Her Mind

I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.  Isaiah 46:6 NLT

The ups and downs of the mind and heart are difficult enough when we have control of our thoughts and have the ability to make wise decisions.   What about those with dementia?  My mother has an incredibly smart and wise mind… or had, I should say.  The dementia has changed things though.  Some days, the clarity is near crystalline.  More days than not, now, are murky as the Gulf waters.  Murky like unable to see clearly from the outside, yet from her mind, she seems clear and right, correct in all she pronounces ‘truth’.

Yesterday, I had been to have lunch with Mama and I could tell that Tuesday was not one of her clear days, but it did not seem terribly murky, at least yet.  A couple of hours later, C called me from her cell phone while in Mom’s room.  C is a wonderful CNA who has cared for and about Mom for the past two plus years.  She loves my mother.  (When the Admin toyed with an idea to move Mom to the other nurse station, C spoke up and said, “No, please don’t take her from my hallway.  She is one of the few I can talk to and love and she loves me back.”  When Admin told me that, tears broke from my ducts like a torrent.)  So when C calls, she tells me that Mom is terribly confused, looking for her husband and was wandering around in her wheelchair all over the nursing home looking for him.  We have struggled with this issue as she got it in her head that a certain male CNA was her husband.  We have been reminding her that my Dad was her husband and is deceased.  As I talked to her, I got a better picture of Mom’s mind-full, the cluttering of overload, the impurities of the mind running amuck.  As she allowed me to speak, I shared some of the truth … her husband deceased since 1960, the other man … a CNA working on the other side or gone home by now.  Then she questioned “the girls” which turned out to be us, her three daughters … one in Kauai, just gone home from here, one in San Diego at work or school, and me at home with Kenneth.  She was so sure that there were plans that she must attend to and we all were a part of them.  “No, Mama.  You are ok right there.  We just had lunch together two hours ago.  It is not meal time yet.  They will come and let you know.  No lunch with your girls now.”
“Well, am I crazy?”
“No, Mama.  You are just a little confused.”
“That’s crazy and you might as well put me in an asylum.”
“Oh, Mom.  No, you are just a little confused.”  “Yes, I need to go to an asylum.”
Oh, my heart ached so deeply.
She suddenly wanted to get off the phone and said “goodbye.”  I told her “I love you, Mama.”  She did reciprocate.
C got back on the phone and talked a bit, said she would try to get Mom to take a nap.  Then, suddenly, C said, “Oh, she is crying.”
Oh, my!
She was crying.  My mother rarely cries.  Has rarely cried.  When my father died, she did not cry in front of us children.  She needed to be strong, she thought.  My heart said she needed to teach me that crying was ok.  That God gave us the ability to cry.
So here she is in the nursing home with dementia and is crying because she is losing her mind.  Yes, she is gradually losing her mind.  Oh, such a slow agony.  I ask God for mercy.  I ask God to hold her.

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.  Psalm 71:9 NKJV

Tonight she is extremely sleepy, barely able to hold her head up while eating her dinner.  I wheel her back to her room.  I undress her and ready her for bed.  She rolls in and is asleep in less than five minutes… sound asleep.  It is only 7:00 PM.  Her cycles run like a roller coaster.  Clarity.  Confusion.  Hyperactive.  Sleepless.  Wild ideas.  Sleeping all day.  Predictable, not predictable.  The mind is so powerful.  God created a beautiful piece of machinery in our brains.  It also deteriorates with age sometimes.   For my Mama, it is happening and ever more so with each day.  She is old.  She is beautiful.  She is precious in His eyes, in my eyes.  She is my mother.  I am her eldest child, her firstborn.  I struggle so to see her suffer, to question herself so.  Life should not have to end like this.  I think these thoughts because I am human, because I live in a fallen world.  I want life differently for my Mama.  I want her mind to be refreshed, clear as the azure blue  Pacific, not like these Gulf waters.

