Friday, December 30, 2011

Saga Twenty-One

We spend Christmas Eve at Sally and Jake's church (since we don't have a Christmas eve service) and then went out to Dennys' with Sally and Jake for some Red Velvet Puppies/pie and decaf. My husband didn't remember trying on the great shirt I got him several months ago, and so it was a surprise gift.

Christmas morning we went to our church's regular worship. Many of the church family had their lunch at church and stayed there all day.  We went to my husband's daughter's home at 2 PM. There was another family member with dementia there and I spent time with him as if he didn't have dementia. So important.

Emotional eating when your husband has Alzheimer's. Dolores has lost weight and I am now dieting and losing. You can get to all kinds of programs for weight loss on the Internet. I chose Weight Watchers where I am a Life-Time member, not having to pay or attend all meetings. Weight Watchers has a great new program for 2012 called Point Plus 2012 and has on online program, excellent for caregivers who can't get out to a meeting. My meeting is 7 AM Saturday mornings--a better time for my husband to have me gone than an evening. Now this has meant for me what when my husband wants ice cream, as he often does, I don't have any. I think of my doctor's words to me,

"Carol, if you don't lose some weight and exercise,
you won't be able to be your husband's caregiver.
Forget the ice cream."

All the motivation I needed.  Plus people always ask us caregivers, "What are you doing for yourselves?" I am attending a Weight Watcher's meeting, and UGH, taking classes on counseling.

When people ask us what they can do for us caregivers, increasingly we need to say,  "Can you help me by scheduling time with my husband?" so that I can do something for myself. However, this is not needed yet as I can leave him at home with our devoted dog and he can call me on his cell. There will come a time when this won't work.

Sally really needs this time away from Jake, however. Recently he kept criticizing her driving and she told him it wasn't necessary and please stop. Well, Jake said I am getting out of the car then. He did and she saw where he went. She parked the car and then caught up with him and told him we need to go into Best Buy. That worked. I gave her this idea, to keep talking while she drives with him in the car and don't let him get a word in. Say things like, I see that car and I am preparing to stop. So far she  this tactic is helping his obsession about her driving and his not being able to drive. You just gotta deal with the husband's obsessions, one and a time.

When I have the time, I read a lot of Christian blogs and take especial note of counseling blogs since I am working on a seminary degree in counseling. These blogs aren't talking to caregivers, who one day may not even be able to attend a worship service. I am starting to be more vocal when I comment on those blogs that our churches need to minister to caregivers and those who have dementia. When that happens for me, fortunately, my church has Skype and I can listen from home. The blog that comes the closest to ministering to caregivers is Practical Shepherding.  This blog has categories for ministry to widows for example. I mentioned this need on another blog and got this response:
Carol, That is a huge area of counseling caregivers for those who are aging and experiencing physical and mental difficulties. Plus, counseling the aging...retirement, adjustment, loneliness, purpose, etc. Bob
Please, bloggers, pray for Sally and Jake. Also for Dolores who is facing putting her husband in a facility--heart wretching for this lovely lady, who is usually so positive. And have a Happy New Year. We are again spending an early New Year's Eve with Sally and Jake at our house, playing games, if it will work, with our husbands. I am serving a salad with chicken, but others can also have bread and ice cream. For the Southern New Years Eve with coconut oil go to this earlier site at the right.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

50 Lessons from Old People

To celebrate growing older, Regina Brett (now over 90)  once wrote the 45 lessons below that life taught her. She also added friends are the family that you choose. Some of those lessons are too late for me now. However at age 67 I am adding # 46-50, just for good measure.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Change the way you think.
4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. Release your children when they become adults; its their life now.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay check.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't mess up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Just because you believe you are right, doesn't mean you are. Keep an open mind.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. Your job is to love your children, not choose who they should love.
35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative--dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield..
45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.


46. This life is not all. We have eternity and need to put that in perspective. (like # 26 and #42)
47. Coconut oil is good for a lot that ails ya.
48. Stop kvetching. Rejoice.
49. Meditate on Scripture and good books and pray about every little thing.
50. Enjoy your holiday for what it is. It doesn't have to be perfect.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gifts for Caregivers and Those With Alzheimer's

At one time I was a widow and now I am a caregiver. I would rather be a caregiver than a widow, let me tell you. As someone said in our Alzheimer's Association support group yesterday, I am in my marriage for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death us do part. When I was a widow, however, someone did say to me, Carol, we want to help, but you will have to tell us how. The pastor sent people to the house to fix things then and I did ask for specific help. When you are a caregiver of a husband who has Alzheimer's, you are grieving the loss of skills and abilities that your husband once had. You are both married and a widow in a sense.

The gifts that I appreciate now are:
  • Help with the computer. Thanks, Dave, for always fixing our computers--yes even my husband's so he can see his Facebook photos and I can use the biblical resources on his computer. Thanks for helping me get my Nook hooked up on my computer.
  • The Lutheran youth group (not even my church) who will come here to weed.
  • My neighbors who notice and mow the yard.
  • Bob who put up our Christmas tree.
  • People who pray. Revelation 5 says that their prayers before God are like incense in a gold bowl.
  • People who e-mail or call and ask what can I do?
  • People who post on this blog.
A child's book, Giving, by  Shirley Perich, out of print I think, has a boy who receives $10 from his aunt. He says it will be fun to go shopping when it's all about me. Then his mother in the mall asks him, "How about shopping for Grandma or your best friend instead?" He buys candy for his grandparents--their favorite. He goes home and helps his dad shovel the snow and his mom cook and clean. From Giving:

My day started out boring
But ended up being fun.
Now I'm all tired out
From the things that I've done.
I know what I do
Shows my family I care
It's a pretty good feeling
To give and to share.

