How Can We Support You?

Caregivers Count 365

My longtime friend, Monica, has early on-set dementia, and is in the late stage of the disease. She came to visit me this summer for a week but when it came time to go home she said “no!” I am happy to have her in my home and to do my best to give her dignity at the end of her life. Technically I am her caregiver but prefer to think of myself as her joyful companion. I am committed to this journey and want to continue to be an
encouragement to other caregivers. I am writing a devotional book called Caregivers Count 365 to help remind caregivers to take care of themselves while caring for their loved one. I have a special place in my heart for all who serve in this capacity. Blessings!

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CAREGIVERS COUNT 365

August 28

One of the most challenging situations that a caregiver can face is when your loved one is hospitalized.  A hospitalization can be confusing to everyone involved, the patient, the hospital staff, and the caregiver.  The patient is confused, disoriented and afraid. The change in environment, the disruptions and the new faces of the medical staff, not to mention coping with the medical procedures attempting to be performed, is frightening.   The staff comes to the patient with questions, which more often than not, they cannot answer effectively.  The staff is focused on obtaining information about the patient and creating and following treatment protocols quickly.  The caregiver is in the position of trying to be a support to their loved one and to the medical staff’s efforts to complete tasks.  The patient with dementia needs constant bedside support, which is provided most efficiently by family. Being present allows family to communicate the capabilities of your loved one. 

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.  As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  ─1 Peter 4:8-10

 

 

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August 27

As we progress in our caregiving journey, it is as if a new version of our self is ever emerging.  For example, the things that once caused us uncertainty and angst, we now discuss with experience and ease.  Our ability to bounce back after having had a really bad day is a testament to a level of strength that maybe we didn’t know we had.  When we allow ourselves to evolve and open up like a budding flower, we can see subtle changes that are constantly occurring in us.  The changes that we are experiencing come to us as a result of hard work, devotion, and a strong will.  We are all doing something for someone that we never dreamed we could accomplish.  Caregiving is the instigator of change in us as we pay our dues and continue on in our caregiving journey.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12

 

 

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August 26

Whenever the decision has been made to place your loved one in long term care, it is easy to only think of the impact of your loved one without regards to your own feelings.  If you are visiting your loved one on a regular basis and find yourself experiencing negative and uncomfortable feeling with one issue or another, it may be time to consider a change.  It is scary to think about moving a loved one because of the unknown.  The hope is that you would move your loved one and it would prove to have been worth all of the effort.  Using a hospitalization as a spring board for change can make the transition easier due to the break in services.  It will solve some problems and possibly create others but if it brings peace to your life it is worth it.   

 

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all time in every way.  The Lord be with you all.”  ─2 Thessalonians 3:16

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August 25

Sometimes life throws us such profoundly trying circumstances that we are temporarily stunned.  We get the prayer, the positivity, and the proverbial air knocked right out of us.  It feels as if we are frozen.  Time stands still and there are no words, no emotions, no fix, nothing.  When life sends us unmanageable moments our sense of connection with what is happening is not computing in our mind.  What we are experiencing is a contradiction of what we know and understand to be true about our life.  Our first instinct is to reject acceptance of the shock.   But then we realize we have to breathe and begin to try to be tender in our effort to wrap our brain around it bit by bit. Time and careful thought allows us to come back to our “right” mind and the present.  Prayerfully, the occurrence and the magnitude of these tragic life experiences will be few.   

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

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August 24

It’s always interesting to hear a caregiver share their remorseful themed feelings about using their money on themselves.  It is as if they have to convince themselves that it is OK to spend money on getting a massage or hiring someone to clean the house or mow the lawn even if they have the time and means to easily do so.  This reaction is actually the opposite of how we should be responding but it is all too common.  The way we choose to take care of ourselves today is also influencing the health of our future self.   If we want our body and mind to continue to function for us in a healthy way, we have to care for ourselves.  We care for ourselves by managing our thoughts, our time, and our money.  We need to continuously experience the feeling of relaxation, freedom, and rejuvenation. 

 

“That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”  ─Acts 3:20-21

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August 23

It seems like worry is a part of life, especially so for caregivers.  Worry is something that happens to us but also something that we do to ourselves.  Our thoughts lead us to experience more worry than we should have to endure.  When we cause ourselves to worry we suffer.  Self-induced misery is the worst kind of suffering.  When a thought comes to our mind we have a choice to extinguish it over and over or grow it.  Choosing to grow the thought to the point that we get stuck thinking about something can make us sick.  Good mental habits take effort but they are worth the investment. 

 

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  ─Proverbs 12:25

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August 22

It is common to want to share negative things that are happening in our lives.  Unknowingly, we could be doing ourselves more harm than good.  Although it’s not necessarily a bad thing for us to express ourselves, we could be keeping ourselves too attached to negativity for too long.  Speaking negative words repeatedly requires emotional energy.  As we speak we are keeping the story real and authentic, as if it just happened.  This repetition tells our brain to respond as if we are reliving traumatic experiences over and over.  This can cause us to stay stressed and could lead to feeling physically unwell.  Try to deal with how the negative incident is affecting you.  Typically we repeat our negative story as a way to communicate with others what has happened to us.  By trying to cope in a very public way we expose ourselves to the potential for receiving more negativity as others share their unfortunate experiences with us as well.  Quality coping and healing happens when we are still, quiet and alone.  

 

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.”  ─Psalms 62:5

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August 21

Have you ever woke up to take a realistic look at your life and realized that it was past time for a change?  Sometimes we look at our lives and feel as if all we’ve created is a mess.  You compare all the things you once could do to the way fewer things that you are realistically able to do now and feel disappointed.  Our ability to push ourselves the way we did when we were younger has decreased.  It is uncomfortable for us to see that our skills and abilities are declining.  A caregiver shared that within weeks of placing her father in a nursing facility she learned that she had late stage cancer.  Even though she is a caregiver who joins many other caregivers who became ill after having cared for a loved one, she is resolved.  Sometimes life presents us with very messy circumstances that lead us to choose to do what we can for others even at the cost of our own life.  We cannot go back and undo the love and support that we willingly offered to an ill parent, spouse or friend. Most of us would not change our choice to care even knowing it could cost us everything. 

 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”  ─Hebrews 13:16

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August 20

Everyone is afraid of something.  There are rational and irrational fears that caregiver’s battle.  Rational fears are fears that could actually happen.  For example, fearing that your loved one will fall down and get injured is a valid fear.  Irrational fears feel every bit as real but aren’t. They originate from our thoughts as we tell ourselves scary things that have no evidence to confirm them.  When we associate fear to our everyday caregiving tasks it causes us to doubt ourselves and lose confidence.  We make decisions on behalf of our loved one on a regular basis.  Making decisions out of fear can lead to setting up an overly cautious life for our loved one and us.  When we limit their freedom we may not realize it but we limit our freedom as well.  Unfortunately, when we delay addressing our fears they can over take us.  Choosing to address our fears and concerns as they occur keeps our fear level at a more manageable place. 

 

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  ─Psalm 34:4

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August 19

When we are responsible for the care of our loved ones financial, physical, medical, nutritional, personal, emotional, spiritual, and recreational needs, the opportunity for disappointment is a likely occurrence.   Unexpected stressors occur and have the potential to cause us to feel let down, overwhelmed, disappointed and hurt.  There is always a reason for the things that happen.  We have to be open to accepting new opportunities for personal growth when these disappointing times present themselves.  One of the hardest things for us to do is work our way past hurt feelings.  Sometimes the way we view our situation is too limited.  Our purpose in our caregiving life requires more than merely surviving.  We must remember to care for ourselves by shifting our focus away from the intensity of the hurtful moment long enough for us to gain a new perspective.  Sometimes the quality of our life depends on it. 

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”  ─Psalm 51:10-12

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August 18

One of the most vital lessons we can learn along the caregiving experience is to stop approaching life as if we are able to fix everything.  Caregivers want to believe that, with tremendous effort, we can fix things that we cannot control.  It’s important to allow ourselves the freedom to step back from circumstances that will only serve to deplete us of our energy and peace.  Make every effort to refrain from engaging in family disputes and drama that possibly has been going on in some families for decades.  Maintaining a distance from confusion and negativity will keep discouragement at bay.  It would be to our advantage to keep our lives simple by keeping our focus on the care of our loved one.

 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”  ─Romans 12:9

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August 17

When caregivers share stories about their loved ones with dementia calling them mean names and accusing them of doing things that were not true, they do so with amazing resolve.  They admit that in the beginning, these difficult behaviors were shocking and easy to personalize.  But as time went on they grew to accept the behaviors because they understood that it was the disease and not their loved one.  The caregivers were able to respond with maturity because it was vital for them to preserve the relationship and to protect their connection with their loved one.  Even though the caregivers experienced anger, fear and felt wounded, they realized that they possessed the resiliency to withstand the changes taking place in their loved one.  They were able to find a place within themselves that allowed them to embrace one of the most uncertain of circumstances.    

