Memorial Day 2019

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military – in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served – not only those who died – have sacrificed and done their duty.” Per the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

Honoring those who have died in service to the United States of America is a bittersweet moment for me. I desire to honor those men and women who have placed their lives on the line for me and the country I call home. I also have two men, in particular, who fit that category now. Once I had only my Daddy. Now, this year, I also honor my husband, Kenneth. Both of these men died from war-inflicted wounds of contamination…radiation – my father, Agent Orange – Kenneth. The two most special men in my life have left their earthly home….gone from my earthly life. Yet, both are with me in my heart. I loved them both dearly. I know I will see Kenneth in Heaven and I pray so for my Daddy.

Kenneth C. Gill
US Army 101st Airborne Infantry
Served 1967 – 1970
Vietnam 4/1968 – 4/1969
born – Salem, IL 1947 – died – Lufkin, TX 2018

June 7, 2018: This is the first Memorial Day without Kenneth. He was close to death last May. He died June 7th. He served in the Vietnam War 1968-1969 with the US Army’s 101st Airborne Infantry in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He returned to the states and completed his service with the 82nd Airborne in North Carolina. He was exposed to Agent Orange throughout that year marching through rice paddies and areas that once had been wooded areas, since defoliated with AO.

Kenneth in Mason, Texas with one of his favorite characters from a book!
The author of “Old Yeller,” Fred Gipson, was from Mason.
The city library has a statue of the dog and the boy Travis.
Inside the library is a mini-museum featuring Fred Gipson.

In January, 2018, we found out he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which is one of the cancers connected with Agent Orange. We believe he had had it for some time due to symptoms we better understood after the fact.

Kenneth was a wonderful husband of 25 years. I was truly blessed. God provided such a blessing to my life. Thank You, Lord. As I walk these days without Kenneth, I still am filled with love for this man whom You loaned to me. I am grateful, Lord, every day. You are the One I walk with today.

Ralph D Ross
US Navy Physician
World War II – Pacific
1942 – 1945, then continuing on til his death in the US Navy
born – Sterling, KS 1913 – died – Bethesda, MD 1960

September 18, 1960: My father’s life vanished in his prime – 46, a Navy doctor, a career spiraling upwards, a lovely wife, 3 daughters (12, 10, 7). The Navy was so special to him, so much so that he did not intend to retire at the 20-year mark!  He served in WWII in the Pacific Theater as surgeon, infection control medical officer, doctor, user of Penicillin in its early days to cure Syphillis.  From 1946-1951, he became a part of the after-war Manhattan Project, serving as a Radiological Safety Officer, while he continued to practice medicine in the Navy.  He was on Bikini Island for Operations Crossroads in 1946, then on Eniwetok for Operations Greenhouse in 1951.  By early 1960, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer…a death sentence then and often, now. It is connected with radiation poisoning. PLUS…he was a great Daddy! I still miss him!

My parents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An honor, to say the least! (This was taken on a Memorial Day weekend as you can see by the flag. I had a friend of a blogging friend take it while she was there. Thanks.)

Mama became a Gold Star Widow; we became Gold Star children. “They are the Gold Star children, war’s innocent victims, and their pain shimmers across the years pure and undimmed. They pass through life with an empty room in their hearts where a father was supposed to live and laugh and love.  All their lives they listen for the footstep that will never fall, and long to know what might have been.”  **

Eleanor Malcotte Ross
born – Chicago, IL 1914 – died – Portland, TX 2013

January 30, 2013: My mother was an unsung war hero, too, although she did not die from war-related causes!  Not only was she a Navy officer’s wife, but worked during the war for the Naval Supply Depot, keeping the Navy-at-war in food and other supplies. She was a fine and fun mother too!

Buried with Daddy at Arlington National Cemetery.

Father, thank You for these very special people in my life. They have meant so much to me over the span of my lifetime. I am so grateful for the love I have known from each one of them. They loved me each in their own special way. I honor the service they offered to this country. Thank You for bringing Daddy and Kenneth home from wars so that Daddy could be my father and Kenneth could be my husband. Thank You. I am sorry they each died from contamination of war-related agents. I am so sorry for that…for my lose as well. I also honor the many more who died from their service to the United States of America. Please protect those many more service men and women who continue to be in harm’s way around the world, Lord. Hold those who have served but are dealing with the effects of war. Some are wanting to get ‘back-to-normal,’ others are dealing with homelessness, and others are medically or psychologically traumatized. Please care for them all, Father God. I pray all in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Photograph: Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day, Flags In @ https://s.abcnews.com/images/US/160520_abc_vod_orig_memorialday_presidents_mix_16x9_992.jpg

All other photographs are my own. Please ask permission to use.