Heavenly Father, You know my mother.  You created her.  She is a rose in Your garden.  She is beautiful.  She is a blossom and sparkles for us.  On those days where she doesn’t sparkle so much, she touches my heart with her heart.  It is Your hand to mine that I am feeling and I thank You, my LORD.  Please hold her ever-so-closely that she would feel Your very Presence, Your strength and love.  Please cup her mind in the palms of Your mighty hands and give her freshness and clarity.  Let her know that You are caring for her.  O God, hold me too.  Catch my tears, her tears too.  I need You to give me strength for each day, for each hour as I tenderly care for her.  The emotions, the roller coaster rides she takes, the frustration with her body and her mind … please give me wisdom and understanding in order to be there for her in those needs.  I love her so very much.  When I know not what to do or say, when I cannot be there with her, even when I do not even know what she is going through because I am not there 24/7, please, God, take care of her.  Hold me too.  Use me for Your glory, mold me into the tender, kind, gentle, joyful, patient, loving, grace-filled, peaceful person that my mother may need at the given moments of her day.  She is my rose.  Oh, she is my rose.  The fragrance of her beauty.  The essence of her love for her daughters, for her precious children.  She has loved us so, still loves us so.  I ask all in Your Son’s Strong Name.  Amen.    

“For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.  Isaiah 54:5 ESV



Desiring to Be a Giver of Care … Biblically

Many of us are caregivers for our parents. My mother is 95 and has been living in close proximity to me for 11 years now. She is now living in a nursing home after a terrible fall in February, 2008. I visit her almost daily. She is diabetic and has dementia. I have become quite knowledgeable about both diseases. Learning how to be a giver of care, understanding what not to do in trying to be a good one, I continuously face challenges. It has come by trial and error, reading, sharing information with others who are in a similar situation. The basics of caregiving are done in the same way whether one is a believer or a nonbeliever, though, as a Christian we desire to take a path close to the heart of God in our obedience to His call.

‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.’ Leviticus 19:32 NIV

I want the best for my mother. I want her to be comfortable and cared for. The LORD has truly blessed us with a nursing home where she is truly cared for and about. Yes, we have had our issues, but I have learned how to approach the concerns in order to get things handled. Yes, they are short of staff regularly, overworking many making the turnover rate high, but those who stay know Mom and love her. They also know me well. They have come to know that I am a Christian as I willingly pray with some of the residents, offer assistance when I can without overstepping the family/staff boundaries, and hug and/or touch many. I am not afraid of these elderly folks who once had a vital life. I ask questions to know more of who they are. I am willing to give those much needed hugs, and, pointedly, to the ones who have no family visiting them. They become family for me. The responses always amaze me. A touch, a hug, or an “Hello, Mrs. …”, “Mr. …”, can often bring a sweet head on my shoulder, a smile or laughter, a hand that won’t let go of mine. Talking about the outside world, even my world, with Mom’s table mates during a meal … they need stimulation and fellowship. They need love and joy.

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 NIV

As Mom goes through terrible phases of dementia such as anger, jealousy, hatred, rebellion, hallucinations, false accusations, she is still my mother. She is the one who bore me and raised me. She loved me and still does. I love her and honor her. I treat her as my mother, not as a child or someone who acts weirdly. The others who suffer an illness, have had a stroke, have a mental illness, are growing older and need people who will accept them the way they are today. This verse in 1 Timothy moves me by the last three words: “with absolute purity”. There is no better way to treat them then from a pure heart, a heart wholly of God.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4 NKJV

For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Psalm 48:14 KJV

The Holy Spirit will teach me if I listen, keeping my heart-ears and eyes wide open for His word, for what He desires of me. He also reminds me in these two verses that God will take care of my Mama. He assures her that He will be there for her until the very end of her life here on earth.