 

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”.   2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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August 16

It is such a helpless feeling to hear someone say the words, “I just never dreamed that things could be like this!”  Those words speak volumes about someone’s truth.  It represents a long period of time of having tried very hard to make things better for someone else’s benefit.  It represents a selfless investment of effort, time, energy and resources into the belief that with this investment, things will be different.  Prior to those words being spoken aloud, they were felt and expressed silently a million times from within.  Once spoken, it makes it all real.  We see things for what they truly are, rather than the way we hoped they could be.  It is the moment when we realize that we have made so many choices on behalf of the betterment of others that we have compromised our own welfare.  We cry and mourn over this because we are sad, disappointed, confused and lost.  Where we once had a direction and a hope, we are left with having to accept the fact that all of our efforts were for a season.  As a gift to ourselves, we can honor that investment without regret and we can accept that we did the best we could. 

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”   ─Philippians 3:13

 

 

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August 15

Whenever difficulty presents itself, we are challenged to cope and accept it because we are not able to control it or keep it from happening.  If we allow our thinking to become distorted we won’t push ourselves to look at the situation for what good could come from it.  We become fixed in our thinking and create negative habits for ourselves by believing that nothing good could occur from hardship, disappointment and loss.  If we allow the hurtful experiences of the past to dictate misery in our present, because we are overwhelmed and tired of bad things happening, it is not beneficial to our well-being.  We deserve to have peace in our lives and one way to ensure it happens is to begin by believing that beauty can come from ashes.   

 

“To grant to those who mourn in Zion─ to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;  that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  ─Isaiah 61:3

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August 14

When things are going great for caregivers they will say “I am waiting for something to go wrong because things are going so well right now.”  It is easy for us to get accustomed to our circumstances being so difficult that we lose site of the fact that things can go great for us as well.  The fears that we have and the struggle that we are in keeps us from realizing that maybe the “bad stuff” has already happened.  We don’t have to live in constant fear that our lives will always be filled with problems just because we have experienced our fair share of hardships in the past.  Sometimes we can acknowledge that we have been carrying a load of suffering for far too long and we need to lay it down.  We can actively choose to experience life in a more balanced way.  Choosing to live a balanced life means that even though we experience sorrow (the lows) and elation (the highs), we return to a balance of approaching every day as if these are our best days. 

 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ─Psalms 16:11

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August 13

As a caregiver, don’t you wish you could perform at the high standard that your mind is constantly replaying?  Self-condemning thoughts like, I should wake up earlier or I should have cleaned before I went to bed; Do I have to keep doing this over and over? Why is everyone so mean to me?  Do your best to build yourself up rather than tear yourself down.  Any time that you catch yourself thinking and talking as if you are a victim of your own circumstances, you are devaluing yourself.  Your intention is to finish your caregiving journey with a sound mind and a sound body.  If you continuously lose focus on what your mission is you will lose yourself along the way.  If you feel that you have already lost the person you were or the person you wanted to be at this point in your life, it’s never too late to save yourself!  Make yourself open to receiving more of the good things that life has to offer.  Refrain from allowing yourself to live in a constant state of self-condemnation.  Do not over identify yourself with your situation or with your loved one to the point that you become the patient.  Don’t lose your ability to see yourself as a completely separate person from your loved one and your role as a caregiver.  Come to see yourself in a new and more acceptable way. 

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”               ─2 Timothy 2:15

 

 

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August 12

Whenever your loved one is in need of services, it is a challenge to navigate choosing companies that are a best fit for their needs.  My friend with dementia had a dental issue and I just happened to meet a nice woman who was visiting residents in the nursing home while working as a dental assistant with a company who offers contract on site dental services.  She educated me on the benefits of the dental program but neglected to inform me of the monthly cost.  She said it was “free to me” because the “government would pay for it”.  That was a “red flag” because after probing further, the fee was over two hundred dollars a month!  I declined signing my friend up for the program because supporting companies with this kind of business practice feels as if I’m doing something wrong.  If at all possible, make sure to do your “homework” when it comes to securing services for your loved one.

“Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”  ─1 Peter 2:17

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August 11

When a caregiver has been faithfully caring for their loved one for an extended length of time it profoundly changes their life.  Once you have experienced the feeling of being entrenched in caregiving, possibly for years, one does not realize the physical and mental toll that is occurring.  Sometimes it can take years to recover from the depths of exhaustion that results from having been a full time caregiver.  We battle ourselves because we are not able to return to the person we were when our caregiving journey began.  The burden of it all can make us feel uncertain about how to go on with our lives.  Caregiving can stunt our growth as an individual, as it is an experience like no other.  Even though we wouldn’t change our caregiving experience for anything, we cannot deny that it is the most challenging thing that we have ever committed to.   

 

“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”  ─John 9:4

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August 10

Families never know how dementia will impact their loved one.  Caregivers caring for their loved one sometimes have to step down from that role because their loved one has rejected them.  As people with dementia are moving back in time they can mistakenly convince themselves that their current caregiver is someone from the past that they never liked.  They are very convincing and seem to have endless energy with regards to standing their ground.  They are delusional by believing that they need to protect themselves from that person.  They accuse their caregiver of doing and saying things that never happened.  Families would benefit from, if at all possible, assigning a new caregiver sooner rather than later, someone that the person with dementia will accept.  This unfortunate circumstance can be very hurtful for family members and the person with dementia.  Endless hours spent trying to get matters resolved is stressful.  When given no other viable option, other than replacing the current caregiver, deescalating the situation and moving forward is the answer. 

 

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious.”  ─1 Peter 2:4

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August 9

The most unexpected moment of joy occurs whenever you witness someone else enjoying life as if no one was watching.  People with dementia tend to have a childlike quality that allows them to laugh, sing and dance with unbridled excitement and sincerity.  They seem to lose the fear of scrutiny and judgment that comes from society norms that serve to keep our behaviors in check.  Many caregivers can become uncomfortable with behaviors that could be viewed as being socially unacceptable.  Caregivers fear being embarrassed by their loved one’s behavior and instead of focusing on their happiness in the moment, they try to hold them back by over correcting them.  If your loved one is happy, no matter what, enjoy it!

 

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  ─Romans 12:12

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August 8

The experience of making friends with people through adversity is always a unique and interesting encounter.  Meeting others while enduring medical treatments or while waiting in the waiting room at the hospital feels like every ones paths crossed at the right time and place.  Friendships can be found through the most challenging of circumstances.  Families coping with difficult medical diagnoses, or the management of a special needs family member coping with chronic physical or mental disabilities, would benefit from the support of a friend.  If we have had the misfortune to have experienced adversity but made a friend along the way, we are blessed.  Even if we are only briefly connected to these people, it’s as if we are angels ministering to one another in our moments of need.  Watch, wait and receive the blessings that can come through people.

 

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”   ─1 Thessalonians 5:11

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August 7

It seems that when caregivers are feeling burned out, something good happens and it breathes new life into their perspective.  One caregiver shared that she was experiencing an off day, one where she just couldn’t get going.  At just the right moment, when she was at her lowest point, her husband, who has dementia, walked up to her and said “Thank you”.  She was so moved and emotional because her husband’s appreciation meant so much.  Another caregiver said that he was feeling over extended and stressed and noticed that he was responding to others in an agitated way.  When asked the question, “What are you going to do about that”?  He said, “I have to do something because I am so burned out”!  Many caregivers don’t know what to do because they can’t see any relief in sight.  It’s easy to recommend engaging in pleasant activities but each of us has to realize what it is that helps us feel better.  It may be surprising for us to learn what lifts a dark cloud from us but we have to at least try.

 

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”    ─Isaiah 40:29

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August 6

Unfortunately, when you place your loved one outside of the home and visit them regularly, there is the temptation to constantly be on high alert to confirm that our loved one is receiving the best care.  Long term care facilities can experience high turnover of primary care providers, making staff changes a constant.  It seems that just when you get comfortable with someone who is caring for your loved one, they leave their job.  As caregivers, even though we are no longer performing the majority of the care tasks, we are still responsible for making sure that our loved ones are safe and healthy.  Where this becomes problematic is when the new staff makes mistakes with our loved one by causing an injury or not knowing our loved one well enough to detect the new onset of health issues.  This can lead to anxiety because we feel the need to hover like a helicopter to ensure their safety.  Our minds cause us to fear the worst.  This fear leads to constant worry as we realize that we cannot control everything that impacts our loved one.  Rely on the strong relationship that you have with your loved one to detect changes in their attitude or behavior.  Try to continue to maintain the most calm and peaceful demeanor because that’s what is best for you.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”  ─Psalm 56:3-4

 

 

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August 5

I hear this phrase from caregivers too frequently, “I wish I could do more,” and it’s always delivered with a defeated look and a sad tone of voice.  I believe caregivers when they say they wish they could do more because most people that are very giving towards others sincerely wish that they could do more.  There never seems to be quite enough time, money or opportunity to do everything that we want for others.  Feeling regret is optional because you could choose to see the situation differently.  Maybe you are selling yourself short by failing to realize that you may not be able to give someone a financial gift but you can give them the gift of friendship by listening, sharing your wisdom, praying and possibly giving of your time.  Even if we are not the one who is able to meet the immediate need, sometimes someone else can and will step in at just the right time to help.  Help others when you can and when you cannot, accept it by stepping aside to allow their faith to grow and mature. 

 

“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”  ─Hebrews 6:10

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August 4

It causes us so much suffering when we have poor boundaries.  By allowing people from our past to continue to have access to our present lives, more often than not, it is a mistake.  Even though we know this person should not be involved in our life, we allow them access to us because we feel guilty, especially if they were there for us when we were at a low point in our lives.  This may seem tough, but that person may not be good for you anymore and could hold you back from completely moving on with your life.  Sometimes our paths cross with other people who share our same level of misery and our combined unfortunate circumstances are actually what end up bonding the two of you together.  Do yourself a favor and learn to see yourself as a new person, someone who has matured and grown as a person.  Stay in the present and don’t compromise all the success that you have worked hard to achieve.  Acknowledge the people in your past for the purpose they served at that time and let them go. 