** Quoted in We Were Soldiers Once…and Young by Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L. Galloway

We Need Laughter

Mom- feb 2009 003_zpsfddathxaMoments to Lighten Up While Caregiving

“…And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Are you a caregiver of one whom is losing their mental abilities, maybe slowly, maybe rapidly? Are you caring for one who is confused often? who gets angry, who can no longer tie their shoelaces, who hides things and then accuses another of stealing? Or are you a giver of care for one with such physical needs that you, yourself, are physically exhausted much of the time? Are you caring for one who…? …and the list goes on and on.

Caring for my mother for fifteen years tested my patience sometimes. I loved her no less. It was not Mama that I lost patience over, but it was the disease of dementia that shortened my fuse. Dementia was taking my parent away from me gradually and, sometimes, in harsh, ever-changing ways. Some days, Mama was clear-minded and in such a sweet place. Other days, she was confused, or angry, or short- tempered. She was usually not upset with me, but upset with her condition, her world. I could not care for her at home as my health, my back, would not allow it. I could not lift her. So she had to live where others would be caring for her more than I would, although I was with her most every day. Mama wore diapers. Mama slept a lot; she was vibrantly alert; she acted A.D.H.D.; she confused people, rooms, times; she used words she NEVER would use before and said things that I could not believe she said … OUTLOUD! I never knew who I was going to find when I arrived to see her.

Caregiving is exhausting, can be filled with love, is stressful, demands room for patience, and has plenty of room for impatience.  Caregiving NEEDS space for laughter!  Yes, I said LAUGHTER!  When Mama needed help and I would almost fall upon her, she would say, “Wow! sister, be careful. You almost fell on me. I wonder what would happen if you did?” And then I cuddled her and we both laughed. She would burp loudly and say, “I never used to do that so much, but I guess I can since I am 97!” And we laughed together! Moments like these would make the giving of care lighter, sweeter, even more loving. People with dementia can be funny as themselves, providing just the words or actions for laughter. Or one with autism may make a cute or funny face, giving a sweet second for laughter to erupt. Comments are often made that are so out of context by the one being cared for and when said aside from the actual incident, situation, or even television program, laughter just may be the answer. Whatever the incident, try to use it to be a laughable moment. No one may even know why they are laughing but it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

Did you know that laughter reduces stress? increases circulation? decreases blood pressure? relaxes muscles? reduces pain by increasing the endorphins in the bloodstream? Laughter has many more wonderful qualities, giving our bodies and our minds moments of relief, pleasure, and time out.

Absurdity changes the moment from arduously serious into life bursting anew:
“You find your car keys in the freezer.”

“Your wife tries to pay for groceries by pulling out a sanitary pad from her purse.”

“Your husband spends his afternoons “debating” the man in the hall mirror (the “nice fella” who happens to look exactly like him).”

A woman, standing in her doorway, hollering at the Medication Aide for some ‘Viagra’ when she meant ‘Allegra’ for her runny nose! (This one actually was my mother!! Yes MY Mother! My dear mother gave the staff a moment of laughter too!…along with any family members who happened to be in the hallway at that moment!! Mama had been watching far too many ads on television.)  Of course, the staff had to tell me this great story too which I continue to pass along!

You’ve gotta LAUGH! Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects. ~ Arnold Glasow

Laughter helps us walk through those tough times. Laughing with the one we care for and about also helps.

Loretta, a precious woman, would spend a couple of hours twice a week with Mama, as a caregiver, giving me those evenings with my husband. Some nights, Mama loved having her there, introducing her to everyone as “my friend.” Other nights, Mama just wanted to sleep. On those nights, Mama would tell Loretta, “If you are going to talk, I am leaving this room!” Loretta would chuckle to herself and say, “Then I will follow you wherever you go!” Mama would just close her eyes as a grin began to take shape knowing that her “friend, Loretta” would do just that!

The one who is now living in diapers who felt dignity has all but walked out the door, or the one who fell again, or the one who cannot speak words that once flowed easily from their mouth needs laughter and love. Watch a funny movie together, or call a friend who can make laughter erupt, or bring a child into the room who loves to make others smile. Laughter is a key to taking a hard situation and turning it around for even just moments. It is vital for the one being cared for, the giver of care, as well as some of the staff who happen to be in hearing range.

