mom would likely give her a little guff about the doctor’s appointment and ask where they were going about 50 times.
VivsTextI was at home getting ready to leave the house to go out to lunch with my husband when I received this text from Viv.

It made me smile.

I wasn’t smiling because it was funny (well, maybe a little). I smiled because I knew Viv knew. This experience had helped her better understand that taking care of our mom was hard…and that I need her help.

I know in my heart it’s not “me” doing this, so I sent Viv this reply text.

VivsText2

The appointment was just a routine check-in with her geriatric specialist to make sure all was well with regard to her Alzheimer’s medication regimen and to find out if there were any new concerns. I did have a concern. Mom had been complaining of difficulty breathing for a few days and seemed a little more irritable and confused. She always has troubles with her allergies, but this seemed different.

Sure enough, when the medical assistant took her vitals, she expressed concern that mom’s heart rate was only 44. That would be a good heart rate for an uber-athletic man, but not an elderly woman whose heart rate is usually around 68. I was pretty sure that the medication donezepil (Aricept) was the culprit. I didn’t think that the Aricept was providing measurable improvement, so wondered if we should discontinue it.

To be on the safe side, the nurse practitioner wanted to rule out heart problems. Orders were placed for blood tests, an EKG and a chest x-ray. Mom even got an escorted wheelchair ride as part of her ordeal. The medical assistant who pushed mom had the sweetest personality and threw me looks of compassion for mom as my sweet momma asked the same question at least five times between the doctor’s office on the 2nd floor and the lab in the basement.

Mom is mobility challenged and hard of hearing, so I suited up in a lead apron and helped my mom stay in position for the chest x-ray, using a loud voice to instruct “breathe in and hold” and “exhale” at the appropriate times. Then I answered mom’s questions as the technician got her hooked up for the EKG. Long story short: all is well with her testing. No A-fib, heart problems or stroke. The medication was probably to blame, so we were instructed to discontinue that medication, take her pulse daily, and visit her primary doctor in a week or two to reassess.

I followed Viv and mom out of the nurse practitioner’s exam room. As I stepped toward the door, I felt her hand on my shoulder. I turned toward her and saw a look of compassion. Her eyes were telling me, “I know this is hard. I’m here for you.”

I’m extremely thankful my sister was able to accompany us on this bit of the journey. As I have gotten to know other family caregivers along the way, I realize all the more how blessed I am to have a sister who is willing to help out a few days each month. Sadly, there are a lot of lone ranger caregivers out there who have zero support from members of their family.

Please. If you know one of these dear people, do what you can to bless them with your help and encouragement. Be God’s grace in their lives. They need it.

Make Me a Blessing

IMG_1663

Funny thing happened yesterday.

I was preparing supper in the kitchen while my mom and hubby chatted in the living room, when I overheard Mom say to my husband Wayne, “Are you a patient here too?” Wayne chuckled and responded, “No, I’m just a visitor.”

I had to stifle a laugh. It was so sweet. With that bit of in-house comedy came the realization that Mom’s perception of me as a caregiver (or herself as a “patient”) isn’t far from the truth. I may not have M.D. or R.N. following my name but, the fact remains, I do provide care.

In the course of my day, I was her “nurse” as I managed and dispensed her medications, her nurses aide when I helped her get cleaned up following an accident (then disinfected the bathroom), and her live-in dietitian when I made sure she ate food more nutritious than potato chips and ice-cream. Add to that the daily task of constantly helping my sweet mom with the mysteries of life (e.g. “Where’s my purse?”) or helping her remember the things we take for granted, like where the bathroom and bedroom are located.

When midnight rolled around, I was tuckered out and already in my makeshift bed (mom’s couch), but suspected my care-giving wasn’t quite over for the day when I heard the distinctive sound of mom grunting as she pushed her walker from her bedroom. She called out into the darkened living room, “Cindie, do you know where my toenail clippers are?”

“Yes, mom. Do you need help with something?”

Mom took a seat in her favorite chair just a few feet away, then switched on the tablelamp. Blinking back the abrupt brightness, I could see she was holding one shoe in her hand. Apparently her toenail was bothering her inside of her shoe and she was just not going to get any rest (nor would I) until that problem was remedied.

ToenailClippers
A handy tool for at-home pedicures

Like many elderly people, mom’s nails are very thick. A bit much for her arthritic hands to tackle. Taking my nailcare kit in hand, I sat on the floor with her foot in my lap and became her podiatrist. After clipping her bothersome nail, I trimmed a few others then lotioned her foot.

Momma loved the toenail TLC from her live-in care-giver and soon shuffled off to bed yet another time. Thankfully, she slept for 8 hours straight…and so did I.

Sleep seems sweeter when you know you’ve been a blessing to someone else.

 

 

 

Sundowners and Sleepless Nights

“Hi, Cindie!” said Momma with more brightness in her voice than a live-in caregiving daughter hopes for at 1:52 a.m.

“Hi, Momma,” I groggily responded as I peered into her bedroom doorway. “What are you up to?”  The soft light from the streetlight outside mom’s bedroom window snuck in a bit through the slats of her blinds, allowing me to see her distinctly hunched form in silhouette as she sat in the dark on the edge of the bed.

Out of the darkness, her voice continued, Continue reading “Sundowners and Sleepless Nights”

Art Therapy

It was therapy. It was love. Inspiration. Repose. Edification. Heart-to-heart sharing.

Today my hubby took a turn hanging out with Momma so that I could get away for a few hours to take my second Chinese watercolor lesson. Truth be told, it was much more than a painting lesson. Much, much more.  Continue reading “Art Therapy”

“You’re Here!”

Several of my friends are (or have been) caregivers for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. It is interesting to note that many of them have shared that their loved one often “behaves better” for their spouse or an outside caregiver. That is certainly the case for my care-giving relationship with my mother. She can be fussy as all get-out all afternoon with me, requiring the tenderest of care, but the minute her son-in-law walks in the door, all is well. Her world is secure. She really appreciates all that he does for her…and so do I.

Continue reading ““You’re Here!””