 

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  ─Isaiah 43:18-19

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August 3

It is tempting to escalate hurt feelings, to resentment, then to hate.  Hating someone serves as a quick fix for us to immediately be able to separate ourselves emotionally from someone. When you find yourself developing an attitude of hate, recognize the warning signs of feeling overwhelmed or stressed.  Put your energy and efforts in to developing boundaries that allow you to detach from others or circumstances causing you pain.  Resorting to hatred joins you to the person rather than detaching you from them.  To hate someone you have to possess the qualities of self-hate, guilt, and judgment.  Take action by developing healthy boundaries and protecting yourself by directing your thoughts to more positive ways of thinking and responding.   

 

“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”  ─Proverbs 25:26

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August 2

I’m not sure why, but it seems that we learn the most about ourselves during our loved ones darkest of hours.  We never know when our loved one will take their last breath so, even when times are especially challenging, continue to be open to learning and receiving.  It seems impossible to believe, given that our loved one is gravely ill, that we could continue to learn new things about ourselves, but it happens.  The best part about being with our loved one when they are imminent is that we can hopefully experience closure on some long overdue issues that we have carried with us for so long.  Be willing to “lay down” any unfinished mental and emotional baggage and stop suffering.  When open ended memories or questions come full circle and we experience clarity, accept it.  Years of developing habits where we carried unresolved issues can become resolved.  Once this happens, be grateful and move on.  

 

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”  ─Psalm 19:7

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August 1

Weathering the storms of life as a caregiver is not for the faint of heart.  There are many kinds of storms that we encounter but the worst is the kind that occurs when we allow other people to lure us into the drama of their life.  Everyone has a need and a story to go with it.  Caregivers are “magnets” to people in need and people who are suffering.  We need to resist the belief that we, and our resources, are totally accessible to others.  When people are desperate, they reach out for support from anyone who will meet their immediate need, even if that person is already over extended with their current caregiving responsibilities.  Set boundaries for yourself and how far you are willing to extend yourself when asked for more and more.  It’s OK to say NO!  In fact, it’s appropriate!  If you make a habit of giving and giving to the point of becoming irreversibly depleted, this is the worst form of self-induced misery.  You are fully equipped to weather the storms of your own life but not everyone else’s. 

 

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  ─Romans 13:8

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July 31

When a loved one becomes ill to the point where family members have shared responsibilities, frustrations can surface.  Each family functions as a system so when that system becomes stressed, the system begins to break down.  When families must come together to discuss issues about where the loved one should live, medication management, driving issues, and the list goes on, disagreements can occur.  Families struggling with this kind of impasse can seek support from a licensed professional counselor, social worker or community agency staff.  Professionals that specialize in working with families and patients with dementia have experience and knowledge about how to help families find a “new normal”.  Professionals can educate family members on the unique care needs that their loved one has and lead the family in discussions that can help reduce the burden from the primary caregiver.  Family meetings are helpful in increasing everyone’s understanding about the disease and discussing the importance of self-care.  Family meetings allow for everyone’s needs to be expressed and their strengths to be identified so that everyone can work together for the betterment of their loved one.

 

“Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  ─Ephesians 5:21 

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July 30

Communicating with someone with dementia is understandably challenging given their diminishing verbal skills, but communicating with them when their former first language reappears makes it even more difficult.  When they revert to speaking in their native language, it is a surprise to caregivers.  As dementia patients move back in time, even if they have been speaking English for many years, they can revert back to their language of origin.  This can be very frustrating for caregivers and requires great patience.  Caregivers will need to be creative in their efforts to understand what their loved one is saying.  Try to evaluate their body language and facial expressions for clues as to what they are trying to say.  Repeat what you think they are saying in an effort to get them to start speaking in English again.  Try to remember that it is the disease and not the person deliberately trying to be annoying.

 

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.”  ─Psalms 119:130

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July 29

Never under estimate the influence of music and its beneficial use with dementia patients.  It is a powerful tool to improve anyone’s mood and stress level, especially with regards to dementia patients.  Music is also a way for dementia patients to demonstrate their ability to still connect even if they are no longer conversational.  Caregivers can use music with their loved one in an effort to entertain and have fun, to reduce agitation, to distract, to lighten the mood and to reduce stress.  One of the best feelings a caregiver can experience is to be able to turn a negative moment into a positive one with the use of something as simple as music.  It feels so good to hear a song that you haven’t heard in a long time and to think about a memory or event that you had when that song was popular.  It is great to hear soothing rhythms that allow your physical body to relax and unwind.  Understanding the use of music and the importance of incorporating it into your daily care routine benefits you and your loved one.

 

“Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praise.”  ─James 5:13

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July 28

It is difficult for caregivers to care for a loved one who does not want to be cared for and who is known for treating others in an unkind way.  How lonely it must be to care for someone who does not have many positive relationships with people, and even less now that they are ill.  To make the situation more challenging for the caregiver, typically when a person with a difficult personality gets sick, they can become even more difficult.  This places the caregiver at risk for abuse.  It also places the loved one at risk for early placement into long term care.  In addition, it is a challenge to find support for caregivers because the loved one won’t accept it.  These situations are risky and troublesome because there is no peace. 

 

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”  ─Isaiah 12:2

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July 27

It is amazing whenever an unlikely caregiver agrees to take on the care of another person.  These caring people realize that they are “chosen” and not just because there’s no one else to step into the role, but because they want to do it.  It’s like jumping into the “deep end” because you have no idea what you are committing to and for how long, but you accept the challenge anyway.   Even though the person you are caring for may still be somewhat independent, you realize that you are agreeing to become the primary decision maker for another person.  The task of making decisions for or on behalf of another person is complicated because the issues that require attention range from the simple day-to-day choices to the complex end-of-life decisions.  The person that takes on the caregiver role for another person, who is likely not even a blood relative, is surprisingly “fully equipped” to get the job done.

 

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  ─Romans 15:7

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July 26

It is easy to believe and take for granted that everyone that becomes ill has someone to care for them but that’s not always the case.  Some people are stubborn to the point of their own detriment as they continuously reject offers of help.  When someone chooses to suffer alone, no one wins.  It is hard for family and friends to stand by helplessly hoping that the sickness will go away or the person will change and receive support.  People say “When they get low enough, they will ask for help.”  Unfortunately, some people’s “low” is beyond all imaginable depths.  Past hurts and disappointments, along with pride keep miracles from occurring.

 

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  ─Colossians 1:17

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July 25

I would like to encourage anyone who knows of someone who is a caregiver to do something nice for them.  Acts of kindness go so far in showing appreciation.  If you ask a caregiver if you can do something to help them they will likely tell you “no.”  If you act on your thought of doing something, they can’t refuse.  It is a challenge for caregivers to receive assistance so expect resistance.  I have been blessed by a sweet people who regularly sends me cards, call or text me, bring me fountain diet cokes, gift cards, cupcakes, money to use to splurge on something new for my friend . . . the list goes on.  Little gestures make all the difference.

 

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”  ─Acts 20:35

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July 24

I hope there will come a day when you, as a caregiver, feel rested and that your physical and mental resources have replenished to the point that you feel able to invest in your own life.  When you are in a caregiving role, a part of your life is on hold, making it almost impossible to invest time and effort in meeting your wants and needs.  When the opportunity presents itself and you are able to do something for yourself, seize it.  Do something that you always wanted to do but were too afraid to do it.  Following through, by pursuing long awaited goals and desires, makes you stronger.  Putting yourself first may feel awkward and the people in your world may not fully appreciate the “new” you.  Sometimes the only way for a caregiving person to know and confirm that they are caring for themselves is to; unfortunately, witness those around them responding with disappointment.  Get comfortable with disappointing others because you’re worth it.

 

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”  ─Song of Solomon 4:7

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July 23

It is amazing to see how much caregivers can do with so little.  Caring for someone with dementia is costly.  It is a “teams” worth of work performed by one person.  Caregivers know this and as a result become very resourceful in obtaining what they need to efficiently care for their loved one.  They search on-line to find affordable supplies and other resources.  They utilize community agencies and churches to assist with resources like respite care, meals, medical equipment, medication and transportation assistance.  Caregivers worry about money.  They worry that there will not be enough, even if they have saved money, because the fear that there is never enough is always present.  If at all possible, don’t be resistant in accepting support of any kind.  You need it, so do the easiest thing, accept it.  The role of caregiver creates great determination within us to get what our loved one needs.  Take it one step further and apply some of this determination to set up your life in a way to where your needs are met as well.  Be determined to stay focused on what you need to STOP doing that is making your life harder, what you need to START doing to make your life easier and what you need to KEEP DOING to stay happy, healthy and whole.