A laugh is a smile that bursts. ~ Mary H. Waldrip

In the assisted living facility, Mr. H. wanted the blinds up at mealtime so he could look outside. Mama faced the window and wanted them down because the sun was too bright. Rather than move around the table, she got up and lowered the blinds. Mr. H. raised them back, and Mama lowered them. This went on a few more times before Mama hauled off and hit Mr. H. She did not hurt him but both daughters had to be called like a parent is called to school. A meeting was held with the director, Mama, and me where Mama was told the rules and scolded. We also were told that this could not happen again as they could not keep her at this facility. As we walked out of the meeting, Mama quickly got ahead of me by about ten feet and said, under her breath, but loud enough, “Your mother’s Italian got the better of her.” I had to smile and thought to myself, “And your Irish too!”

Laughter is an instant vacation. ~ Milton Berle

Sometimes, taking every moment seriously just wore me down so I needed these breaks! Now, two years after Mama has gone to be with the LORD, I am still chuckling at some of the moments that brought laughter. I still hold onto our preciously sweet moments too. God is gracious as He allows a caregiver’s memory of the hard stuff to recede further from the surface as He brings the sweet and laughable memories to the top. I am so thankful to our God for that.

“Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations,The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.”  Psalm 126:2-3

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!  Psalm 126:5

Father God, You gave me the miracle of seeing You in ALL–in the small, everyday moments, and in the huge, mountaintop moments. I give thanks for the moment-by-moment love I had for my Mama and the love she had for me. Thank You for the laughter we shared, for the combing of her hair to calm her down, for the kiss on her forehead, and for the big hug she’d give me with such an “I love you, my firstborn.” You are restoring the years that wore me down by giving me a harvest of memories of the love and joy my mother brought to me, by reminding me of my dear parents and how much they wanted me. You satisfy me and I praise the Name of the Lord, my God. You have dealt wondrously with me, Father. Thank You. I lift each one here today who needs Your hand in their life. They may be caring for someone with dementia or cancer or autism. You know, Father. They need the joy of the LORD. In the Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

befuschiasig

Memorial Day – 2015

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Memorial Day can be a gathering of family for a barbeque or for a day at the beach.  It is remembered as a day off from work or a reminder that we will only have a four-day workweek.

But Memorial Day is far more than that:

  • It is a day (and there ought to be 364 more days a year for this) to remember the many men and women who have worn a uniform of the United States Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard over this country’s history.
  • It is a day to remember why they wore those uniforms — to protect the United States of America and her citizens.
  • It is a day to remember that many have died in the face of an enemy during battle, protecting the people and the freedoms that come with living in this country.  Their blood was shed as they obeyed their commanding officers.
  • It is a day to remember that there are many, this very day, who are wearing one of these uniforms and are in harm’s way…this very day!  

May we stand proud for the United States of America whether we believe in all that is going on in the country today or not.  This is our country.  We must stand proud of the flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, our National Anthem.  As we stand with our hand over our heart, be proud because these men and women in uniform are standing in obedience to the orders they receive from their commanders.  They are doing this for us, in our name, for we are citizens of the USA.

child-saluting-american-flag-by-jeff-turner-respres-on-flickr

You and I are to stand in obedience to God Who is our Commander in Chief, our Stronghold, our Refuge, our Protector.  His Son shed His Blood for us…His red blood…in obedience to His Father Who is our Father.

Father God, may we look to You for all of Your commands, Your will,  for our lives each day.  May we honor those who stand for this country, who die for this country.  Please care for them as they fight or assist in war-torn countries, or work in places that have been ravaged by natural disasters and have been sent to help.  We lift up the many families who have lost loved ones in these many battles this country has been involved in.  We lift up those families who have someone in uniform right now and are fighting, protecting, assisting, or are preparing to go into a place that could be dangerous in one way or another.   Please guard them with your legions of angels.  We pray in the Powerful Name of Jesus.  Amen. 

But this command I gave them: ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’  Jeremiah 7:23

For He will command His angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.  Psalm 91:11


F
lags In

“This is a mission unique to members of the 3d United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), which has the distinction of being the oldest active unit in the United States Army dating back to 1784. The Old Guard is the Army’s ceremonial unit serving as honor guard to the President of the United States, and performing burial services for fallen service members, veterans and their family members at Arlington Cemetery.”  Arlington Cemetery

ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 21:  Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place American flags at the graves of U.S. soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 21, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Both of my parents are now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

There is a flag on their grave this very day and I remember.

