Depression – I am depressed just writing this word. Depression is so prevalent among both the elderly and their caregivers. My father used to question why he was still living and missed his wife terribly. Many elderly who live alone tend to feel the loneliness on a daily basis. Even if family members live nearby or in the same home, the need to communicate with someone is very much desired. I recently have begun visiting an elderly couple who live with their daughter and granddaughter. They would love to talk all the time to their daughter but obviously she has other responsibilities. She reached out to her church family and asked if someone would come and visit. They would not have to talk - just listen to the old stories. Unfortunately, no one came. The next request was to offer to pay someone to just come and sit and listen to her parents and fellowship with them. Still, no one came. This was the saddest story I have heard lately. Both the parents and the daughter battle with depression. What can we do to help? VISIT, VISIT, VISIT! Visits do not have to be more than 30 minutes but if they knew someone would be coming on a regular basis, it would give them something to look forward to each week. Going back to my father, every time he expressed how much he wanted to go home to heaven, I encouraged him to be our prayer warrior. He also had a photo flip album with missionary prayer cards. He would flip the page every day and pray for the ‘missionary of the day’. As the elderly saints graduate to heaven, we need to take up their mantle and be the prayer warriors of today for our seniors and their caregivers!
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Well, we have now entered into the next phase of our lives. Retirement! When we were the caregivers, we made a list of “What not to do to our children”. With that in mind, we have tried to clean out and get rid of as much as we could and have now moved closer to our daughter and granddaughter. After 37 years in one house, we could look at the move with sadness or we could view it as a new adventure! To be honest, it was a little of both. Our number one item on the list of “What not to do to our children” was to be unwilling to move near them. It can be daunting, scary or lonely to think about a major move. However, we need to ask the question, “What, where and whom do we plan to eventually take care of us?” Unless God decides otherwise, we will all need some level of care. Do we want a stranger taking care of us or our children or grandchildren? These are hard questions to think about but it is vitally important to plan for the inevitable. Never be too busy to spend time either on the phone or in person to maintain and cultivate the family relationships. Remember, we are always training the next generation to take care of us someday!
The word for today is moving. When the time comes either voluntarily or of necessity to move your loved one out of their house, what do you do with all the furnishings and knick-knacks? The clean - out can be daunting! The first item to tackle is the paperwork. Sort everything by date and if it is over 10 years old and of no tax or estate value put it in a garbage bag to be shredded or burned. After the paperwork is done, go through every nook and cranny from the attic to the basement to see if there are hidden valuables or money. One family found over $40,000 hidden in various places around the house including the freezer! Be sure to document the valuables and share with the siblings what was found and where you have moved them. What furniture and clothes your loved one does not need, or if they have died, you can try to sell them or donate them to a charity. Some Hospice houses need slender clothes for their patient’s families to bury their loved ones. (Typically, they had lost too much weight to fit into their regular clothes before they died.) Another quality location is your local women’s shelter. The shelter tries to provide clothing for the women to go on job interviews. Most secondhand stores are delighted to send a truck to your location to pick up unwanted items in good condition. If you have time, think creatively and ask around for places to take your items. I was able to take excellent fiction books to my local private school for their library. Do not be in a hurry and do ask for help! (As one who has had to go through 5 different family members possessions after they died, for the sake of the living, go through and get rid of unwanted and unnecessary items today!)
The word for today is DYING. Many of us are familiar with the form titled “DNR” The DNR is only a decision about CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). It does not affect any other treatments, such as pain medicine, routine medicines, or nutrition. There are several new forms most states are now implementing. POLST which stands for Physician Orders for life-sustaining treatment or MOST which stands for Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment. The POLST decision‐making process and resulting medical orders are intended for patients who are considered to be at risk for a life‐threatening clinical event because they have a serious life‐limiting medical condition, which may include advanced frailty. The POLST form contains 3 or 4 sections, each addressing a different aspect of end-of-life medical care. The POLST lets you choose which level of treatment you would like to receive in a medical emergency from: no treatment at all to full treatment. Both a DNR and a POLST form must be signed by a physician, and emergency personnel are required to abide by the form. A living will is NOT required to be followed by emergency personnel. Please be an advocate for your loved ones! Psalm 90:12 reminds us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
The word for today is wandering. Wanting to leave their home, or current place of living is unfortunately all too common for the elderly. What are some safety tips to help keep our loved ones safe? There are expensive door locks and childproof door knob covers but a simple alarm is to hang some bells on the top of the door using a wreath holder or tie them around the handle. These can be placed on any indoor or outdoor room you do not want your loved one to enter. Another sensory help is to place a large sign on the doors telling them what is on the other side in words or a picture. Find or make a large stop sign for any door leading outside or to a room you do not want them to enter. Above all, treat them with respect and explain what the signs mean in a soft, encouraging tone not in a reprimanding tone you would use with a child. Then pray much!