 

“Which is why I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”  ─2 Timothy 1:12

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July 22

A phrase that I commonly hear caregivers say is “All of this happens to me and nobody cares!”  This is when I get the feeling that the caregiver is in need of more support and a break, but mostly a new perspective.  Whenever we are feeling “used up” and depleted, we secretly hope and wish someone would “just know” how we are feeling.  Most of the time, we are strong and capable and don’t often require additional support, but sometimes WE are the ones in need.  We have to realize that not everyone can relate to our situation and the stress that occurs as a result of caregiving.  The truth of the matter is that there is not always an “audience” for what is bothering us.  In that moment, realize that you can’t wait for others to understand.  You have to be able to audit yourself, know what your needs are and save yourself.

 

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”  ─2 Corinthians 3:5

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July 21

One of the best, although not the easiest, ways to care for your loved one at home is to invite other family members to move in.  Having multigenerational family members living under one roof takes cooperation and sacrifice but it can be done.  Adult children move in with their parents to care for their needs.  Parents move in with their grown children and share space and care responsibilities with them.  Living under one roof with different ages of family members requires patience and a workable plan to honor privacy, care responsibilities and shared financial obligations.  Moving in together under challenging circumstances do to a loved one’s declining health, will add stress to the family.  Open communication and on-going family meetings will help.  Flexibility is important as the living situation changes over time.  Multigenerational living is not for everyone but families that opt in can work together to build a balanced life.

 

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”  ─Titus 3:5

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July 20

Caregiving requires that caregivers continue to build confidence and to grow in maturity.  One thing that caregivers can do to build their self-confidence is to both give and receive compliments.  If someone tells you that you are doing a great job, accept it without saying something negative about yourself or down playing your strengths.  Even if you experience moments of insecurity, bounce back by acknowledging that there may be areas where a more mature response, versus a reactive response, is needed.  Some areas that tend to trip up caregivers are a negative thought life, the ability to cope with stress and possessing the confidence to effectively problem solve.  If you want things to change for the better, do the hard thing by addressing your issues. 

 

“Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”  ─1 Corinthians 14:20

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July 19

If and when the time comes that you have to place your loved one outside of your home, please know that you cannot be prepared for the impact that it will have on you.  It is a challenge for caregivers to move into a more surrogate caregiver role.  It is especially difficult as you watch the staff become your loved ones support.  It is hard to leave your loved one after each visit because thoughts of what you think they must be thinking of you flood the mind.  There are feelings of guilt because we are the ones that placed them and we are the ones who get to come and go.  This experience is heartbreaking as dementia robs families of so much. 

 

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  ─Psalm 34:18

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July 18

People with dementia can pick out the strangest clothing combinations if left to choose on their own.  Some caregivers are not bothered by mixed matched items but some are.  If you are one who gets frustrated by your loved ones interesting clothing choices, try to decrease their wardrobe.  The fewer the choices they have to make the better.  If weeding out rarely used or out of season clothing helps keep your loved one performing independently, it is a win for everyone.  Set up their environment in a way that promotes success for them.  Organize their clothes, shoes, pajamas, and under garments so that they can find what they need with the least amount of effort and decision making. Label drawers with easy to read signage to help assist them in locating what they need.  Allow them to do what they can do for as long as they can do it. 

 

“For God is not a God of Confusion but of peace.”  ─1 Corinthians 14:33

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July 17

Loneliness can become a challenge for caregivers.  One can never predict when feelings of loneliness will overcome us.  There are times in everyone’s life when we experience feeling lonely, but for caregivers, feelings of loneliness can be so profound that they negatively impact our mental and physical well-being.  As our loved ones progress in their disease, they become more “quiet” in terms of their ability to effectively communicate.  It is at this time that caregivers may notice how long they are going without engaging in meaningful conversation.  Over time, it seems that as our loved ones go more into their own world, that we also express ourselves less verbally.  Every situation is different but as the talking gets less, the physical exertion needed to care for our loved one increases.  It gives new meaning to the phrase “A little less talk and lot more action.” 

 

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

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July 16

When is the last time you went to the doctor?  I recently met a caregiver who admitted that it had been ten years since she had been to see her doctor!  Caregivers who neglect themselves by not going to the doctor are doing themselves a great disservice.  If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, your health is already at risk.  Protecting your health by taking the time to see your dentist and primary care physician is important.  Assess your needs and begin trying to meet those needs as soon as possible.  Ignoring symptoms is risky because conditions can turn into diagnoses. For example, I knew a caregiver that ignored symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.  He did not want to take time off work and as a result, he delayed going to the doctor because he was too busy.  By the time he saw his physician, he was struggling to swallow and ended up being diagnosed with advanced stage throat cancer.  Don’t delay by making excuses-see your doctor.  

 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  ─Romans 12:1

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July 15

There is no doubt about caregiving and its ability to trigger frustration and stress.  In order for us to be able to make it through each day, happy and sane, we have to think in a way that reduces our ability to be triggered.  Our “fuse” for the trigger has to become shorter not longer.  In order for us to become frustrated and stressed, we usually have to combine another emotion with it.  For example, if your loved one makes a mess and you respond strongly out of frustration, it’s likely because you were already upset by a totally other issue.  This causes you to over react by responding with too much intensity.  Once you become upset, your loved one could get upset, and you will probably be able to let it go long before you loved one will.  Try not to complicate events by allowing the flood of emotions that resulted from other stressors interfere with the quality of emotional care that you know you can offer.

 

“For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”  ─Romans 10:10

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July 14

It is heartbreaking for couples who realize, that after being married to each other for decades, one could become sick and one could become the caregiver.  There are some marriages that are just so special that it is difficult to imagine that anyone else could have also been so fortunate to have been able to be married to the love of their life.  Once the caregiving is complete and your loved one has passed away, it is so difficult to recover, especially in the beginning.  The initial part of the grieving process begins by allowing yourself to recover physically.  Your body has been taxed to its extreme.  Keeping our bodies  at a high level of stress for an extended amount of time places us at risk for adrenal exhaustion.  The emotional impact of your loved one being gone can happen later in the grieving process.  It is important to not put pressure on yourself and to forgive yourself of any guilt.  Relearning how to live your life in the absence of your spouse will be the test of a lifetime. 

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and do fulfill the law of Christ.  ─Galatians 6:2

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July 13

It is easy to believe that, because of our caregiving responsibilities, we are not living up to our potential.  Actually, our caregiving is performed in addition to all of the other extraordinary parts of our lives.  To do all of the things that we do, our lives already possess the utmost in courage, perseverance, and wisdom.  Even though we may feel as if our lives have hit a place of stagnation, we are not the sum of our feelings.  There will be days where we may feel that what we have done has little to no meaning, but if nothing else, it meant the world to at least one person.  Stay connected to the parts of yourself that has the most meaning to you, the parts that demonstrate your character, devotion and love of life for yourself and others.  Caregiving is by no means our finish line.

 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  ─James 1:12

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July 12

When caring for your loved one day after day, their declining physical changes are occurring over time.  Because we see our loved one so frequently, we may not notice subtle changes that are happening.  However, when family and friends come to visit, it is important to realize that they may respond with overwhelming emotions.  It is hard to fully understand and appreciate how disease is impacting someone just by discussing their health challenges over the phone.  You can enhance the quality of visits by ensuring that your loved one looks their best by grooming and dressing them in bright cheerful colors.  You can provide support and encouragement by keeping the conversation light and upbeat in the event that there are awkward moments created by a visitor needing to cry or express sadness.  People with dementia easily discern negative emotions so adding support and structure to visits, by having conversation starters, helps everyone feel more comfortable.   

 

“Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  Let him sing praise.”  ─James 5:13

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July 11

If you ever have the opportunity to participate in a virtual dementia tour, do it. The purpose is to provide a “real life” simulation of what it is like for people with dementia to experience vision and fine motor decline.  If you were to take a pair of swimming goggles and occlude the lenses to where you could only see a narrow slit in the center and then color in the clear part of the sides of the lenses with a highlighter, this is how someone with dementia sees the world.  Dementia’s impact on peripheral vision, along with retinal thickness, is debilitating.  Caregivers have to be aware so that modifications to your loved ones environment can be made to meet the changing needs of their declining vision.   

 

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent.”  ─Acts 18:9

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July 10

Caregivers tend to resist being told that they need to lie to their loved one because it goes against the morals and values that they have worked towards honoring.  Withholding truth from someone with dementia, in order to protect their feelings or to prevent negative acting out behaviors, can be a useful tool.  The kind of lying that works with dementia patients is not the same kind of lying where you are trying to get away with something or trying to cheat them.  If you are someone who is an absolute thinker then lying to your loved one will not be something you will likely be open to doing.  But if you are able to reframe “lying” in your mind and view it in two distinct forms of behavior, this way of thinking could serve you well from a caregiver stand point.  An example of this could occur when your loved one asks questions about a deceased parent.  In that moment, you have a choice.  You can respond to them by telling them the whole, uncensored truth by saying that their parent is dead and that they have been gone for many years.  Or you could choose to protect them by telling them something that is more discretionary and comforting like, “I’m not sure about that right now but I believe they are just fine.” Following the verbal response by distracting them to change the subject is effective.