I am honored to remember.

photo 1

I am married to a Vietnam Veteran and am honored to have my hand in his.

ken in truck

I do not forget.

BW sig dark blue

Photo of Young boy saluting flag: http://365atlanta.com/2010/11/11/286-a-simple-thing-to-do-thank-a-veteran-every-day-not-just-on-veterans-day/

Flags In photo: http://media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2015_21/1038161/pc-150522-arlington-flags-mn-0430_f195bba7ed10dc1c882e0c9d58494cc9.nbcnews-ux-1360-900.jpg

Are You Being Spent in the King’s Service?

Dogwood with John 15-12
“’Lord, I am Thine, wholly Thine; all I am, and all I have, I would devote to Thee.  Thou has bought me with Thy blood; let me spend myself and be spent in Thy service.  In life and in death let me be consecrated to Thee!’ Have we kept this resolve?”
from “Daily Help” by C. H. Spurgeon

As a caregiver, I prayed this prayer and spent quiet time with the LORD to help me answer the question… much I did in God’s service and much I did not.

I spent 15 years as the primary caregiver of my mother, along with the staff of the facilities in which she lived. We needed to move Mama near one of her three daughters. For affordability reasons and because I was the one who would be able to be this primary caregiver, we moved her to Texas.  God had much to teach me and the school’s door seemed open to me 24/7 (still does!).

I attempted to hold the reins of control, to hold back the flood of change. None of us wanted to move Mama. A move is hard for anyone, but for one of 84 and strong willed, that proved especially tough. I also have one sister who truly struggled with the move and had words for me since I “seemed” to be the main decision maker in her eyes. Once the decision was made, then I held those reins for I wanted to control the physical and mental downward spiral of my mother as I watched her age and live with dementia and the related fears, anger, frustration, confusion, jealously, and so much more. Those reins were hard to hold though. Eventually, I had to give them and Mama to God.  I could not control her life nor the changes that were occurring.  I had to allow her to live out her days with the best quality I was able to oblige her and assuring the best care from the others watching over her.

During the fifteen years here, changes of residences from a senior apartment to an assisted living to a nursing home happened according to her abilities, her health.  She received the care she needed from loving staffs.  She was still able to watch her baseball games with the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox, plus the San Diego Padres.  She ate fairly well, and got to enjoy some of her favorites like ice cream sodas and sundaes, my home baked peach muffins, and fresh fruit I brought to her each time I grocery-shopped for myself. She was allowed to choose even with the diabetes.  There must be some independence no matter what the consequences.  Even though there was a narrowness of life because of the need for a nursing home, I found ways to broaden the opening.  We attended a local AA baseball game once or twice during each season, ate lunch out together when she was able or in when she did not feel up to going out. I would bring a meal treat to her as often as I could. We spent time together most every day, just the two of us, or in a small group for a Bingo game or a favorite karaoke singer.  Decisions were hers as often as she was able.  I followed through with her choices when I could.  And if not, I did as she did when I was a child saying, “We shall see, Mama,” and, by the next day, her dementia-riddled mind had usually forgotten.  But, at that moment, she was satisfied because she had made the decision.

Did I keep the resolve?  As best as I could.  I wanted God to orchestrate the care I gave to my mother.  I wanted Him to open my heart to her love, accepting it with the love He gave to me so that I could give back to her.  I wanted to be able to accept the hard and not-so-good days that often came with dementia and being 86, 98, or all those in-between. I wanted God to shield me from words that hurt, but also to help me not take those words personally when they came like grenades.  No matter what the day brought, I wanted to be able to love my mother unconditionally.  God loved me unconditionally (and still does) and I had His love through which to love my Mama. And I did.

I shared my life with many other residents at the various living facilities too.  I learned their names, addressing them when I would see them.  I sometimes was able to touch them on their backs with a little rub or by holding their hands.  I talked with them. I stopped for a conversation or a prayer.  I sat with them when Mama was asleep, when I could dawdle.  I smiled at them.  We all need someone who cares about us.

