Category Archives: Caregiving

Caring for the Caregiver: This Year I’m Taking Care of Me

2014 was a hard year for me. What about you?

Fatigue is Fatal

Fatigue is Fatal
Photo Credit Peat Bakke

Mom has continued to become more difficult this year, with almost a month of hospitals and skilled care in October. She hasn’t regained her strength, and it comes out in every way.

Then I saw these caregiver resolutions in a post on Caring.com and decided I need to implement them (or something like them) this year. Not all of these apply to all of us, but let them be a jumping off point for your own declarations.

Here’s the sample from Caring.com to start you off.

  • I will organize and dispense all my loved one’s meds. . . but not beat myself up for forgetting the occasional dose.
  • I will apologize when I lose my temper, but realize that caregiving is so chock-full of temperature-riling situations that eternal calm is impossible.
  • I will be there for my loved one, but I will continue to run my own life at the same time.
  • I will let myself grieve and cry and feel sad, instead of trying to keep a chipper smile on my face all the time.
  • I will accept or ignore criticism for what it’s worth (or not worth) rather than letting it eat at me.
  • I will quit blaming myself when bad things happen. Bad things happen.
  • Finally, I resolve to take care of me this year, not just my loved one. Because eventually I may be the one who needs care, and better it be later than sooner.
  • I resolve. . . not to try to be perfect this year.

How about you? How are you going to take care of YOU this year? Share with us your declarations.

Choosing a Caregiver: Expect the Best and Know How to Ask for It

Choosing a Caregiver: Expect the Best and Know How to Ask for It

Choosing a Caregiver: Expect the Best and Know How to Ask for It

I’ve had several conversations lately with people who have had mixed to bad experiences with caregivers. They haven’t known how to select a caregiver or an agency. They haven’t known what to ask or what to expect. They’ve had unrealistic expectations about what to pay and how to manage the legal details. They’ve had bad experiences and haven’t known what to do about them.

Then I received a notice that Haley Lynn Gray is announcing her newest book, Choosing a Caregiver: Expect the Best and Know How to Ask for It. I haven’t read this book yet, but wanted to alert you to it while it’s still free. That’s right – free. The Kindle edition is FREE through December 5, 2014.

In this book she talks about the nuts and bolts of hiring caregivers for your aging parents, based on her experiences as both a daughter and a home care agency operator. It looks quite useful.

What has your experience been in hiring caregivers?

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Staying Flexible: Long Distance Caregiving

 

 

National Family Caregivers’ Month

November is National Family Caregivers’ Month, so I want to salute you, my caregiving readers, for the vital service you provide to your loved ones.

Thank You, Family Caregivers Roses

Thank You, Family Caregivers

As I talk with caregivers, I see men and women who are building a legacy by laying down their lives for aging parents, disabled spouses, or others they love. In the process, the caregivers’ hopes and dreams are often put on the back burner. Not only do they watch the decline of someone they love, but they also sacrifice their work, their goals, their finances, and sometimes their marriages. It isn’t easy.

Just how valuable are you? According to several AARP studies, 65.7 million caregivers (29% of the U.S. adult population) are providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. Caregiver services were valued at $450 billion per year in 2009–up from $375 billion in year 2007. At $450 billion in 2011, the value of informal caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care. It was more than Wal-Mart sales ($408 billion), and nearly met total expenditures for the Medicaid program in 2009 ($509 billion). That’s a lot of value, folks! And the value of unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S. since the aging population 65+ will more than double between the years 2000 and 2030, increasing to 71.5 million from 35.1 million in 2000.

Over 34 percent of caregivers provide more than 75 hours per week caregiving. That doesn’t leave time for much else. Seventy percent of working caregivers made some job change to accommodate their caregiving role. Twelve percent of caregivers reduced work hours or took a less demanding job while nine percent gave up work entirely, compared to three percent who took an early retirement.

So thank you, you priceless family caregivers. Yes, you’re squished, but you are so very important. So please, try to take some time for yourself. Take care of yourself. And pat yourself on the back. Well done!

Photo Credit: Robert Sikora

Senior Isolation: The Role of the Church

People often ask me why I don’t bring Mom over to my area rather than leaving her four hours away. There are many practical reasons, including family and cost, but her church is a large part of that decision.

The Church Is Essential in Combating Senior Isolation Edlerly Sunday school

The Church Is Essential in Combating Senior Isolation
Photo Credit: Jim Reynolds

I know that if Mom were here, she would suffer from isolation. My life is far too busy to provide what she needs on a day-to-day basis. However, she has been particularly blessed by her church, which knows how to do seniors well. They have an active seniors group and women’s Bible study, but more than that, there are a number of people who visit her regularly. Some of those are seniors younger than she is. Others from the Bible study are closer to my age. The combination means that she has visitors every week. Sometimes more than once a week. There are women who make sure she has a ride to Bible study and church on Sunday. When she was healthier there were some who made sure she had a ride to the weekly seniors’ luncheon.