 

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 

─1 John 1:7 

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July 9

I spoke with a long distance caregiver who is planning to visit his mother, who lives alone in another state and is struggling with memory related issues.  The caregiver expressed concern about his upcoming visit because the recent calls with his mother have not been going well.  He has a suspicion that her memory is worsening but whenever he tries to discuss his concerns with her she responds with anger and is defensive.  She states repeatedly that she is fine and that she is able to take care of herself.  We discussed a few possible ideas that could assist in making his visit more enjoyable and productive.  To create more peace of mind once he has returned home, I encouraged him to consider making a doctor’s appointment for when he is visiting so that he can go with her and discuss any concerns he has.  I encouraged him to take her a gift because setting up the initial greeting in a positive way can have a significant impact.  I suggested that he address any safety issues in her home.  He should consider meeting with her friends, neighbors and any others who support her.  Her friends should be his friends so that he can contact them to check on her in case he is unable to reach her.  There are ways to help our loved ones without appearing too intrusive but gives us peace of mind.

 

“For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.”  ─Colossians 2:5

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July 8

Caregivers struggle so much with taking on more than any one person can handle.  I met with a woman who, when describing her life, shared details of how she has caregiving responsibilities for her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, all while working a full time job.  She spends a lot of her free time talking to them and solving problems over the phone; she takes them to the doctor and helps with errands.  It seems as if caregiving can too easily get layered and layered.  Even if duties increase in a subtle way over time, once you realize that you’re too extended, take action to get more support.  Delegate a task to someone else.  Let another family member or friend assist with a doing an administrative task or a care task.  Only offer what you can do for others that does not result in your feeling used up or over extended. 

 

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  ─James 4:1

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July 7

One of the most risky situations for a caregiver can occur if the caregiver were to become afraid of their loved one.  When caregivers lose their ability to feel comfortable with their loved one, do to their loved one’s acting out behaviors, their loved one is at risk for placement.  They could fear that their loved one will hit, yell, curse, run away, lie or accuse them of stealing.  Caregivers have to realize the importance of protecting themselves and learning how to de-escalate potential conflicts.  Remember to not take negative acting out behaviors personally. Have a safety plan in place for situations that arise if your loved one were to become physically aggressive.   Eliminate environmental triggers that could be contributing to your loved ones negative behaviors.  Be careful of your word choices.  Listen to their words and show empathy.  Be positive.  Don’t argue by agreeing with your loved one if at all possible.  Don’t acknowledge false accusations.  Remind your loved one that you are on their side.  Tell them that you understand that they are upset, and that you are here to help.  Be part of the solution by not making the situation worse.  Do your best to stay calm and to help your loved one calm down and relax.

 

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”  ─Romans 12:18

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July 6

I saw a caregiver, who was caring for her spouse with mid stage early onset dementia,  set up activity “stations.” She thought of the things that her husband enjoyed doing throughout his life and set up designated areas for him to access these items.  He was a former musician who once played guitar and even though he could no longer play she knew he found pleasure in music.  So, she purchased a set of different “bongo” type drums and placed them together in a corner where he could play.  As he beat the drums, especially as she cheered him on, he was happy.  It was also good exercise for his hands and arms.  She set up an art station for him to paint and even though his paintings weren’t anything like they once were, they were spectacular in a new way.  She had a make shift “repair” area where he could use tools to tinker with things that he believed he was really repairing for her.  “Repairing” door knobs and small appliances was another opportunity to praise him as he felt he was contributing by helping her.  Placing these stations in her kitchen allowed her to accomplish tasks while he occupied himself and while she could see him.  Such a creative idea!

“Do not neglect the gift you have…”   ─1 Timothy 4:14

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July 5

When taking a professional photograph, a photographer has to see a subject’s negative features so that he or she can focus on capturing their positive ones.  Caring for someone with dementia is similar.  Clinically, we have to see how our loved one is declining in their skills and abilities.  But personally, it is better for our loved one if we interact with them based on what we see they can do.  When we look at our loved one and can work with them based on their strengths, everyone will be happier.  Speaking to them in a positive way takes effort and patience but it’s worth it.  Catching them doing good and telling them how proud you are of them increases their confidence and quality of life.    

 

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

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July 4

Living in the world of dementia is further complicated by the opposite things that happen.  For example, the disease is very serious but people with dementia aren’t.  They lose their ability to take their life’s work, care of the home, managing time and money seriously.  Their ability to worry and stress over the things that once mattered most to them fades away as they begin to view life in a more simplistic way.  This is about the time that caregivers realize that they are becoming increasingly responsible for “everything.”  Even though we see that our loved one is changing, we still tend to respond to their lack of support for us in a sensitive way.  They appear to be fully capable but they aren’t.  We can become triggered by what we perceive as a lack of consideration of our needs.  We have to train ourselves to see them first from their brain’s ability and second from their outward self.  We cannot use their illness against them.

 

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”  ─Exodus 14:14

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July 3

Whenever we realize something about ourselves that is true to our nature we have the good fortune to respond to ourselves with mercy or angst.  As we age, there are aspects about ourselves that we know to be true.  We know our preferences in terms of likes and dislikes.  We know whether we cope well with change or if change shakes up our lives.  We know if we are comfortable or uncomfortable with conflict.  We know how other people’s moods affect us.  We understand the importance of being at peace with our job and our families, and the toll they take on us if we are not.  We know to actively take care of our mental and physical health.  All of these truths about ourselves can be challenged on a daily basis, especially if we are caregivers.  Acceptance of self, including all of our strengths and weaknesses, takes great courage.

 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  ─Joshua 1:9  

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July 2

It’s a mixed bag of emotions when I meet someone who is struggling with the behaviors of their spouse.  For example, a wife shared what she was experiencing with her spouse in terms of his anger.  She is suffering because they cannot get along with each other and the quality of their relationship is poor.  They speak to each other with disrespect and she doesn’t know what to do.  She feels responsible for the majority of the care of their home and their children, all while working a job outside of the home.  She is sinking and doesn’t know how to cope with the loneliness and disappointment.  She is results driven and is conflicted because all her efforts are not influencing the situation for the better.  I commented to her that her language sounds like that of a caregiver.  She was unable to make any connection between what she wants, in a spouse and for her family, and what was really happening.  Long before our loved one actually receives a diagnosis, the behaviors begin. 

 

“A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.”  ─Proverbs 29:22

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July 1

Caregivers can become too entrenched in their caregiving responsibilities and neglect their need for freedom.  Setting up moments of uninterrupted time alone is a caregiver’s life support.  Some people are better at managing to “steal” time away for themselves than others.  Anyone who possesses the cognitive understanding regarding the value of down time and relaxation is on the right track.  If we believe that we can’t find time to be alone to renew ourselves, we won’t do it and we risk continuing down a path that can lead to our own mental and physical decline.  Pay attention to the thoughts that you entertain in order to ignore your needs.  For example, “I don’t want to upset my loved one by leaving” or “I’ll make time for me as soon as I can.”  These kinds of thoughts are a trap and hinder our progress in meeting our own needs.    

 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  ─Psalm 90:12

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June 30

When others know that you are caring for a loved one who is living in a nursing home, they sometimes mistakenly believe that you have your life totally back, but the truth is, it can still be so stressful and draining.  Even though you may not be responsible for the majority of your loved ones personal care, you are still responsible for them.  The stress and anxiety experienced by caregivers is not as constant but the worry is and the anxiety can hit with great intensity.  For example, every time the phone rings, caregivers may think the worst has happened or they have to hear negativity from their loved one or from staff.  There are so many things, big and small, that can be a challenge for caregivers caring for a loved one in a nursing facility.  Stress reduction and self-care is still necessary.  Save yourself by training yourself to not become overly upset by the frustrations that occur because the journey is a marathon, not a sprint. 

 

“The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”  ─Ruth 2:12 

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June 29

I heard someone describe dementia as being the “great” equalizer because no one is safe from getting it.  It attacks the wealthy and the poor, the highly intelligent and people of average intelligence.  All ages, races and gender of people can be diagnosed with dementia.  What can we do to protect ourselves?  At this time there is no known cause or cure.  Living a healthy life style and reducing stress are the main recommendations given.  Because we can’t predict whether or not we will lose ourselves to this tragic disease, we are challenged to live our lives by making it count.  Our lives are too precious and important to allow them to become entrenched by meaninglessness.  Make it all count!

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  ─Hebrews 11:1

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June 28

There are some people who are uncomfortable being in the presence of people with dementia because they fear that they won’t know what to say.  It is a challenge to be with someone who may exhibit strange behaviors or who say the same things over and over or who have no speech at all.  It seems like when we’re in uncomfortable situations, time moves as if it were in slow motion.  A second feels like a minute and a minute feel like fifteen minutes or longer.  We may entertain thoughts that lead to asking ourselves “Why bother visiting?”  We ask because we are conditioned that everything we do has to have an outcome or serve a purpose.  It is hard to just be.  Be still, be present, be quiet, be comforting, be supportive, be kind, and be caring.  It matters enough to just be there for no important reason or higher purpose.  Just be.

 

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  ─Acts 20:35

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June 27

When I hear a caregiver share the story of when they first learned that their loved one received a diagnosis of dementia, I can tell how profoundly difficult hearing those words were for them.  One woman in particular shared that it was like experiencing a nightmare in reverse.  Instead of going to sleep and having a bad dream and waking up and confirming that it was only a dream, the nightmare is inescapable.  She felt like her brain experienced mental fog and her emotions were “all over the place.”  She wasn’t sure what to do or who to share the information with.  She was concerned about how her loved one was going to respond and cope.  She gave herself a break by not sharing the news with anyone at first because she wanted to be able to respond to the emotions of others once they were given the news.  She also wanted to protect her loved one from the stress as well.  Even though she was suffering with her own private agony, she was able to extend care support to others. 