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

I resolved to be near my God so that I would obediently follow His will for my life, and for my Mama’s life in regards to my part in it.  More than once, I was called to the home because she was not feeling well and needed comforting. At times, she needed to eat something in order to raise her blood sugar (rather unusual for her!) so I would feed her (usually running to get her just what she would desire at the moment…eggs and bacon, an ice cream soda…!).  She, ever so sweetly, would tell me, from time to time, how much she loved me or how much she appreciated all that I did for her.  I returned the love with hugs and words, but my heart felt like it was overflowing.  I knew God was with us.  I prayed I was being spent in the service of my LORD.  (Mama was not always one to get “mushy” yet when she told me how she appreciated something that I did for her or what I meant to her, I knew that her words were really coming from her heart. She became more precious to me with each passing moment. At those moment, I felt that I was being spent in His service.)

We love, because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Father God, these precious moments with my mother were far more than doing her laundry or taking her for lunch or cleaning up after her. They were about being Your daughter in her presence. They were about being Your child for her in whatever way she needed me. They were about staying true to You while being there for her and for the other residents too. You are now, and were then, my Beacon from which I was guided. Thank You for lighting my path to be Your best for my Mama. Thank You for loving me so that I could love her as I did. I loved her so, Father. And I miss her now, yet it is with a peaceful heart that I came to know that I did my humanly best to keep Your resolve in the midst of many a moment…sweet ones or extremely difficult ones, all beautifully filled with Your Grace. Thank You for Your forgiveness when I failed to be in Your service for her (and now, LORD, too). Thank You, my Abba Father, for putting these tears of mine in Your bottle for they come, even now. You are the most beautiful Lighthouse, LORD. I am so grateful that You are my LORD. In the Light of Your Son’s Name, I pray. Amen.

How are you keeping this resolve? 

 

beblacksig

Careful Medication and Eldercare

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A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.  Proverbs 17:22

As caregivers, one very important task is to make sure that our care recipient remains safe to the best of our ability.  Keeping hope and joy alive around them is also a vital component for their mental and spiritual well-being.  Gracing them with unconditional love assures them that their comfort and best interests are a priority.  As you well know, this is not always easy.  “A joyful heart” is not always a simple matter to come by.  And that “good medicine,” medications themselves, can either be a hindrance or a help to one’s joy or safety.  A caregiver’s attentiveness to this most vital of issues is a must.   

Most people, as they age, need medications.  They are great if used correctly and safely.  They also require caregivers to have a watchful eye as to what is happening to their care recipient:

  • Are there changes in behavior and/or personality?
  • Do they complain about their body, such as digestive tract issues or headaches?
  • Are they sleepier than usual?
  • Do they trip or even fall?
  • If a new drug is added to the regimen, are they any side-effects or reactions?
  • Be aware, and as up-to-date as possible, of side-effects, contraindications of drugs for diagnoses given for the care recipient.  Many people become over or under medicated.  When changes are noticed, and if they are self-medicating, question the ability of that person to dispense their own pills.  Talk with other family members if they are a part of the caregiving team about what they might be noticing.  Make notes.  Keep an updated list of all medicines being taken, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, other nutritional products and herbal remedies.  Keep the list with you at all times. 

Reactions to medications vary with each individual and with particular drugs.  For older adults and people with disabilities, medications, whether prescription, over-the-counter, alcohol, herbal remedies or alternative-type medicines can help or they can harm. When not used appropriately or safely, medications can cause untold consequences.  Changes that occur with aging and with disabilities can cause people to suffer what are called medication-related problems (MRPs).  But these medication-related problems are often preventable.  Caregivers can help to identify possible MRPs.  Side-effects or “symptoms” of MRPs may include: excessive drowsiness, confusion, depression, delirium, insomnia, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, incontinence, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, falls and fractures, changes in speech and memory.  When these symptoms appear, they should be considered “red flags” that an MRP may be occurring.  Yet they may turn out to be unrelated as these same side-effects can occur under many physical or mental circumstances.  But when these effects interfere with daily functioning, a health care professional should be informed immediately, just in case.

Before prescribing any new drug, the doctor should be aware of all the other drugs and over-the-counter medications the patient is taking.  This is when having that list of medications with you is necessary.  The doctor should want to know of any new symptoms or illnesses.  If possible, care recipients should be given the opportunity to present the doctor (or other professional) with accurate and complete information about health conditions.  It is important to share new medical problems by fully describing the problem, indicating how long it has been a problem, if the problem has been experienced before, how it started, what was done to relieve it, and what worked or didn’t work.  For seniors with cognitive impairments, caregivers are the ones to describe the concerns.  Often, the elderly do not tell the doctor the whole story either.  Mama would go in and tell the doctor how great she was feeling, yet I knew better.  She either had forgotten or she did not want him to know that she was less than perfect.  This makes it very difficult for health care professionals to assess just what is going on for the proper treatment.  So be prepared to step up to the plate.

