Sunday, May 13, 2018

Writing your own Hallelujah

This morning in church my husband said something that punched me in the gut, a truth so deep it took my breath away, stripping me of any composure I had.   What he said was:

      "When you are in the midst of God's grace, sometimes you have to write your own Hallelujah"

Seems like an odd statement doesn't it?  And if I wasn't in the place I was at right now, I probably wouldn't have understood it.  It was a revelation for me....an "AHA!" moment and I lost it.  If I hadn't been at the front of the church(I'm on the worship team at church and this was just as we had finished singing the last song..... Hallelujah) I would have been a heap on the floor in the back.  As it was I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.

The meaning of Hallelujah is literally God be praised.  In the struggles of life we often forget to look for that Hallelujah, and there is always one to be found.  If nothing else, it is His Grace alone that deserves one.  For it is by His grace alone that we have been saved.

You see, I've been struggling lately.  I'm normally a very happy person, almost always with a smile on my face.  But lately, the smile doesn't come quite so naturally.  Things that used to bring me joy, now seem to leave me empty.   God has given me a grace to care for our aging parents.  I know He has.   But it's not easy and at times I resent it.  I want my life back.   And I forgot.   I forgot to look for the Hallelujah.

So, starting today I'm going to try harder to walk in that grace and if I have to.....I will write my own Hallelujah.



Sidenote:
When I started writing in my blog again my hope was that it would be helpful to others, yet still lighthearted and fun.   Yet, every time I sit down to start writing an entry, most with the intention of being fun and lighthearted, they get shut down....pushed to the side and I struggle to find the words that seemed all to clear to me before I opened my laptop to write.   Instead out comes words from a completely different direction.   So, it is what it is and I will just go where the keyboard takes me.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

The importance of Flexibility

Dictionary.com defines flexibility as:

     1) capable of being bent, without breaking; easily bent. ie a flexible ruler
     2) susceptible of modification of adaption. ie a flexible schedule
     3) willing or disposed to yield; pliable : ie a a flexible personality

Back when I lived in Colorado our pastor always used that word when talking about going on a mission trip to a foreign country.  Our mission trips always had us staying in people's homes, which meant some meals would be home-cooked meals.  Our hosts were always generous and always went out of their way to provide for us.  But every once in awhile you might get something that you weren't expecting like flavored lard or blood sausage.  Our mission trips always had a tentative schedule, but through past experiences knew that it was always subject to change.  So our pastor always made sure that "flexible" was a staple word used and understood and because of that our trips were always an adventure filled with lots of fun and wonderful experiences that we wouldn't have had if weren't flexible.

Flexibility is also a wonderful word for a caregiver to have and to know and all three of those definitions can be applied to caregiving.   Because if you aren't flexible as a caregiver, life is only that much harder and you'll only make yourself miserable.  It's not easy, especially when you are thrown into that position due to circumstances and not as a career choice.

But as a caregiver I've learned that it's also important to be flexible as the person that is being taken care of.  If you, as the caregivee( I think I made up a new word ), the person being taken care of, can learn to be flexible life just might be a little bit more enjoyable.  You have to realize that it's not only your life that has been turned upside down.  Now, when you are dealing with someone suffering from Dementia or Alzheimers, this is a much more difficult choice to make.  Which is why you have to learn to be flexible early on, so that when memories fade, your personality won't.

So I glean what I can from these experiences, learning to be more flexible.   Life is one big mission trip and I want to enjoy all that it has for me, including the flavored lard and blood sausage that may come my way. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Apparently, I'm a little stressed.

When you are a full-time caregiver for a family member it's important to remember to take care of yourself....mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.   If you don't, you may find yourself in a worse position then the one the person you are caring for is in.  You have to learn to accept the help when it is offered and not worry about what someone might think.  You should NEVER have to do it alone and shouldn't. 

Which brings me to today's post.  I went to the doctor today because I've had sore jaw for almost two weeks.  I've never had it hurt for this long before, maybe a day or two but that is it.  This time it has been lingering, almost excruciating at times, shooting pain in to my ear.  I thought for sure I had some sort of ear infection.  I finally got tired of fighting it, so I made the appointment..........no infection.  After a brief exam and some questions, the doctor recommended I see a dentist.  So I popped over to my dentist to see when I could get an appointment, only they got me right in instead.(Score!!)  She was polite, asked me questions, and listened to what was going on and informed me I have TMJ....which is the fancy letters to mean pain in the jaw. LOL

The part I'm leaving out is the question both the doctor and dentist asked me......Are you under a lot of stress?   Who me???  Why, I have no idea whatever they could mean.  Having your in-laws move in with you?? Stressful.  Being the primary caregiver for your mother-in-law?? Stressful.  Working while taking care of your mother-in-law?? Stressful.  So, yeah I guess you could say I might be under some stress.  Enough stress apparently, I must be clenching and/or grinding my teeth in my sleep.