 

“For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.  He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”  ─Psalm 112:6-7

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June 26

It is interesting to meet a caregiver who says they do not find support groups to be personally helpful.  I’m not exactly sure why some people don’t find solace in a support group because for many, support groups are beneficial.  It may be because we see suffering as universal but coming together in a group setting takes away some of our uniqueness.  When people attend support groups, especially where the members have a particular issue in common, we tend to want to find commonality.  For some people the part that we all have in common could be the cause of their inability to connect.  Some people need to be heard for the uniqueness of their situation.  Every person’s caregiving situation is different even though our loved ones diagnosis could technically be the same. 

 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  ─1 Peter 5:10

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June 25

What enables caregivers to stay loyal and committed to the care of their loved one?  For many it is their marriage vows and for others it is just who they are as a person.  Caregivers endure and weather a lot of storms along the way.  The daily impact of the responsibilities can be very overwhelming.  Every caregiver has a breaking point, especially as the sting of loneliness and physical drain sets in.  In addition, acknowledging the emotional toll that caregivers endure is also important.  Over time, caregivers realize that their lives may never be the same.  None the less, even after all of the struggles, caregivers “stick” to their commitment.  It is a strength beyond this world. 

 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  ─John 15:13

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June 24

The brain is a complicated instrument when viewed through the eyes of dementia.  As our loved one progresses through the disease, their symptoms and behaviors change.  As the brain loses its ability to coordinate conversational speech, some patient’s communication abilities “split.”  While they are unable to speak consistently in a calm way, they strangely possess the ability to yell and curse.  How could someone be essentially mute but also able to demonstrate verbal rage?  It is confusing for caregivers to understand this mysterious phenomenon.  It is something that we, and our loved one, have no control over.  If the symptoms are severe enough to diminish everyone’s quality of life, it places our loved one’s ability to continue to live at home at risk.

 

“ A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”  ─James 1:8

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June 23

As our loved one progresses through their disease, it is hard to always know how to respond to their changing behaviors in a way that feels natural.  You would think that it would be easy for us to “be ourselves” around someone that we know and love and that we wouldn’t have to work at it.  But when it comes to dementia, stressful situations can derail us from responding in a calm manner. We have to refrain from letting what we SEE override the way we KNOW we need to respond.  Our first priority is to keep stressful situations under control by keeping a cool head and responding in the most natural way possible.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  ─Joshua 1:9

 

 

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June 22

One of the most impactful and challenging issues that caregivers face is when their loved one expresses themselves by crying.  Our first instinct may be to wonder what we can do to immediately stop the tears and make them feel better.  Easier said than done but don’t take it personal.  Watching our loved one cry is one of the most helpless and guilt inducing moments that we will experience.  It can occur at different stages of the disease and is not always related to depression.  Crying could be a response to frustration because they struggle to express their wants and needs.  Unfortunately, we have to understand that it is part of the disease.  Support them by giving them permission to cry without judgment.

 

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  ─Revelation 21:4

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June 21

Whenever we are taking care of an ill loved one, it creates changes within the family.   It is to our advantage to ask ourselves what changes are happening and are the changes creating the family we want.  Some family members make a bad situation worse without realizing it.  It is baffling to think about how many families suffer more than they have to just for the sake of someone having to be right.  For example, step parents receive mistreatment when their spouses grown children deny contact and support because their parent married a person they don’t like.  In exchange for the grown children making their point and needing to be right, they miss out on quality time they could have had with their parent.  We all should be investing in the family that is in front of us, not the family we had in the past or the fantasy family that we created in our mind.  Families change and we can be part of it in a positive way or we can use our personal power for confusion and division.  All families change!  Finding family unity helps our loved ones have peace.  It is asking too much of our ill loved one when we place them in the position to have to mend conflicts.  It is not their place!  Their only job is to stay well by reducing stress and living each day in a joyful peaceful way. 

 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”  ─Ephesians 3:14-15

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June 20

When we were young we learned that there are no bad questions.  But sometimes caregivers may not be asking the right questions.  Instead of asking “How can I get my loved one to listen to me?”  Ask yourself “How can I get better at anticipating my loved ones needs?”  Instead of asking “Why do they do that?”  Ask yourself “How can I better educate myself on this disease?”  Instead of asking “When will this get easier?”  Ask yourself “Am I doing my part to reduce stress and to create a support system for myself?”  Improving communication skills, acquiring knowledge about behaviors and seeking ways to help ourselves are all on-going opportunities for learning.

 

“For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”  ─Proverbs 2:10

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June 19

Sometimes our caregiving style requires an update.  Because our caregiving journey covers a long span of time, we may need to rethink our approach.  We all have a style we just may not have given it much thought.   Depending on how we think about our circumstances has a big impact on our caregiving approach.  If we think we have to be perfect then we try an “all or nothing approach,” which leads to feelings of guilt and martyrdom.  If we believe that we are caring for someone out of love and commitment then we will approach our responsibilities with more resolve.  If our role was thrust upon us, we could resent it as being the worst thing that could have ever happened.  Regardless of how we stepped into our role, we can create an approach that works for us instead of against us, one that promotes the most peace.

 

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you all.”  ─2 Thessalonians 3:16

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June 18

Some people with dementia enjoy children and some do not.  Even if your loved one enjoyed being with children prior to their diagnoses, their personality could change.  In their diseased mind, they could be uncomfortable and anxious with the noise and energy of being around children and could react to them in a negative hostile way.  If your loved one is not comfortable with children, it is best to shield them from stress and accept it.  If your loved one happens to love children, it can still be a challenge for caregivers.  People with dementia don’t have a filter for knowing when it is appropriate to engage with children.  They do not understand the boundaries that they are crossing in terms of personal space.  Their desire is to be near children but they don’t know when to walk away and they won’t redirect easily when asked to.  This behavior requires great patience on the part of the caregiver as it can trigger great frustration when in public.  It helps to think of ways to allow your loved one the opportunity to see children but not have access to them.  Some malls have enclosed play places for children that are ideal for watching children at play but limits direct access to them.  Be creative.

 

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  ─Colossians 3:14

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June 17

People with dementia say the funniest things. John and his long time bride, Sherry, live together at home.  John always looked out for Sherry because she struggled with pain from arthritis.  Unfortunately, John was diagnosed with Parkinson’s related dementia and their roles switched and Sherry takes care of him now.  As he has progressed in the disease, Sherry hired a professional caregiver to assist John with taking a shower and getting dressed.  In the beginning, John resisted by being rude and mean.  He said he couldn’t get comfortable being naked in the presence of woman that wasn’t his wife.   With time, John mellowed and instead of resisting and being difficult he tries to be funny by shouting from the bathroom, “Sherry, she’s touching my butt” over and over!  Humor saves the day.

 

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”  ─Job 8:21

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June 16

No one said being a caregiver was easy.  Being honest about how tough it really is and the price caregivers are secretly paying brings the psychological impact of caregiving to light.  So many caregivers struggle with near-debilitating anxiety and despair but refrain from talking about the mental stress and strain of caregiving because they feel ashamed and see mental vulnerability as weakness.  Unfortunately, because caregiving is a health risk, not all caregivers out live the person they are caring for.  The more caregivers speak out about the negative impact caregiving takes on their psychological well-being, the more it helps others become comfortable discussing their own struggles.  Caregivers make matters worse by hiding their suffering and neglecting to care for their health.  The responsibilities involved in caring for others keep us in a state of being overextended and eventually hinders our ability to relax.  Take care of your mental and physical health.  Ask for help.  Create a support system by staying connected to people who can help and support you. 

“…Take every thought captive…” 

 

─2 Corinthians 10:5

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June 15

When we go to the doctor we generally have a purpose.  We may be going for an annual well visit or for a health problem that concerns us.  One of the issues that we may not think to discuss with our doctor is our symptoms.  Because caregivers are understandably under a certain amount of stress, our systems become taxed.  Caregivers can experience symptoms of feeling like they are losing their mind, or have shifts in their mood, or cry for no reason, or “never” sleep.  Caregivers are notorious for explaining away their symptoms and ignoring warning signs that there could be a problem!  We tell ourselves that “things will get better soon” or “I will feel better when I get more sleep.”  Time goes by and relief does not come.   Knowing that our systems are overwhelmed and continuing to ignore what our body is trying to tell us is only keeping valuable information hidden that could otherwise be used to assist in helping us.  Share openly and honestly with your doctor about all of your symptoms and all of your medications.   Don’t suffer in silence. 

 

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”  ─3 John 1:2

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June 14

Caregivers experience distress whenever they realize that they have misjudged what their loved one wants.   Sometimes what our loved one wants conflicts with what they need and what we are able to make happen.  On the one hand, we want our loved ones days to be filled with as much comfortableness and joy as possible.  However, we know that there are times when we have to challenge them to do what they don’t want to do even if it makes us and them uncomfortable and frustrated.  We encounter a delicate challenge when faced with the balancing act of how much to push and when to let things be.  This is where the knowledge and advice of others who are in our similar situation is useful.  Consulting with others helps to identify our blind spots and helps us gain better understanding and a fresh perspective.  Seeking counsel from others who are equally competent can help us find relief. 