Have conversations regularly with the professionals involved in your care recipient’s care.  They may include a doctor, a physician’s assistant, a nurse, a pharmacist, an aide, or a host of others.  This team should be available to you, the caregiver, providing support and knowledge.  You gain confidence through the team and can then be ready to act, to assist, or to do it all.  If you have concerns about the ability of your care recipient being able to give themselves the medications, you need to address those concerns with this team.  It is so important to be on top of the medications and any problems because your attentiveness can lead to less medication-related problems, better outcomes, and improved daily functioning.

A few things to discuss with this team if the recipient is wanting to remain independent and handle the medicines themselves:

  • Will their memory function allow them to take the right medicines at the right time, in the right amounts what it needs to be?  Can they care of themselves?
  • Can they read the labels or should a large print label be ordered for them, if available?
  • Can they hear the provider’s instructions when given?  Ask the doctor or pharmacist to speak louder, if need be.
  • Does their dexterity (i.e., arthritis, Parkinson’s) allow them to open bottles, break tablets, prepare injections, eye drops, and inhalers well enough to do this themselves?
  • Can they schedule the various medications themselves without making mistakes?
  • One other question that needs to be asked but is not as pertinent to self-medicating as it is to just  helping: Are they having difficulty swallowing pills?  Are there other forms of this medicine that could be substituted?
  • A caregiver is key to noting these types of problems, sharing them with the medical team.  Being prepared to handle the medications may be your next step in the school of caregiving.  

If you do become the medicine giver, you must be as sure about each drug as you were expecting your recipient to have been when they were self-medicating.  When the drugs are purchased, ask any and all questions you can think of if you have not administered them before.  Usually, there is a pharmacist available to go over the important aspects of administration and side-effects.  You may need to prepare and administer injectable drugs, such as insulin.  Be certain you understand the dosage and how to inject.

I began giving Mama her medication shortly after she moved to Texas.  She had recently been diagnosed with vascular dementia, plus she had been diabetic for many years.  Soon she was placed on insulin.  Mama needed help in taking her glucose readings and then to establish the correct amount of insulin along with the correct type of insulin for a particular time of day.  She was injecting two — a short acting and a long acting.  She had blood pressure and cholesterol meds, thyroid plus a few other pills.  It was very confusing for her.  I also wanted her to maintain some independence while holding onto her dignity. As an example, I let Mama prick her own finger as she had done for years and place the blood on the glucometer.  Then with the proper dosage and type of insulin in the syringe, I would hand it to her so that she could self-inject.  She learned and remembered the sequence of needle placement which remained important.  She had some control over this process for many years.  Plus she seemed pleased to have me do the part that threw her for a loop.  I believe she was relieved that there would not be a mistake for she also understood that concern.

  • Store all of the medications in a designated location of the house, but not in the medicine cabinet of the bathroom or in the kitchen cupboard because heat and moisture can cause deterioration.  Be sure that they are stored out of reach of children who may visit, especially if there are non-child proof containers.  If the medication needs refrigeration, they should be placed in a container in one particular safe place in the refrigerator.  Medications that are taken by mouth should be kept separate from those used externally, such as ointments or creams.  Discard expired medications.  Never give your care recipient’s meds to anyone else or vice versa.
  • Medications are in high use these days.  Be knowledgeable and careful, and most of all, handle this step of caregiving with love and a smile.  Make it a light moment as you hand the pills to him or her with joy in your heart and that smile on your face.  They need some parts of their days to be joyful for both themselves and for you.    

…even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you.  I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.  Isaiah 46:4 ESV

Father God, we ask Your guidance in all we do for the precious ones You have placed in our care.  May we hear Your voice as You tell us just what to do for each one of Your children.  May we be available to Your call.  I pray for each one of us who has stood to Your call and said, “Count me in for I will be obedient to You, Father God.”  Let us have eyes and ears open to be aware of those things which are so vitally important.  Let us not fall down on this beautiful, although difficult at times, calling.  Let Your love flow through us to the one we are to care for.  Should we become weary, hold us up as well, LORD.  In the Sweet and Healing Name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Journaling Your Way Through Caregiving, Part 2

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My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.  Psalm 45:1

As I began this series about journaling and caregiving, I shared how important writing my thoughts and feelings is for me.  In Part 1, I gave a variety of ways to journal.  Today, I want to share why journaling can be good for your well-being.