As we care for these precious ones, they are God’s children, too. They are to be seen from the inside outward as God knows them. He knows them intimately. We may be exhausted from years of care, whether it is mostly physical care, or emotional turmoil due to dementia or Alzheimer Disease, or both, or watching and caring for one who is slowly losing abilities. By treating them with godly wisdom, with godly love, with godly peace, God will allow us to know His children. He will walk every step of the way with us, if only we will remain under His wing.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21 NASB

LORD, may I walk in Your way, the way You have predetermined for my life. This caregiving has been tough at times, pleasant at times. It has never been easy, but You have always been with me and directing my steps. I am sorry when I have done things my way. Forgive me, LORD. You have given me strength for each day, a temperament that has endured through struggles beyond my imagination, love that could only come from You. I thank You for giving me these eleven years with my mother close by. I am here with her for however long she is on this earth. Thank You for teaching me how to give care, how to love unconditionally, how to be gentle and kind even when Mom or someone else is not either of those qualities. Thank You for loving me and upholding me even when I am not worthy of Your love or Your arms. Thank You for my doctor who could see my heart on the outside, how it was breaking and weary. Thank You for his experience in a similar situation of his own that he would understand and be able to guide me in and around some rough corners. Thank You for Mama’s doctor who understands palliative care. I thank You for my incredibly understanding husband (who also spent years giving care to both of his parents). I am truly blessed. Amen.

Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.Deuteronomy 5:16 KJV

Thankful In the Midst


Oh, I am ever so thankful for this 95 year old mother of mine!  This past Monday evening, the nursing home took a small bus of residents to the Hooks Baseball game.  The Hooks are a AA team for the Houston Astros. My mother grew up with baseball in Chicago.  Her Dad was on a minor league team way back when plus he taught the kids in the neighborhoods they lived in to ‘play ball’.  Grandpa was an Italian bricklayer by trade, but his real love was baseball and taught two of his three kids to absolutely love the game, Mom being one!  So any chance my mother got and now gets, she goes.

She is in a nursing home now so the opportunities are much more rare.  When this game was on the May calendar, I decided to volunteer and go with her.  My youngest sister and her husband have taken her a time or two on visits here.  She has been prodding me to go ever since the team came to town.  So ’twas my turn!  Plus Mom is 95!  How many more?

As you can see on our faces, we were having a grand time.  The Hooks won, but more than that, I won a most memorable memory with my mother.  She was clear (dementia at rest!); she was ever so happy, and loved having me with her as she knows that baseball is not a favorite for me!  (She drug me to a few Padre games that were not fun for me as a high schooler!)I am so grateful for the evening, the memory, the special fun that she and I had together, just us!  I loved every minute!  I am grateful for my little sister and her husband in Kauai who listened to me whoop and holler as I shared the evening with them.   Thank You, Sweet Jesus, for my mother, for my sisters, for my father, and those I call family.  Amen. 

For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; [You are] my trust from my youth.  By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb. My praise [shall be] continually of You.  I have become as a wonder to many, But You [are] my strong refuge.  Let my mouth be filled [with] Your praise [And with] Your glory all the day.  Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.  Psalm 71:5-9
I am thankful that our God is the Strong Tower that I can run to.   With so much love for my Mom, I also have such a difficult time when she is angry and the dementia overrides the fun-loving, happy mother I know best.   God is in control and I am so, so very grateful that He is and I am not.
The name of the LORD [is] a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10

I also thank the many people who have laid their lives down on the battlefields for my freedom.  I thank the families of those special people for they are waiting for their special one to return.  May You protect them with Your many legions of angels, LORD.  Hold their minds in Your loving hands, that their eyes would stay fixed upon You, that they would come home whole.  Amen.

Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  Matthew 26:53

I love You, LORD, for the love You have given me.  I feel the river of living waters running through me with newness and refreshment, with life and grace, with mercy and peace.  You hold my tears in a bottle.  You calm me.  You are God.  Thank You for my Kenneth and His loving sweetness for me.  Thank You for His faithfulness to You and to me.  Thank You for holding us in Your arms and teaching us Your ways.  Amen.
Hear my cry, O God; Attend to my prayer.From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy.  Psalm 61:1-3