Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mom's shared Christmas Memory: "Christmas In the Coal Fields'"

                                                         (Mom, Audella Evans, Age 5)


    In my last post, I mentioned that our older loved ones that we care for have memories of a childhood that was so very different from ours.  A few years ago, my Mom shared with us her experiences as a child growing up as a daughter of a coal miner in West Virginia.  I am sharing her story here because not only is it precious to us, her children, but also a glimpse into a time long gone.  

     May our Lord bless you and your family with a wonderful Christmas!     


                                          ~~~~~~~~~~~~


                      Christmas In the Coal Fields


    Growing up in the mountains and in the Coal Fields of West Virginia wasn't always easy.  We had very few conveniences.  In the Coal Camp where I lived, we had one store that was owned by the Coal Company.  The store had a little of everything, but not a lot of toys or things for Christmas.  The miners' wages were not high, and transportation was limited, there were no buses and only a few people owned cars - we did not.  So, very little shopping was done.

    But we received catalogues thru the mail!  Sears, Montgomery Ward, and Aldens - we called them "wish books".  And they became well-worn!  We would choose 1 or 2 items from the "Wish Book" and our parents would go to Beckley, the nearest town to us, where they had stores.  They would try to purchase something for us.  They would get what they could afford.  I always got a beautiful doll.  And if it wasn't the item from the "wish book", that was OK - we were happy with what we got for Christmas.

    Dad didn't want to throw the catalogues away, so after Christmas, we would fold down the pages and make a door stop out of our "wish books". 

    We always had a Christmas Tree - one Dad cut from the woods and brought in.  We did have lights for the tree and some ready made bulbs, but mostly we made our own tree decorations.  We always thought we had the most beautiful Christmas Tree ever!

    The miners had a Union and throughout the year the men would each put a little money into a fund.  The Treasurer, my Uncle Fred Schlager, would use that money to buy nuts, candies, and fruit.  Then he would fill a large brown paper bag with these goodies - one for each child in a family.  We always looked forward to that special treat on Christmas Eve!  These items weren't plentiful back then, like they are today.

    And Christmas Eve usually brought snow - snow that would last for 1 or 2 months!

    What I remember most was our family being together.  We shared our memories and love toward each other and our neighbors.  Not exactly a Norman Rockwell Christmas, but it was ours!  And it was precious.

    Shared with love, 

        Mom





Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Caregiving 101: The Christmas Holidays


    With all that we have to do during the Holidays, it can be overwhelming to say the least!  And as a care giver, these added demands don't help!  Too often our loved one that we are caring for is the recipient of our frustration.  And if it isn't them, it is another family member who really doesn't deserve it either!

    So what about our loved one that we are taking care of during this time of year?  First, remember that they have their own memories and emotions that get tender during the holidays.  Their frustration and anger could be rising from these emotions.

    A major thing to watch for is to make sure our loved one don't feel like they are a burden to us at this time.  Unless they have advanced dementia or
Alzheimer's, they are aware of what is going on around the house.  Even if they don't say so, they want to be included not just in eating the meal, but in helping. 

    What the loved one is able to do to help us with our holiday preparations all depends on their physical ability.   I am not advocating giving your loved one "busy work" to do, however.  I feel it is too often perceived as demeaning, not helpful.  That destroys their self-esteem and can create more tension between you and them.
           
    My Mom is too frail to lift and carry, and she can't stand for long periods of time.  Anything she can do to help me has to be done while sitting.  But there are still things she can do and she is always willing to help out. 
                       
    So, look at your "to do" list and see where your care-receiving loved one can be included:
       
    1.    Can your loved one sign the Christmas cards?  If not, you can sign them, address the envelope and let your loved put the return label and stamp on the envelopes.

    2.    How about wrapping small gifts while you wrap the larger one.

    3.    When it comes to the Holiday meal, ask you loved one to fold the napkins for the table.

    4.    If your loved one is mobile, put all of the silverware on the table and asked your loved one to place them at the seats.

    5.    Can your loved one use a peeler to peal the potatoes?  Spread a dish towel on their lap, sit the bowel in their lap and let them help.

    Remember, whatever they are doing to help allows you to do something else!

    And if your loved one is used to doing the cooking and want to tell you how to do it, ask the Lord to give you the grace to smile, love them, and just accept that as being a part of who they are!  Our Pastor reminds us often that we have to choose which battles to fight, and we don't have to fight a battle just to prove that we are "right" or know better.  Some things just have to be let go!
   
     In the midst of all of the doing, take some time to ask your loved one to share special Christmas memories from their childhood.  Sharing the memories not only includes the loved one, but gives us a richer understanding of what life was like when our loved one was a child.  Life for them was very different back then, and it is easy for us to forget that.