There are many benefits to journaling.  A journal does not argue with you nor talk back.  They allow you to vent, release bottled up feelings, relieve stress, and can clarify thoughts and ideas.  They give voice to things felt inside such as guilt, anger toward yourself, the care receiver, or even family members.  Journals can hold your frustration, heaviness, and can take some of power away from these feelings.  They allow you to rationalize some your required decisions, see both sides of them by writing down pros and cons.  In a journal, you can list or organize events of the care recipient whether physical, emotional, or mental, symptoms noticed and behavioral changes, doctor visits with the outcomes or listing the questions needed to be asked prior to the visit.  Notes can be made of other appointments, medications taken and any changes in medications, plus any noticeable changes of the care recipient when trying a new drug.  Records of eating habits and changes in habits can be duly noted.  Journals work for bills needing to be paid, or tasks that need doing, or just making a grocery list.  If you are a paid caregiver, keeping track of tasks you do, but family may be unaware of, may help with future pay increases.

Journals can be a place for both positive and negative issues, concerns, habits.  They can be a record of events, memories, appointments, changes.  They can handle questions you have for the family, for God, for yourself.  Thoughts can be finished in them, thoughts you began during a moment of quiet.  Journals give unconditional acceptance and they offer silence.  You may be able to gain a new perspective, restore a bit of sanity too.  Journals offer a balance to this life when things seem and are hard.  It is a place to find joy or gratitude in a moment.  Praying can be calming and can be a reminder as to how and when God answered those prayers.  Writing poetry can be a creative outlet that may be much needed.  Even writing down recipes can give the family something new to try around the table.

Studies have found that journaling reduces anxiety and stress by giving some relief, allowing the journalist ability to handle some of life’s stresses far better.  They have found that there are less doctor visits, improved lung and liver function, lowered blood pressure, even a relief of some symptoms of asthma and Rheumatoid arthritis.  It can even lessen depression, and placing one in a better mood.

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52

Jesus spoke to the scribes who became His followers. The word scribe here refers to a clerk, public servant, secretary or recorder, possibly a teacher of the law.  As a scribe, and as we understand His word, the storehouse is filled with the treasures of this new creation that we continue to become, plus it can contain God’s truth, grace, salvation, and love.  We can draw from all as we write before our Creator!

If the mind of the care recipient still holds memories and they are able to communicate, let them write thoughts and feelings.  Journaling just might be good for them.  If they cannot write, but can tell you stories, you might be able to write their words as they tell you about their past.  If they ask over and over what day it is, you might have them journal every day the day of the week, the date, the weather, and even some of their feelings in a word or a few.  When they ask again what today is, draw them back to this journal.  Possibly with recall, they will be able to find this information on their own.  Using a journal to draw, scribble, or doodle can also be a way for them to release that creative spirit, even enjoy themselves for a few minutes (and give you a break as well).  I recently did a workshop on journaling and caregiving during National Caregivers’ Month.  We gave new, blank journals out to all there.  A caregiving wife gave her husband one of these journals and doodled some swirling lines on one page, then handed him a few crayons.  He completely lost himself in this activity.  As I wandered around the room after I finished talking, I saw that she had written on his completed page, “G… really enjoyed himself.”  She saw what this small activity had done for her husband and could possibly help her when she needed a few moments for herself or other duties.    

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”  Revelation 21:5

These are precise words to a prophet with a specific assignment, yet God can commission His children to write for His purposes.  God could have communicated with mankind in any way He pleased.  One way He chose is the written word.  Even if no one else ever sees the words you write, He may be using them for your edification, for your learning, to show You His love for you.  Do not shy away from using this tool.  Be open to His voice as He speaks to you through His Word and the words you place on the pages.

Father, as You walk with us through this journey of caregiving, show us why it is so important to express ourselves through the written word, through coloring or doodling.  I pray that we are able to place our lives in Your hands as You guide us to open floodgates or open pinholes of emotion, stress, duties, or familial relationships.  May our minds be set upon You as we lay the pen to the tablet.  Etch Your Words before us so that we stay close to You.  In the Name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.   

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I would like to share a few other resources with you.  Some may help with the journaling and others are may be a benefit in giving you islands of calm amidst chaos or stress:

Brackey, Jolene, Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia: A Journal for Caregivers, Fourth Edition

Boss, Pauline, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief

Carter, Rosalynn, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers

Free, Betty, Quiet Moments for Caregivers – Devotional and Worship Ideas for Care Givers and Care Receivers

Out of print but available online through used bookstores; excellent devotional.