Sidenote: The doctor did get a little more prodding in her questions because not only did my jaw hurt, but apparently my blood pressure was a little elevated......okay, more than a little.  I didn't think about it at first, but one of her questions was if I ever experienced chest pains.  YIKES!!  Now, disclaimer....the high blood pressure is not strictly from the caregiving, I could definitely eat better and lose some weight, but it is a factor that doesn't help.

This is why I say it's important to take care of yourself, to take some time FOR yourself.  I am fortunate that I have a great support system at home.  My husband and youngest son (19) are a big help, so I'm not truly alone in this journey.  BUT, I do still have to make sure I pay attention and take the time away when I need it and that is something that is still a work in progress, a lot of work apparently.

As the caregiver, you think you are the only one that can do the job and do it correctly and that is a mindset I, myself, need to change.  It's like the wife that rearranges the dishwasher after the kids or husband load it.  It's okay if things aren't done the way you do them.  Sure there are certain things that need to be done in caregiving, but that doesn't mean your way is the only way to do them.  All that does is add more stress to an already stressful situation, and it's an unnecessary stress to add.

So, I'm going to take the muscle relaxer the dentist prescribed and get better at taking care of myself and taking time for myself....because I deserve it.



Thursday, April 26, 2018

The dangers of commercials

My mother-in-law is a hoarder.  Not quite worthy of an episode on the tv show, but I think that is only because of her husband.  Left to her own devices....well.....

So it's been quite the change of environment for her when she moved in with us.  She did really good leaving a lot of stuff behind, but she did still have the urge.  We would go out to eat and she would grab any extra napkins she could.  If it was a fast food restaurant it would also include any plasticware she used.  We would find spoons and napkins in the travel diabetes bag we used and used straws on her stand next to her.  Upon finding them, we never said anything, we just quietly tossed them out and she really was none the wiser.  We knew not to question the action, it only ended in an argument. 

Fast forward the eight months since the in-laws moved in with us.   When they moved in we got them each a DVR so they could record and watch all the shows they like to watch.  They had DISH back in Colorado so they were also spoiled being able to fast forward through the commercials and my mother-in-law talked incessantly about how she hated commercials for the past 6 of the last 8 months.  Then she had a mini stroke and was in the hospital for a week, followed by skilled nursing for another 3 weeks.   Well, they didn't have DVR's or the ability to fast forward through commercials so she got out of the habit of doing it, plus after the stroke her memory had gotten a little worse.

So, now she has a tendency to forget to fast forward the commercials and ends up watching them.  The only problem is that it tends to "wake up" that hoarding complex and the need to buy things.  Most of the things are not something she would EVER use or need.....but that isn't the point with a hoarder......they just want things.

Some of the things she wants: 

1) New insurance.  She has STELLAR insurance and with the diabetes needs it.  Most of her prescriptions cost pennies.  I think between all doctor visits, hospital stays, etc. they've had to pay hardly anything.  But the ad for Medicare insurance programs convinced her she needed new insurance and asked for 2 weeks straight about it before moving on.

2) Microwave egg cooker.  She thought the Egglettes cooker looked like a great idea and she wanted one.  The problem here.....she doesn't eat eggs.  She hates eggs.  We pointed that out to her, which she replied, " I know, but it would work for eggs in potato salad".  To which we shook our heads and silently giggled, because.....she doesn't cook anymore and hasn't for YEARS!! I think the last time she actually cooked anything was Thanksgiving 1998 or somewhere around there.  Her cooking mostly consisted of heating up a microwave dinner.

3) Plexaderm.  This is apparently a cream for the bags under your eyes and wrinkles on your face.   She's suddenly decided she wanted to get rid of the bags and wrinkles.  Which she really doesn't have many wrinkles, and the bags are because she doesn't sleep.  Plus....she's 80 and sits in a chair(now a bed) all day.  What on earth would she need Plexaderm for???  But it's free to try she says and we should go to the website to find out about it.   Thank goodness she doesn't have access to the internet.

4) Better Clean Silicone Sponge.  This one is the kicker.  She told me she would love to get this, and thought anyone that owned a home would love one.  What made this the best one, especially for my husband, is that fact that I'm not sure she's cleaned a dish in her life.  Remember those microwave dinners??  Yeah, no dishes there.  Somehow this is something she needs to have though.