I’m so impressed with their faithfulness. Mom has been in assisted living for more than two years and her church is still her lifeline. I don’t see a lot of that level of ministry, but I’m so glad they are there. It’s worth the inconvenience of driving four hours once a month to keep her close to her church.

What does your church do for seniors, especially the ones who are alone, isolated, and unable to drive? It’s something to think about…

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Senior Isolation: A Real Problem for the Elderly

Senior Isolation: A Real Problem for the Elderly

Mom has been in skilled rehab for the past few weeks, following several brief hospitalizations. She’s very alone there, and it’s showing.

Old man staring out window

Combating Senior Isolation
Photo Credit: Cristian Ştefănescu

She’s bored, depressed, and not progressing as well as we’d like. The good news is that she assures us she won’t complain about assisted living anymore. At least there she has people there to talk to.

A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Blog has an excellent article on senior isolation. It discusses 20 factors in senior isolation, both causes and impact. It’s a useful read, especially if you are a caregiver. It’s easy to minimize isolation when you’re up and active. It’s entirely different when you’re confined to a wheelchair in rehab, alone, scared, and wondering if you’ll ever be able return to what has become home. Let’s do more to make sure our loved ones don’t suffer this cruel fate.

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Staying Light on Your Feet |A Caregiver’s Life

I usually go to Mom’s monthly for several days. This month, however, has been a marathon. Mom was in the hospital a few weeks ago. My brother handled that one. I went over for our regular appointments. A few days later she was admitted again. My brothers handled that one as well. I arrived the day she was discharged to rehab, within an hour of her admission there.

Ballerina Staying Light on Your Feet

Staying Light on Your Feet
Photo Credit: torbakhopper

They were doing the standard skin check. I pointed out that her foot was really purple. The nurse agreed and ordered an arterial ultrasound. We went back to the hospital for the study. The orders were wrong; it took over an hour to get orders they could use. We finally got the study done. I knew something was wrong when the tech left to “talk to the radiologist.” He recommended we go to the ER, where they would probably admit her – less than 24 hours after her discharge for something that clearly had been present upon discharge! After six hours in the ER and a visit from a vascular surgeon, she was finally admitted about 10:00 pm. Exhausted. The surgeon scheduled an angiogram for 3:00 the following day. However, by the time she was admitted, after several hours of heparin, her foot looked like a baby’s bottom.

I checked back the next morning and was told that the angiogram was still scheduled for 3:00. A few minutes later I got a call from the hospitalist, who said the angiogram had been cancelled since the foot looked so good. Huh? Mom would be discharged at noon. Good news! I arrived at noon, only to learn they needed to give her meds at noon and then run more heparin for two hours. Discharge would be after 2:00. But the surgeon wanted to see her on Monday.

Since I was leaving town, I called to reschedule, and learned that the only reason the angiogram wasn’t done was there was no room in the cath lab schedule. He still planned to do it. I explained my schedule and distance. His nurse sent him over to see us – “Don’t leave until he gets there.” We waited. And waited. About 4:30 he finally came, as did the hospitalist. They argued over whether the angiogram was needed or not. He won. Mom was finally discharged, but I have to go back this week to do more testing and probably the angiogram.

What did I learn? To stay light on my feet. To not take anything too seriously. To stay agile. To keep my attitude light and friendly. To not blame the nurses. To keep Mom calm and focused. Hey, caregiving isn’t for sissies!

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Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom

Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom By Rob Peabody

Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdom By Rob Peabody

For Rob Peabody, a young pastor at a mega-church in the southern USA, the realization that his faith had little real connection with the world around him meant that something had to change. He redirected his church towards the poor on their doorstep and then moved to the UK to establish the missional fellowship ‘Awaken.’ In Citizen he outlines the Kingdom-centered identity that is given to followers of Jesus. He considers it a wake-up call to the church in the West.

I was interested in reviewing this book, not because I’m involved in a missional movement, but rather, because I have been called to a ministry of caregiving. In many ways, caregiving in America is about as countercultural as what Peabody did in the UK. It is a setting aside of individual identities, goals, and preferences in favor of a corporate identity — what Peabody calls a kingdom citizenship. He says that individuality is the backbone of the Western world, and therefore the greatest barrier to Jesus-centered community. I would say it’s also a barrier to the selflessness necessary in caregiving.

Peabody’s community in London has been called radical. He counters that it isn’t radical. It’s biblical. It’s what we should be doing in the first place. I get the same thing as an advocate for family and community caregiving. People argue that I spend too much time, energy, and money caring for my mom, my husband, my neighbor. I should actualize myself and my ministry, and let the state or “someone else” take care of these needy people. I argue that God calls us to care, even sacrificially, as a matter of obedience. As a matter of kingdom citizenship, Peabody argues for intentionality; I see the same in caregiving. It doesn’t just happen.