Hughes, Holly J., Editor, Beyond Forgetting, Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease  (http://www.beyondforgettingbook.com)

Levine, Carol, Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving  (anthology of short stories and poems about family caregivers written by renowned authors and many others)

Mace, Nancy L. and Peter V. Rabins, The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, Fifth Edition (**I highly recommend this book for reference and important information.**)

Newmark, Amy and Angela Timashenka Geiger, Chicken Soup for the Soul-Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias, 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping, and Compassion

Rosenberger, Peter, Hope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit 

Sheehy, Gail, Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence

Two Years Ago

Dear Mama,

It has been two years on January 30th that you passed away and are with the LORD.  No matter how much I have moved along into tutoring three young children in reading and math, continue to blog, and have more time with my dear Kenneth, I STILL MISS YOU!  Can’t help it!

Mama @ Del Mar

You were a beautiful woman, inside and out.  You were fun and vivacious, smart and talented, headstrong and rather outspoken.  You lived close to me for the last fifteen years of your life.  You also lived with me in the late eighties when you came to Washington, D.C. while I was teaching first and kindergarten in the inner city.  You loved to come to school with me once a week and work with some of the children.  They called you Grandma and, of course, you thought that was the best.  The children looked forward to your regular visits.  And, of course, you loved D.C. for that was our last duty station before Daddy died.  You and Daddy were in that city when you found out that you were pregnant with me.  And you just loved the history and art that our nation’s capital offers.

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”  Exodus 20:12

After being gone from this life for two years now, the tough times — when you were ill, or fell, needing surgery and hospitalization, or when the dementia rattled your mind so terribly — those all seem to be fading in my mind and in my heart.  I recall more of our sweet moments than I do those hard ones, although those do still surface.  Just not so often or so harshly.

Mama (yes, I called you Mom from my early teenage years until the last couple of years of your life when you became “Mama” to me; seems to be the name I call you most often now too)… your love for me, and for all of your family, feels like your heart is wrapped around mine now.  You said some sweet and loving things to me at the end of your life that I cherish.  I just wrote about journaling and caregiving for Soli Deo Gloria Connections.  It is often through those journals that the exact words you said to me are pulled out and into my heart.  I am grateful that I took the time to write, often sitting at the side of your bed as you slept.

Listen to your father who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.  Proverbs 23:22

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Oh, Mama, you loved your baseball and the Chicago Cubs where you were born and raised.  You even came to enjoy the small town games of our minor league team for it was baseball and that is what you loved.   Mama, you even got me to these games.  You loved having this daughter (who really was not a baseball fan) to join you at the games!  (Actually, you can see that I was, truly was, having a good time!)

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In your last years, you had lost a lot of that vim and vigor, yet your heart still loved.  You loved the staff where you lived.  You loved many of those around you.  Most of all, you loved your three girls and our husbands, and your grandson.  Oh, Mama, you would love Parker Lily, your great granddaughter.  She is a dear child.  She would love you too.  You would love Zephyr’s beautiful wife, Kiki.  She is a good mother, Zeph a good daddy.  Nancy loves Kiki so much and is so happy for Zeph.  Kiki and Zeph dress Parker Lily like you would have dressed her…cute, classy, and beautifully.  Oh, I am so sorry you never met Kiki nor Parker Lily.  But you knew about your dear great granddaughter.  With the blown-up photos on your wall, you would touch little infant Parker’s, talking to her, calling her by name.

You also came to know the LORD for which I am ever grateful.  Mama, you are with Him and loving Him in all His Holiness.  I praise Him.

Mama, I needed to talk to you today.  To write this letter to you.  It barely covers any of my memories, but the most important thing I want to say is that I LOVE YOU!!!!!!   So much.

Your ~ linda lou

Thank You, LORD, for giving me this mother.  You have blessed me beyond my comprehension for I was loved by both of my parents.  I have missed my father for 54 years now, but even after all those years, the missing never stops.  The love I still feel from him has not stopped either.  You have given me life and family.  You have blessed me with knowing that Mama is with You.  O LORD, thank You.  Thank You.  I am forever grateful for Your laborers who were ready and went into Your harvest.  May I continue to walk the path that You have made for me with remembrance of my parents, honoring them.  I pray in the Name of Jesus.  Amen.