Psalm 29:11 “The Lord will give strength unto his people, He will bless His people with peace.”
What is palliative care? What is hospice care?
The major difference between palliative and hospice care is palliative care is focused on nutrition, pain control and help during a life-threatening illness. Hospice care typically provides comfort care only for presumably the last six months of your life but may be renewed up to a year. Palliative care is for help in surviving a disease process with the least amount of pain and disruption to your family life. So what are the reasons to accept palliative or hospice care? “All things shared make all things easier”. The doctors, nurses and aides have years of experience in knowing the ‘tricks of the trade’ and will gladly share their knowledge to help you through the disease. My favorite tip is using a capful of mouthwash in a bedside commode after each use to kill germs and smell great! Do not be afraid to accept help but enjoy the extra hands helping you navigate through each day as you face the need for either palliative or hospice care.
The word for this month is of course LOVE! As a caregiver, you know how easy it is to always love the person you are caring for but at the same time it is really, really hard to love their actions at times! During the really, really hard times, it is important to love yourself as well and take a much-needed break. Many Assisted Living facilities offer respite care. There are also community resources available in most areas that can provide adult day-care, in-home assistance and other services. Consider the new grocery delivery option that may lighten the burden of shopping with your loved one or finding someone to stay with them while you have to leave the house. The best way to find qualified help is “word of mouth” but you can also go to ‘Community Resource Finder’ on the internet and locate the resources you need quickly.
If someone is coming into your home to help, have a notebook ready to share your loved ones needs and wants. One section would be Daily Activities…the next section, Medication Schedule…the next, Favorite likes and dislikes…the next, Emergency Phone Numbers and finally a DNR form if applicable. Place notebook paper in each section for your caregiver to make notes on what was accomplished while you were away. THEN, take time to care for your heart this month by truly relaxing. You may enjoy window shopping or reading a good book or simply going for a walk and enjoying God’s beautiful creation! Spend time praying and praising God for His provision!
Happy New Year, 2019! The holidays are over, and I wonder… did you survive the relatives?
Many times, the family arrives and your loved one is so excited to see them. The adrenaline kicks in and it is amazing how well they communicate, walk and function while the visiting family members are in town. I used to be amazed and also a bit annoyed at this ‘amazing recovery’. Some family members who see this for a day or two, may question why there is a problem with caring for their loved one. Understand…this is a temporary (adrenaline induced) behavior and as soon as the visiting family members leave, your loved one will probably take to the bed or chair for several days. Their appetite will also be decreased! This is normal for you but hard to make others understand and accept.
You are doing what is best on a 24/7 basis! Stay strong and patient.
Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” is a great verse to claim this new year!
May the Lord Bless You and Keep You and Your Family this season and throughout the New Year!
November! Hard to believe the holiday season is upon us!
This time of year is supposed to be filled with thanksgiving and good will but the life of a caregiver makes this difficult at times. The additional family and food that will be needed in the coming weeks is daunting.
Many times, the ‘golden child’ will come home for a quick visit and the feelings of jealousy outshine the thankfulness we should have. Appreciate the moments you have while your loved one is being “entertained” by someone else. Go for a walk or someplace quiet and pray for your loved ones and your visitors. It is amazing how prayer really does change our attitudes!
Be sensitive to the diet changes Thanksgiving will bring: Turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, rich pies, etc. These can be hard on the digestive system. Dark meat is easier to chew than white turkey meat. Give small portions to your loved ones and plan for extra bathroom supplies and time.
Above all meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”