   
The Holidays are indeed a special time.  Have a very blessed CHRISTmas!  Make precious memories.  And may our Lord guide us into greater understanding and wisdom as we move into the new year! 

 








  

Friday, December 6, 2013

After Thanksgiving Thoughts



    Well, since I am writing this and you are reading it, we both survived Thanksgiving!  But I don't think saying I "survived" Thanksgiving is accurate because the it turned out to be a very good day.  Of course, I had to actually take my own advice and ask for help!  Interesting how the Lord does that sometimes - making you take your own advice!  But that was OK, too, because my need for help involved others and they were willing to do whatever I asked of them.  It was a blessing. 

     The greater blessing was spending a few hours with our family and sharing a meal.  It's interesting how eating a meal together seems to allow for a flow of conversation, a catching up on what is going on in the other family members' lives.  Perhaps it is a feeding of the soul as well as the body.  My best memories of my Grandmother Grubb are the great meals she could pull together from the simplest of ingredients and her interest in hearing about everything us grandkids were doing. 

     The memories are the best part of being together.  They last and can be touched and revisited whenever we want.

     My brother's wife, Tina, missed our gathering this year for the first time.  She choose to spend the day at the nursing home with her mother.  And she made the right choice, for her mother is in hospice care and only being given comfort medication.  If this is the last Thanksgiving Tina has with her Mom, then she spent the day making memories that will be more precious than gold.

     Should the Lord not return in our lifetime, we will all someday face these Holidays and special occasions without the ones we love. So we must choose to make the most of the time we have with our loved ones and how we act and react to the situations we find ourselves in, for we do not need to carry unnecessary guilt and regret into our tomorrows.

     We will not have these days again.  Once they are gone, they are gone forever.  We need to do the things today that will make the precious memories we and others carry forward into tomorrowCaregiver, the moments may be hard while we are going thru them, but the blessings are worth the effort!  Keep looking up!  
 



Friday, November 22, 2013

Caregiving 101: The Holidays


Caregiving 101: The Holidays

         The Holidays.  A time of great food, wonderful memories, and a whole lot of stress!!  As a caregiver, the added responsibilities of the extra activities during Thanksgiving and Christmas can be overwhelming.  And some days, no matter how hard we try, it just is too much to do. 

       It is with this added stress and demands that we caregivers can loose our composure, our focus, and our temper!  This is not what we want and the added stress of guilt over our sharp words or our attitude is just another burden that we don't need!

       First impulse is to cancel everything - including the sunrise if you could!  But when other family is involved, including spouse and especially children, ignoring the holiday and canceling family traditions is unfair and disappointing even to those who tell you it doesn't matter.  It does matter.  Life indeed goes on, and keeping the routine helps keep life more "normal".

       If you have extended family and they invite you to share their Holiday Dinner, accept!  You don't have to always be the designated hostess!  Sharing a meal in someone else's home can be a great experience for you, your family, and your loved one.

       If your situation is such that you will be doing the dinner and hostessing, keep expectations realistic - for everyone involved, especially yourself!  Scaling back and making things more simplistic can be a lot less stressful and still make for memorial moments.

       As everyone tells us when we have too much to do:  DELEGATE!   Include the family in the preparations, cooking, and clean up and let them help.  OK, they may not do it just as perfectly as we want it done, but that's alright! 

        If other people outside your household will be attending, enlist them to each bring a dish for the meal.  Everyone has a special thing they like to make, so invite them to make it and bring it.  It will add to the selection!


       If our focus is to make memories that will last a lifetime rather than have the most impressively set table and perfectly coordinated meal, we have accomplished what the Lord really wants us to do.  As someone told me once: 

             Use things and cherish people.
          Never cherish things and use people.



       The Holidays are indeed a special time.  We need to pray for the Lord to give us wisdom to do the things today that will be our precious memories tomorrow.





  


Monday, November 4, 2013

Caregiving 101: Respect and Honor - The Things We Do



     First let me say that my caregiving experience so far has been limited to caring for my mother and my husband; and my care of my husband has been limited to the times he has been recovering from pneumonia and broken bones.  While I am not experienced in caregiving of a disabled or terminally ill child, for a disabled or terminally ill spouse, or other loved one, I truly believe that respect and honor is vital for both the caregiver to give and the care receiver to receive, regardless of who we are caring for. 

     And many times, the respect and honor is unrequited.  But just because we give respect and honor and do not receive it in return does not exempt us from giving it!

     As we shared last time, respect and honor for our loved ones comes in many forms.  While saying "Yes, Mama", or "No, Mama", "Yes, Sir" or "No, Sir" is respectful and right to do, these are not the only ways to demonstrate it.