 

 “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  ─Proverbs 29:25

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June 13

Time is a gift that is easily taken for granted.  Caregivers will often discuss how precious time is when it comes to watching a loved one’s health decline bit by bit over time.  They also wish that other family members and friends would understand and use time with their loved one more wisely by spending time with them.  It is hard for grown children to fully appreciate how quickly aging parents can progress in disease.  Everyone lives busy lives and fitting in time to call and visit is a sacrifice.  Realistically, no one knows how much time we have but spending our time without regret is important. 

 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  ─Psalm 90:12

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June 12

How are caregivers supposed to show compassion to others when they don’t seem to deserve it?  It is a challenge to deal with people who are rude, critical, needy, negative and angry, especially when we’re not in a position to give of our energy.  No one really knows someone’s heart.  The behaviors we see on the outside of a person don’t always reflect what is true on the inside.  People communicate in all kinds of ways.  When we encounter people with challenging behaviors, we can respect where they are coming from but we don’t have to engage them by mirroring their negativity.  Sometimes the best way to show compassion towards people who don’t seem to deserve it is to keep our wits about ourselves by not allowing our positive emotions to be interrupted.

 

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”   ─2 Timothy 1:7

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June 11

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to relax.  Caregivers that work outside of the home or work too hard at pleasing others, present as being resistant towards slowing down and allowing themselves to relax.  Once they reach the full extent of their fatigue, exhaustion, rejection, and self-deprivation, they cry out in pain because they keep giving and hurting and suffering.  When we allow ourselves to get so depleted, we may need to seek professional help to get ourselves back on track.  Sometimes we have the skills to help ourselves but sometimes we don’t.  Asking for professional support can provide a fresh perspective on a stressful situation.  It helps to receive affirmation and encouragement from someone who is not close to our situation.

 

“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”  ─Acts 15:10

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June 10

Caregivers are notorious for raking themselves over the coals for making mistakes.  Why does guilt have to be such a part of the journey of caregiving?  Healthy guilt alerts us that we have done something wrong and that we need to make amends for our actions.  The kind of guilt that caregivers experience is more complicated and even harder to stop.  We heap upon ourselves an abundance of undeserved guilt with our nagging and repetitive thoughts.  We do ourselves an injustice when we compare ourselves to others standards and when we think we never do enough.  If we know that we are doing our best, then our best has to be good enough.

 

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  ─1 John 2:1

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June 9

I don’t have to wonder why caregivers say they are exhausted all the time.  I know why, but I do wonder why it becomes a chronic issue of always being exhausted.  Changing our negative comments about ourselves and our state of being is vital.  It is important to not always present oneself as barely making it all the time.  When people say they are exhausted it doesn’t always refer to physical tiredness.  It could mean that they are exhausted about living their life.  It could mean that they are depressed or worried.  It could be denial that something needs to change but they are not able to face the challenge at this time.  If we avoid addressing issues like exhaustion then we place ourselves in the position of having to provide evidence of the fact.  We create the need to constantly reassure ourselves that our struggle is still there.  Of course it is still there.  We created it and continue to nurse it.  We need a moment to occur that will enlighten us about what we are saying and doing that keeps us bound to this habit of striving.  It is exhausting being exhausted all the time.  We have to be on guard against the seductive tendency to convince ourselves that we are powerless to change.

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”   ─Isaiah 40:29   

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June 8

It is undeniable that caregiving is made up of polar opposites.  We acknowledge our dedication but desire independence.  We are connected but also autonomous.  Day after day we live torn between two lives.  The responsibilities and the relationship we have with our loved one brings out the best and worst in us.  Sometimes we experience relaxation but admit that we stay in various states of stress.  It is a challenge to give our love freely and unconditionally, all while knowing that we’ll have to let go.  We want our loved one to feel safe but at the same time we know that danger can happen in the form of a fall at any moment.  We believe that we are truly committed to keeping our loved one at home for as long as possible but still worry that we will have to place them in a home.  Staying committed to this journey is a daily recommitment. 

 

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge.”  ─2 Peter 1:5

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June 7

Overtime, caregivers find that their ability to actively engage in social activities suffers.  They gradually see increased distance occurring between family and friends that they used to see on a more frequent basis.  Due to increasing responsibilities, alienation from mainstream society is becoming a life style habit even though they understand the importance of staying connected.  In order to meet face to face with others it requires planning, support, financial resources, follow through, time and energy to make it happen.  That sounds like a lot to do when you are rested much less exhausted!  But, we can only decline the invitations of others so often before they stop asking all together.  Declining the invitations can change social inactivity to social alienation before we realize it.  Once we experience social alienation, we lose confidence and become negative about ourselves and our motivation is gone.  We worry that we’ve aged too much.  That we don’t have the right clothes to wear or that we have nothing significant to say.  We will believe and say anything to get out of commitments that are good for us and to not challenge ourselves out of our comfort zones.  There is no dignity in actively hindering oneself from personal growth and development. 

 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  ─Hebrews 10:24-25

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June 6

Whenever having to engage in any consuming task like caregiving, we have to focus our energy on actively directing our life.  Our lives serve multiple purposes, not just one.  We are still in charge and responsible for creating a life we want for ourselves in spite of our current circumstances.  Our identity is still in need of our investment and time.  Failure to do so only makes us lose direction and confidence in who we are.  Our lives don’t simply just happen.  We have to stay active in learning new things by staying connected to life in our community and beyond.  We can invest time in thinking about what we want for our lives.  We can focus on what we CAN do instead of what we can’t do.  We can use all of our life’s experiences to celebrate all of the strife, mishaps and choices that have brought us to where we are now.  Our lives have to stand on their own apart from caregiving responsibilities.  Don’t lose your way!

 

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  ─James 4:14

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June 5

There are so many hurting people going through really tough times.  Relying on our inner strength to get us through those tough times is what will see us through.   We cannot allow ourselves to be engulfed by external circumstances.  When we get discouraged and feel defeated, having the will to reject the temptation to doubt our capacity to with stand the pressure is an important skill.  A strong mind that supports the belief that we can get through trying times without losing our mind helps us overcome all odds.  What makes some people able to cope with adversity better than others?  It has to do with our background, our environment, our faith, our support and our mindset.  Pursuing peace in all of these areas will save us.

“God is within her, she will not fall.”

 

 ─Psalm 46:5

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June 4

There are people whose personalities require more peace and quiet and less noise and chaos in their environment.  Our tendency to become easily overwhelmed or to think about things in a very deep and meaningful way may mean that we are highly sensitive people.  Highly sensitive people are more aware of subtleties in their environment and are sensitive to loud sounds and startle easily.  They are not comfortable being the center of attention and do not receive criticism well.  Many highly sensitive people don’t even realize how sensitive they are.  They may acknowledge that they don’t fit in well with crowds or that they become uneasy and over react when they feel uncomfortable or stressed.  They may wonder why people often ask them “why are you so sensitive?”  Being a highly sensitive person does not mean that something is wrong or that you are “broken.”   It means that you may need to support yourself differently, especially in situations where you find you’re hypersensitive senses becoming overloaded.  Caregiving is hard enough but being a highly sensitive caregiver is a whole other experience.  It requires that we get more sleep, eat better and be proactive by not allowing our senses to become over loaded with too much noise and stimulation.  It’s best to surround yourself with nature, and keep your environment calm and peaceful.  Give yourself an adequate amount of down time so that you can recharge.  When we take care of ourselves we benefit and our loved one benefits as well.

 

“You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  ─Matthew 5:14

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June 3

Being a caregiver requires leadership ability.  Have you figured out your leadership style yet?  Are you someone who is task driven or relationship driven?  Some situations require different types of leadership in order to be effective.  Leadership for the caregiver requires that we take each situation individually and perform in a way that makes the situation work.  A good leader/ caregiver has the ability to understand themselves well enough that you know that there are situations that you can handle and cope with better than others.  Caregivers who recognize that they perform better in some situations than in others understand the importance of staying in your strengths areas more often than not.  Caregivers still achieve results in other less desirable areas that they are not as skilled in or enjoy but it requires more energy and can lead to frustration and dread.  Leaders know their limits and will delegate tasks to others to perform in an effort to keep functioning in their strength areas.  Save yourself by staying in your “sweet spot.”

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”  ─1 Corinthians 12:12

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June 2

Many caregivers feel like they cannot get their lives moving in the right direction.  Our intentions are well meaning but we end up putting off things that are important to us.  Over time we end up losing our voice.  We keep telling ourselves that we don’t know what we want but actually we do know, we’re just not allowing ourselves to have it.  Second guessing ourselves is not satisfying.  We can scare ourselves out of doing so many things that would make us happy.  Do what’s best for yourself by saving yourself.  Do whatever it takes to keep you thinking and moving in a positive direction.     

 

“Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.  Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”  ─Psalm 143:7-8

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June 1

A frequent mistake that caregivers make is allowing themselves to become exhausted and overwhelmed by life.  It is so frustrating to know what to do to find relief.  People will think thoughts like “If I could just get a break” but they lack the energy to take action to make a break a reality.  It is hard to think and have the energy needed to get motivated to make the changes that will help us.  It is a feeling of being “trapped” in a cycle that keeps repeating itself.  Over thinking our problems at a time when we are suffering from exhaustion will not lead to resolution.  It can actually make things worse.  Taking a break from thinking about how to get a break is helpful.  Think about where the disruption took hold and changed things for you.  Was it a change in routine?  Was it a lack of sleep, isolation, depression, anxiety, loss, anger, work issues?  And the list goes on.  Take one thing at a time and do whatever you can to elevate your mood and calm yourself.  Wait in anticipation for relief.