The point is that as citizens of another kingdom, we are called to be different. To be radical. To be intentional. To make a difference in the place God has called us to. Whether that place is a missional community in the UK or our own homes in the US, we are called to be citizens of a different kingdom. Citizen: Your Role in the Alternative Kingdomis a call to march to the beat of a different drummer. If this is a new concept for you, it is a useful read.

 

 

 

Caregiving as Spiritual Warfare

We’ve looked at caregiving as legacy. Now let’s up the ante. What happens in the heavenlies when a Christian lays down his or her life for another (John 15:13)? What does that sacrifice do in the spirit world?

Caregiving as Warfare

Caregiving as a Form of Warfare
Photo Credit: Brendan Sceroler

While we don’t the purchase redemption of mankind with our sacrifice, could it be that in our little corner of the world, in our little family, our redemptive act has power to break the strongholds of the enemy? If the enemy is empowered through hatred and anger, would it not make sense that he is disempowered through love? We know that perfect love casts out the spirit of fear (1 John 4:18). Would it not be reasonable to think that perfect love and redemptive acts of sacrifice also cast out spirits of anger, resentment, bitterness, and revenge? Would it not be reasonable to think that the thing God is calling me to is not merely to care for a needy person, but indeed, to a powerful, strategic, redemptive act? And if so, how can that change my attitude?

It critical to understand that we can’t pull this off on our own. But with Jesus? Now it’s possible (Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27)! Here’s how. I enter into this role as a son, not a slave (John 8:35). My life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I am seated with Jesus in heavenly places (Eph. 1:20-21). I am an heir of God and joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17). But as long as I’m taking care of myself, actualizing myself, I don’t experience the full impact of being fully resourced. As a son of God (yep, even as a woman), as an heir, all things are mine. Everything I need to do this difficult job is mine. My role, then, is to enter into Jesus in such a way that I bring the Kingdom to earth. In such a way that I break the strongholds that Jesus has already broken (Col 2:15).

What if there actually is something that happens in the spirit world when I take the hurts, the pains, the insults, and the dirty diapers and offer them, offer my body, as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom 12:2)? What if that “spiritual act of worship” has a tangible impact on the demonic realm? What if the result is a generational legacy that will transform my family, and in so doing, society? What if….?

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Caregiving as Legacy | Part 1

Caregiving as Legacy | Part 2

 

 

Caregiving as a Legacy | Part 2

So what does the concept of legacy have to do with us? I’ve wondered if we as Christians are called to heal the generations for the purpose of redeeming, perhaps even continuing, the human race.

Family as Legacy

Family as Legacy
Photo Credit: Pat Sikora

When I look at the downward spiral in our society, the law of entropy is alive and well. Things just keep getting worse. If someone—or a lot of someones—don’t intervene, it seems likely that we will devolve into chaos in a matter of just a few generations. Surely this isn’t the first time that has happened. Somehow, God has always intervened to reverse the spiral. Perhaps He has some in each generation called to redemption and generational healing.

Here’s the deal: we all leave a legacy, whether deliberately or unconsciously. I prefer to do it deliberately. I believe I can stand in the gap for my family. I can influence them and their generations for Christ. This has value both now and in the future. And one of the ways I’ve done that, one of the few ways I’ve gained a hearing from my family, is by being there and serving and modeling that loving service for my son and eventually my grandchildren. We’re nowhere near done yet, but I’m determined to leave a legacy. To do whatever I can do to restore godliness in my family line. And the visible playing field I’ve been given is caregiving. I’m determined to share a Legacy of Love with them. How are you leaving a legacy for your family?

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Caregiving as Legacy | Part 1

Caregiving as a Legacy | Part 1

Have you ever considered caregiving as part of leaving a legacy? A legacy is anything handed down from the past from an ancestor or predecessor. It is usually something of value, something to be desired and hopefully appreciated. When we think of legacy, we think of family, of future generations. And as Christians, hopefully we think of more than money. We want to influence future generations for good, whether we ever know those offspring or not.

Leaving a Legacy

Leaving a Legacy
Photo Credit: Yoni Lerner

An example of a godly legacy is Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan preacher from the 1700s. He and his wife Sarah left a wonderful godly legacy of faithful service for his eleven children. Early in the 20th century, American educator and pastor A.E. Winship traced the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death. His offspring included: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and
  100 missionaries.

Contrast this with the legacy left by a man known as Max Jukes, whose legacy came to the forefront when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system traced back to him. Max Jukes’ descendants included: 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 50 women of debauchery, 130 other convicts, 310 paupers (with over 2,300 years lived in poorhouses), and 400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living. It was estimated that Max Juke’s descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.

We will all leave a legacy. The question is, will it be a legacy of love and generational healing or a legacy of selfishness and generational destruction?