     When we prepare the foods they like (of course, within the guidelines of any special dietary restrictions), bring them some little special snack, ask their advice on their meal menu, these are all ways of respecting them.

     When we tell others of how precious they are, especially within their range of hearing, it builds their self-esteem and honors them.

     When we try to make them as comfortable as possible in their present situation, we respect them.

     When we read to them, talk with them, share our time with them, we are honoring them for who they are.

     My sister-in-law, Tina, is now involved in a very hard phase of caregiving.  Her mother has been placed in hospice care and the family is being counseled for the end of life situation that will undoubtedly come soon.  Rather than leave the custodial care and attempts at feeding to the hospice and nursing home staff, Tina daily prepares broth, jello, and juice and goes to be with her mother, spending hours trying to coax her mother to take just a sip of nourishment.  Tina still bathes her and sees to her custodial needs, talking to her, reading to her, and just being there.  This is honoring and respecting her mother.
    
     These acts of love and kindness are not just for the loved one receiving it, but for us, too.  Brushing your loved one's teeth or cleaning their soiled clothing can be humbling, but nothing is beneath you when you are caring for someone you love.  Tiring, yes; emotionally draining, oh yes!  But showing respect and honor for the loved one nurtures something vital in our soul and matures us in ways comfort and ease never will.

     As caregivers we have a tremendous opportunity to be at the same time a blessing and to be blessed by what we are doing in word, deed, and action for the ones we love.  May our Lord show us how to do what we do in such a way that we bless Him most of all!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Caregiving 101: Respect and Honor - Prelude




Caregiving 101:  Respect and Honor - Prelude
     Caring for a loved one involves a great deal of, well, surrender.  And when caring for a parent, the role reversal can be very trying.  The parent will always be the parent, and the child will always be the child, even when the parent is needing the care normally given to a child.

     In these times, it can be hard to give the proper respect and honor that is needed.  But it is still necessary to do so.

     The Bible says that we are to honor our father and mother.  The Lord did not say to honor them if they are honorable, but to honor them.  Sometimes it is honoring the position they hold, not the behavior they exhibit.
      
     Today a friend shared the above photo with me and it moved me deeply.  It also reminded me of the following story that I had saved several years ago.  The story is reported as being true.  But even if it isn't, it is great material for thought.  I share it here as a prelude to our sharing on respect and honor.

     Caregiver, please remember that we, too, may be the care-receiver one day.  Stay on your knees, and keep looking up.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Poem Left Behind by a Deceased Man

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem. And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.

 Cranky Old Man


What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will

.I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.

At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.

And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

 Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too! PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM (originally written by Dave Griffith)  The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!






Tuesday, October 15, 2013

 Caregiving 101:  Keep a journal!

          When we take on the role of caregiver, we take on many responsibilities.  In addition to all things custodial, my caring for Mom not only includes getting her to her doctor's appointments and seeing that medications are taken properly, but I have also taken on the role of advocate.  When Mom has been too ill to be able to talk to the physician, especially in the emergency room, it has been up to me to let them know what is going on.  At those times, it has been extremely beneficial to all of us for me to be able to open my journal and relay information to the doctor.  Our journal includes daily blood pressure readings, oxygen readings, daily fluid intake (Mom is prone to dehydration), and notes from our doctor visits.  When Mom has been prescribed a medication and it had an adverse effect on her, I note that in the journal and the next time a doctor suggest that medication for her, I can tell them why she can't take it, all because I made notes about it.

          When Mom was first diagnosed with her terminal illness, we invested in an inexpensive digital blood pressure monitor, a digital thermometer, and because she is constantly on oxygen, an inexpensive oxygen saturation meter.  Every day I take her blood pressure and oxygen saturation readings first thing in the morning, early evening, and the last thing at night and record these readings in a journal.  When we go to the doctor or when she has been in the hospital, I stay with her and record all of the nurse's vital readings as well.  Having the journal to show the physician gives a better over-all view of her situation.

         Caregiver, don't think you can rely on your memory!  Trust me!  You won't remember all of the details, especially when it is an emergency and you are grabbing your purse and their meds and jumping into the rescue squad for a mad dash to the emergency room!  It is better to write everything down and remember where the paper is! 

         A journal is also especially helpful if more than one person is giving care for a loved one, or when you have someone come in to be with the loved one while you are away.  A list of all medications and when they are given is a must when there is shared responsibilities! 

         Your journal doesn't have to be fancy forms.  If you prefer forms, that's great but it can be as simple as a spiral notebook.  Find what works for you and use it!  However, I do advise against using small pieces of scrap paper unless it is just to make a quick note that you later transfer to your journal.  Small pieces of paper have a way of getting lost, while a larger notebook is easy to find!