 

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  ─Psalm 34:17-18

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May 31

One of the common behaviors that caregivers do with regards to their feelings is to either under express them or over express them.  We use our energy to fight our feelings in an effort to control our emotions.  This is confusing and does not solve the feelings that we are experiencing.  Telling ourselves to “hold it in” or hiding the depth of our suffering from others is exhausting and at some point will become too much for us.  Over expressing our emotions is not good for our health and it is an open book for others to see how we are not coping well with stress.  Under expressing and over expressing our emotions requires too much energy only to backfire on us because it solves nothing.  Understanding that your emotions are not your enemy is a great place to start.  Learning to release your emotions to people that you trust and rely on for support is what is needed in troubling times.

 

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”  1 John 3:20

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May 30

There are so many things about being a caregiver that we cannot control.  This does not stop us from still trying to control as many things as possible but it still feels like we control nothing.  This is one of the biggest sources of frustration for caregivers.  The need to accomplish something is a high priority.  We may have a smile on our face but inside we are coping with negative feelings of frustration and disappointment.  We approach the day with the intention of pushing through our most common disruptions that hinder us from completing tasks.  When that overwhelming feeling of constant interruptions and bombardment push us to our limits it can cause great feelings of anxiety.  When we have appointments to keep, errands to run, people to meet, chores and caring to perform, we become mentally taxed and agitated by distractions.  We can’t control anything but the way we choose to respond.  We can train ourselves to come from a place of acceptance.  We can walk away from the stress.  We can make a plan to ease our suffering by trying to devote only as much focus and intensity as possible towards completing a task.  This helps us feel like we have made progress and this feeling of accomplishment is rejuvenating. 

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”  ─Psalm 119:15

 

 

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May 29

There are a few skills that every caregiver needs.  The first is the ability to start each new day fresh without regard to what happened yesterday or what is happening tomorrow.  This skill teaches us to not harbor hurts from yesterday and to not worry about tomorrow.  The second skill is the ability to handle and accept conflicts in a way that does not cause us to explode or implode.  It is important for us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses regarding our ability to stay calm during conflict.  If we solve conflicts by exploding, it not only hurts the other person but it causes us too much stress.  If we solve conflicts by holding in our emotions, we are no better off because we are internalizing the problems and not expressing them.  This leads to physical health issues and distress.  Both exploding and imploding of our emotions puts us at risk for creating dangerous and/or unhealthy situations.  The third skill that caregivers need is the ability to learn how to problem solve.  Learning how to anticipate issues and have a plan for when things go wrong makes problems more manageable and less over whelming.  It is helpful to see more than one possible solution for a problem.  If you are stressed you may see a problem as unsolvable but if you are relaxed you may see a problem as having a workable solution.  Starting each day new, managing conflicts without losing our sanity and solving problems in a way that makes our lives easier saves us. 

 

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”  ─Micah 6:8

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May 28

It’s always exciting to see a caregiver who decides to find a positive way to engage in life.  I met a caregiver who started a hobby by upcycling materials from thrift stores and turning the objects into art.  I could hear the excitement as she shared stories of her shopping experiences while looking for treasures.  She had found something that ignited her passion and she was having fun.  The physical, mental and emotional benefits of starting something new can be life changing.  Anything we choose to do that promotes getting out of the house more, interacting with people more and engaging our mind in thinking more about things that challenge us is healthy and good for us.

 

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live.”  ─Ecclesiastes 3:12

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May 27

We as caregivers lose value in ourselves if we tolerate abuse, deception, theft, unsolicited advice, “coaching from the bench” from people who are not actually helping with caregiving responsibilities but who want to tell us how we should be doing it.  We should not allow ourselves to hear put downs about our appearance, about how we dress, how we wear our hair, our weight, or our physical features that we cannot change.  We should resist allowing the condition of our home or vehicle, our intellect and our relationships to become targets for others to criticize.  Self-protection is an essential skill needed for keeping ourselves from becoming vulnerable to the insensitivities of others.  Caregiving has enough drama of its own and the burden of it does not easily allow us the ability to cope with living life in a fish bowl.  We need the freedom and flexibility to navigate our caregiving journey with the least amount of resistance.

 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”    ─1 Peter 5:8

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May 26

What can be learned by the habit of daily reflection?  Reflection allows us the opportunity to think on the things that we did well that day and the areas of needed improvement.  The habit of reflection can lead to us improving our quality of life.  If we take time out of our day for reflecting on what we learned from our failures and our successes of the day, the process can improve our mind set.  It can help show us how blessed we are and how much being alone can actually feel good.  Looking back and reflecting on our caring experience can reveal our strengths.  It teaches us to use everything in our past as a foundation for what we are experiencing in the present.  Once our caregiving experience comes to a close, reflection will play a big part in determining how we choose to move forward with despair or satisfaction.

 

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  ─John 8:32  

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May 25

I spoke with a 20 something single mom who was struggling with negative feelings about herself.  She felt like she was “stuck” in her life because she had no job satisfaction, no confidence as a parent, no relationship and no fun.  When I asked her to share her schedule, she shared that she works, she takes care of her daughter and she cleans her house.  Where’s the relaxation and fun?  I asked her what she likes to do to relax and unwind and she could not come up with anything!  I could tell that it did not dawn on her to even consider using her time to comfort, enjoy and reward herself for all of her hard work.  Her situation reminds me of caregivers who end up doing the same thing. We get “stuck” in caring for others to the point that we can’t or won’t allow ourselves to engage in fun and relaxing activities.  Our strategy was to come up with a life fix list of activities that would increase her positivity and joy.  I encourage you to do the same.  Don’t over think it, just do it!  Where’s your list?

 

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  ─Psalm 16:11

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May 24

Knowing when to let go of something you are struggling with is a useful skill.  Transitioning our loved one from one setting to another is one of the most gut wrenching decisions that has to be made.  It is an unavoidable part of the caregiver’s journey.  Caring for our loved one at home for as long as possible is the ideal option of choice but there are times that we may have to make a change.  For example, we may have to utilize overnight respite care for our loved one or they may have to be hospitalized or have to spend time at a rehabilitation hospital.  The most challenging change is considering placing our loved one in a skilled nursing care facility.   Thankfully, nursing homes have come a long way from the shocking stories that we’ve all heard.  Nothing can match the qualities that we are afforded while living in our own home, but nursing facilities have made great strides in making their facility environment resemble and feel like home.  Most nursing homes provide nutritious meals and plan enjoyable activities for their residents to enjoy. Saving yourself sometimes means that you can’t fight fate.   

 

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.”  ─Joshua 1:9

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May 23

Sometimes our loved ones can experience cognitive issues that make them appear to be behaving as if they are two different people.  This behavior is very challenging to caregivers.  It is easy to be off put and deny what you are seeing in hopes that the negative behaviors will stop.  For example, when I am with my friend she exhibits very disruptive verbal outbursts that are loud and offensive.  After several months of trying different approaches in an effort to calm her I stopped.  This is when I noticed that communicating with her is different from connecting with her.  It is very interesting to experience this interaction with her but completely ignoring her negative behavior is the tactic that helps keep me calm.  She can be yelling and screaming profanities that make no sense and I would ask her to be quiet or stop but nothing worked.  In my effort to come from a place of acceptance, I deliberately withhold any attention towards her negative self, all while trying to stay connected to her real self.  When I engage her by asking her a question or use soothing physical touch, she will respond by briefly stopping the yelling and will speak to me in a calm tone of voice.  Even if she returns to yelling, I have found that we are still connecting. 

 

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  ─1 Peter 4:10

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May 22

It’s very unsettling to know that there are people who prey on the elderly.  It takes caregivers a while to feel comfortable to seek professional support only to be taken for granted by the professionals they trust.  Prior to dropping your loved one at a day stay program, make sure not to leave them with too much cash and take your credit cards.  If you’re having someone come to your home, consider taking pictures or making a video of everything in your home.  It may not help you recover any property that is stolen but at least having a visual of what is there, you may notice sooner, rather than later, that your valuables are disappearing.  Set yourself up to have the best possible experience by making a few safety considerations.  Refrain from over sharing details about your personal business.  Do not cross boundaries of the work relationship by failing to see when someone is sharing hardship stories in hopes that you will come to their rescue.  Stay strong because you could be being told information that plays on your sympathy.   Whenever people decide to take from the elderly they tell themselves thoughts that make stealing OK in their minds to justify their behavior.  Others are predators who steal without remorse and they have no moral compass to stop.  It is a heartless act and causes stress for trusting families.  Just protect yourself!

 

“Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  ─1 Corinthians 6:10

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May 21

We grew up being told that it’s better to give than to receive.  Caregivers are not only generous to care for a chronically ill loved one, but they are some of the most generous people to others as well.  Being generous with our time, attention and resources improves our health and overall well-being.  The saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” takes on new meaning as we contemplate giving to others.  Even if we are not able to always give something tangible to someone, just thinking about generosity boosts our immunity.  Another benefit of generosity is that it keeps us connected to people.  Reaching out to others who are in similar circumstances helps us feel less depressed.  Acts of generosity leads to connecting with others, which improves our health.  It’s a win for everyone.

 

“Give, and it will be given to you, Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  ─Luke 6:38

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