Thank goodness she hasn't found HSN or QVC.  There is a reason we don't keep the phone or her wallet by her bed.







Monday, April 23, 2018

Go with the flow

One of the things I've learned being a caregiver, is to be flexible.   Not flexible as a caregiver, but flexible as a person.  To learn to go with the flow and not be so set in my ways I end up being miserable and causing the people around me to be miserable.  Life is too short for that.

I love my mother-in-law, but things have to be a certain way and there is no such thing as wanting to try anything new.  Oh, and it seems she hates everything.....except ice cream.....strawberry ice cream, not chocolate, not vanilla, but strawberry.

Making meals for her is a challenge because there isn't much that she will eat and the things she does eat she gets tired of and says she never wants to have again.  It's a balancing act trying to spread out what she will eat so that it doesn't come off the menu.   Of course, if we go long enough we can sometimes "reintroduce" the things she has sworn off.   I don't think I've ever seen her make a happy face when giving her options to choose from, it's usually a turned up nose.   The only time she gets excited is if I mention ice cream.

Even when we go out to eat, it's the same thing.  She turns up her nose at whatever they have and usually wants a combination of something that isn't even offered.  We had to stop letting her pick her food.  She would say she wanted something and then when she got exactly what she said she wanted, she picks at it, making faces as she eats.  Oh, and don't argue that it was exactly what she ordered, she'll deny it all the way to the grave.

Somedays, I don't think she knows how to be happy.  She definitely doesn't know how to go with the flow and that is not a person I want to be.  I want to enjoy life and all the experiences it wants to throw at me, even the caregiving.

Friday, April 20, 2018

What did I get myself into?

When I "signed on" to be my mother-in-law's caregiver I didn't fully realize what that would entail.  I knew my father-in-law did things for her, but I figured it was mostly just getting her food and making sure her blood sugar levels were all right.   It's been a lot more than that.

You see my mother-in-law has spent the majority of her 80 years in a recliner.  20+ years ago when I met her, she was mobile, but ate and slept in a recliner.  I didn't think much of it, the sleeping seemed a little weird, but to each their own.   She was walking and taking care of herself.  About 10 years ago she broke her leg.  She is not a tiny woman, so getting around became almost impossible.   Because of her diabetes and how she managed it (not well), my father-in-law didn't want her to get out of the chair very often because if she had a low blood sugar she would fall.

You know the fairytale: Jack sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean......well that is them.   Now my father-in-law was a strong man in his day, but he is definitely lean.   At 75-80 it was beginning to take a toll on him, probably long before that.   He couldn't lift her and would have to call for help, whether it be from a friend or 911.  So the chair became her way of life.   Eventually, she moved to a lift recliner, because it made it easier for her to get out of it, especially on days when she wasn't feeling very strong.

Fast forward to now.  We knew she basically didn't leave the house anymore except for doctor's appointments.   When my husband went back to help get them ready to move out here he got to see first hand how bad things had truly gotten.  He tried to give me a heads up, but until you are actually in the middle of it, you really have no idea what to expect.   It's like having a baby to take care of again, a very large baby.  The only difference......in most cases, you have time to prepare and are looking forward to your new bundle of joy.  It's usually something you have planned for.

While we knew that at some point we would be taking care of them, it still came about rather suddenly.   Thankfully, we had put in a handicap bathroom in the area where my mother-in-law would be staying because we knew we would need it.   But it seemed like overnight it happened.  One day I was looking forward to spending time with my husband as the kids were grown, and the next I was thrust back into the role as caregiver to a baby.  Back to wiping butts and giving baths.   Suddenly I was at another person's beck and call, want and need.

Taking care of your parents is not an easy task by any means.  It is a big commitment and responsibility and one not to take on flippantly, but, it is the right thing to do.   And as much as my mother-in-law drives me crazy, I still choose this over putting her in a home.   That doesn't mean that won't happen, but for as long as we are able we will take care of her. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Disclaimer!

The thing about blogging is knowing what to share.  For me this is kind of like a release valve.  It's not always going to be sunshine and lollipops, that's not how life works.  There are good days and bad days and I try to take all of them in stride.

That being said, I know there are friends and family that read my blog so......

Disclaimer:
You may not always like what I share, it may seem to personal.....especially on the caregiving side.  But the thing is life isn't pretty and caregiving isn't easy.  We live in bodies of disgrace and we are all imperfect beings, so if I share something that you think maybe I shouldn't, or is a little to "personal"......well, get over it.  My goal is to be able to help someone else, like my friend's blog helped me when I needed it.  I want people to know they are not alone.  I want people to know that it's hard, but it does have it good days.   But mostly, I'm doing this for myself and for my sanity.