         Caregiver, if you are not in the habit of note keeping, please, please get in the habit of doing that where your loved one is concerned!  It will save you so much grief! 

         And as always, ask the Lord for guidance and wisdom for whatever you do in your role as caregiver.  And when you don't see a clear leading, do what you would want done for you if the roles were reversed.  Keep looking up, and keep moving forward!


                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

        There are a number of forms on the internet that are free for personal use.  A particularly good reference is "Caring for Elderly Parents" and is available at the U.S. Department of State website at the following link:

                               http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/flo/c23141.htm 

         Another very good resource is "A Handbook for Family Caregivers of Patients with Serious Illness" which  includes printable forms.  It is available in an Adobe .pdf format at the following link:
                  http://cancer.ucsf.edu/_docs/crc/Caregiver_GEN.pdf 

   If you don't have an Adobe reader, it is available for free download a copy at the following link:
                                               www.adobe.com/reader


    Because I work a great deal on the computer, I have created several forms that have been very helpful for me.  I am including them below and you are welcome to copy and print them for your personal use. They are in a .jpg format (as a photo).  With your mouse pointer on the image, you can right click and save the image to your computer. 













 









 

 




Sunday, October 6, 2013

"The Presence of Sickness"


       Pastor preached today on "The Presence of Sickness".  He shared several things that I needed to be reminded of.

       In the Bible in John 11:1-4, we have the story of Lazarus, a man who, with his sisters Mary and Martha, were not just followers of Jesus but obviously close friends because Jesus was a frequent guest in their home.  Lazarus was sick.  And Jesus, the Great Physician, could have spoken the word and healed Lazarus, but didn't, so Lazarus died.

       We tend to equate good health, prosperity, and blessings as being signs that we are "right with God".  But that isn't always the truth.  As here in the Lazarus situation, these were good people, doing good things, and loved by Jesus.  And Lazarus was sick.

       When we accept Jesus as our personal savior and are living the best we know to please the Lord, we are just as Lazarus:  justified before God, and loved by Jesus.  But we get sick.

       Pastor reminded us today that Jesus allows sickness for a reason.  While we will never know all of the reasons, some of them are:

             1.    It helps us focus our praying.  A prayer with a great burden is one you pray fervently and continually.

             2.    Sickness humbles us and shows us our dependence on God.  It shows us that we are not in control.

             3.    Sickness opens the door for prayer and often sharing the gospel with someone who otherwise may not be interested in eternity.

             4.    It burdens us to pray for ourselves and for others.

             5.    Sickness is sent by God for good, not for evil, and to take us higher with Him.

       Jesus loved Lazarus.  Lazarus' sickness and death wasn't because of doing wrong, but was for God's glory.

       In caring for a loved one who is in great pain and suffering, it is often hard to see how the Lord can be glorified through the situation.  But for those of us who know the Lord as savior, we can be assured that He is in the midst of that pain with us.  We are not alone.  And our suffering here on this earth is not in vain. 

       Caregiver, what we do as we care for our loved one is as unto the Lord for Jesus said that when we give as much as a cup of cold water to someone in need, we are doing it as unto Him.  As hard as the labor can be, remember that it is a labor of love.  Keep looking up, asking the Lord to give you clear guidance and understanding.  He is a God who hears and answers prayer.  It may be that He will not change our situation, but He will surely change us!





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Autumn

The view from our kitchen window!
 

 Autumn


         Autumn is my favorite time of the year.  I love the coolness after the hot summer, and the smell of crispness in the air.  But I think most of all I love the colors of Autumn.  The leaves of the trees that have been green gradually give way to reds, yellows, oranges, rust, and brown.  It reminds me of something I heard a preacher say years ago:

                "God could have made everything black and white, and we would never have known.  But He is a generous and loving God and He gave us color!" 

         Autumn reminds me of that.

        It was in September that Mom received the diagnosis of her pulmonary fibrosis.  The doctor diagnosing her told us that with her progression of the disease, she wouldn't live more than 6 months.  That was 3 years ago! 

        Our God is indeed a gracious God!  Lovingly giving us far more than we even know! 

        As a caregiver, I am learning to cherish each day, both the good and the hard days.  They are all a part of the tapestry that the Lord is weaving. 

        Just as summer moves into autumn, autumn will move into winter with it's changes and blessings.  And just as Mom's illness is making her frail and weak, it will eventually move into being the chariot that will take her Home.  And at that time I will look back on these days, as hard as they are sometimes, and want them back.

        So I cherish today, just as I cherish the colors of Autumn. 

        Caregiver, the moments we have with our loved ones are precious and a gift from God.  Make the memories while you can!