I am a guest blogger on another blog--that of Joe whose book I have reviewed here. I just posted (Dec. 14) quotes from Richard Taylor's book,  Alzheimer's from the Inside Out on his blog click here . One quote I will also share here:
I want to encourage, advocate, promote, and persuade you to think about being a "Best Friend" to the loved one in your life who has Alzheimer's disease. p. 241
You can visit
or call and talk with
your friend
who has Alzheimer's.
Tell them your name
so they don't have to ask. 
Post on Joe's blog, also.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saga Twenty

"Don't think about the future.
Just be here now.

Don’t think about the past.
Just be here now.”

― Ram Dass

Life is so fleeting. My dear friend who prayed for my husband's Alzheimer's has now gone on to be with our LORD. She prayed every day from her wheel chair for us while going downhill from Muscular Dystrophy. I am challenged to increase my prayer because of her. My friend was not her disease, neither is my husband his Vascular Dementia and Alzhiemer’s.

I want my husband to feel in control as long as possible. Richard Taylor in Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out writes:

" I vaguely recall a time when lots of people were coming to me
and asking for information and my opinion concerning things
other than myself or my disease." (p. 203) 

So it was that I asked DH if we could attend a memorial service Tuesday night , November 29th, for this dear friend of over thirty years. He said yes. His opinion counts and I didn’t know that he would have said yes—but he did. I canceled four days of substituting which along with trip expenses would put our budget back, but well worth it. We dropped our dog off at the kennel.

Monday we drove over 500 miles to Daphne, Alabama, just west of Mobile. I had not slept well during the night and got up to write a six page eulogy for my friend and so hubby did a lot of the driving that first day.

My friend had also been my bridesmaid. Although we only lived near each other for two years, we wrote and called after that and visited when we could. We would have fun cleaning each other's homes. The years rolled on by. When MD came into her life we e-mailed maybe once a month. She would write “I pray for you every day” at the end of her e-mails. Her only complaint about the MD was that she didn't have the muscles to smile any more.

She was to get one of my unusual gifts for her 66th birthday—a binder of my favorite Scripture. I enlarged the font size to 18 for her binder so she could read easily and she e-mailed Oct. 12th, our last communication, “I don't think I need 18 point font. Maybe something halfway between. Looking forward to my b. d. gift.”  She had her husband contact me to thank me for the gift. She was admitted to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital because her cough was not responding to antibiotics.

I called her hospital room and her husband put the phone up to her ear. “It’s gonna work out,” I said to her. “Either you will be with Jesus or He will help you go through this.” She did give me a faint reply so I knew we were communicating and agreeing. She died the day before turning 66, with MD taking over the muscles in her lungs.

During the trip my husband asked many times where we were going. Then Tuesday morning we arrived in Louisiana, having driven over 200 miles to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, our destination on the second day. We checked into our second Microtel and I checked my e-mail for word on my eulogy from my friend’s pastor. It turns out that my departed friend had scripted her own memorial service and my eulogy was too long. The pastor’s editor was cutting it down!

The memorial service was wonderful. My friend lived well and died well. She and her husband even traveled abroad with the wheel chair. She was always e-mailing about her four young granddaughters whom I met at the memorial service. With fourteen pages of hand written notes on her own memorial service, the program proceeded. First there were slides of her life before and after MD while the Prelude included “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”, “When We All Get to Heaven” and “How Great Thou Art”. The pastor read words from my friend, including jokes about heaven and Scripture. She had selected favorite hymns for us all to sing and a sermon he had preached in the past that she had him cut down to eight minutes by his staff editor who had edited me as well. I gave my eulogy as did others. The pastor read her “closing words” and then her “final closing words”. Unscripted: the pastor had us clap for her service which we did at the end.

Wednesday morning, the day after the memorial, in the spirit of my friend (live your life), my husband drove us from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. There was lots of traffic and it was stressful driving for DH. On the bucket list of my husband was the casino. The valet took our car and we decided we could have two hours in the place. He put $20 into a slot machine which he quickly lost. But an item on his “bucket list” had been checked off. We walked around and settled into a buffet for a brunch. Security guards with cages of money went by. We retrieved our car and I drove through the French Quarter letting my husband see the sights.

He had lots of questions on what state we were in and lots of comments that I didn’t make sense to him. What did make sense was to stay in our third Microtel in Marianna, FL. All the rooms are basically the same for an Alzheimer’s patient, and each hotel has a continental breakfast. Thursday morning frost was on the window of our car. We put the header on and waited until the windows cleared. Whenever it is cold in Florida, DH often quips “I think we should move to Florida!” It was best that I didn’t talk too much but just listen to him while I drove or he drove. Here is what he did say:

I will be so glad when I don’t drive anymore. I desire to be a passenger.

We picked up our dog and headed home. The next day I called State Farm Insurance and said we would just be one driver now.

I will miss my friend and will try to keep up
with the family and pray daily for them.