Friday, February 17, 2017

Encouragement for Caregivers


Today's post at my devotional blog, One Hundred Days to Freedom, spoke to my heart on behalf of caregivers. We are so often isolated and made to feel that our preoccupation with the needs of just one loved one is somehow inferior to more visible forms of service. And yet we serve a God who speaks of Himself as a shepherd who will seek just one lost sheep.  If you are in charge of even just one of the Lord's lambs, be encouraged. You are precious in His sight.

Find that encouraging reading by clicking the photo above (or the following link), which will take you to a post entitled Strength for Today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow.  


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day to Caregivers

Here is a Valentine for caregivers, who give so much, come to the end of their own strength...and then give some more. The Lord sees your sorrows. He knows how difficult it is to watch your loved ones suffer, and He knows the toll that has been taken upon your heart and spirit. He is upholding you now and has made provision for you on the road ahead.  Be encouraged, dear hearts, the Lord is with you.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

His Comforts Delight My Soul


Clockwise from upper left: Detail from an oil painting done by my mother; antique pitcher found in a box of my dad's rummage sale purchases; coffee with 2% milk rather than skim; the rosemary plant on my window sill with our bird feeders outside; and a heartwarming "sunshine post" from Little Birdie Blessings that, by coincidence, appeared just under a weather report for our area predicting sunshine for today.

We are enduring one of those seasons in life when grief threatens to overwhelm as sorrows and challenges attack from multiple directions.

This morning I turned my heart to praise.  I've earned that praising God as an "ought to" is not very edifying either for the Almighty or for me, and so I asked the Lord to remind me of Jesus, and to help me think about the beauty of His sacrifice for us and of the love of Father God, and to remember the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  That did it! Praise came bubbling forth, not as an "ought to" but as a response to the beauty of our Lord.

In times of grief the Lord provides comfort and sustenance if we only have the strength to lift our eyes to see, and if we will ask Him to do so, He'll even provide that needed strength!  I didn't do anything right or righteous, I only asked Him to help me to see Him more clearly.

The following Scripture has provided comfort during this time: In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul*.  When we are sad, we may think it is somehow inappropriate to enjoy the small comforts God has allowed.  In truth, these comforts are a part of the Lord's provision for us and we should not withhold our pleasure in them or our thanksgiving to God for allowing them.

At the top of this post, I've shared some photos of the small pleasures that comforted my soul this morning.  I offer these with my love to those of you who are suffering grief of loss today, along with a prayer that you are enabled to receive the blessings of the small comforts the Lord has provided you.

* Psalm 94:19 NKJV

Friday, February 3, 2017

Commit, Don't Dismiss

During my devotion time this morning I was apologizing to the Lord for feeling so depressed.  I assumed I was exaggerating my sorrows and that the pain I feel over seeing Mom sagging in her wheelchair at the nursing home, for example, is not as severe a trial for her to endure or for me to observe as I perceive it to be.  I tend to dismiss my tears or feel that I'm being silly if I give way to depression.  

As I prayed, these thoughts came: 

For the most part, we underestimate both the severity of the trials we face and their impact upon our minds and bodies. The one thing that needs attention is the weight of the burden we feel whenever we do catch a glimpse of how truly grievous our injuries have been.  It isn't that we should dismiss the pain, but that we should commit it into God's hands, because our suffering belongs to Him.  When we dismiss as inconsequential the grief we've endured, we risk inflicting further injury upon ourselves.  

To commit heartache into the Lord's hands is like sending something that belongs to us to a place where it can be taken care of so we don't have to think about it anymore. 

It isn't a simple transaction. My pain over my mother's suffering, among other things, feels as though it is my own, almost as though it is a possession that belongs tucked away in my heart. I must make a conscious choice to release my sorrows into the hands of the One who has offered to bear it on my behalf.  

1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus "the overseer of our souls."  This is precious imagery that portrays Christ as being in charge of the welfare of our hearts.  We don't cause Him more pain by releasing our suffering to Him; when we  release our sorrows to Him we avail ourselves of His sacrifice already made at the Cross. In fact, a way we might increase our Savior's pain is to refuse to accept the payment He has given for us.  

May we have grace to commit our sorrows into His hands.  

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”  For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:24-25


Monday, January 30, 2017

God's Mercy


The current division between liberal and conservative perspectives in our country is heartbreaking. It is particularly devastating when churches are divided because of differing beliefs and perspectives. I've been praying this morning about such divisions and asking for the Lord's mercy over all of us. I pray we can recognize that much of the divisiveness in the air around us comes from the enemy, who fans the smallest of judgments and discords into flame.  Whenever brethren in Christ are distracted from our main purpose, which is to draw others to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the enemy has won a victory.

I found James 2:13 in The Voice Translation some months ago, when I was writing 100 Days to Freedom.  It struck me then, as now, with truth:  Love is the most powerful weapon we have because mercy triumphs over judgment.  When we judge others, we aren't loving others, whether we are casting them out for causes we believe are just or not.

Pray with me for our country, states, cities, small towns, communities, churches, and families:

 Father, please save us from the devastation of divisions among us through the love You have shown in Christ, and let this grace be expressed in our lives by our love for one another.  Let Your mercy triumph over any judgments we might bring upon one another, and may your peace reign among us, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Recommended Reading

It is a blessing to find a blog whose author reaches through the written word to speak compassion and encouragement to the struggles we face. And, it is helpful to find information written by an expert who includes links to additional, beneficial sites. But it is rare to find a blog written by someone who provides both compassion and expert knowledge.

I've found just such a blog, written by a family physician who says the purpose of his site is "...to educate and encourage those who are sick as well as their caregivers."  

You can find him at GoodPhysicianBlog.com.  He has written an excellent and informative post that I recommend:  10 Things We Should All Understand About Alzheimer's Disease.   

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Heartaches of a Spenddown

Right now Mom's room doesn't seem right without Mom in it, but in years to come the laughter of her great-grandchildren will fill the empty spaces as we host family gatherings here.  The church pew to the right is from the church where my parents were married in 1946. Memories old and new, memories yet to be made!   
During the years my mother lived with us, her monthly income was nearly adequate to provide for her needs, and so she still had a small but comfortable sum in reserve when she entered nursing home care. This we began "spending down" in anticipation of an eventual need to apply for Medicaid.

When you don't have a whole lot to start with, it doesn't take very long to spend it down at the rate of about six thousand dollars a month for nursing home care, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. The dreaded Medicaid application process looms before us, and although my head tells me everything will work out, my heart tells me differently.

When we are in the process of losing someone we love, the material blessings they leave behind gain emotional value. For example, I am writing this post while seated in a comfortable chair in the spacious addition to our home that my Dad's careful saving made possible for Mom. She spent twelve years in this warmly lit, lovely space, was happy here, and we were happy to have her. My dad would have been so pleased.

He was brave, my dad. At age 50 he knew he had not saved enough money to keep my mom secure, should anything happen to him.  He went to back to school for the better part of two years and became a Federal Meat Inspector. The savings he accrued in the final 15 years of his working life helped provide a secure, handicapped accessible place for Mom when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I will have this space as a testament to the beautiful way God provided for my mom through my dad.

A spenddown, however, is the opposite of comforting.  Mom is now paying other people approximately five times the monthly amount she paid me as per the care agreement* our attorney drafted when she decided to live with us. Again the heart/head disconnect; this feels unfair, but my brain works well enough to understand the costs of providing 24 hour a day care in a facility. There are eight or ten aides on each of three shifts at the nursing home, and this doesn't include the charge nurse, administrator, or cooking staff.  The amount we pay for care at this small nursing home in a rural community begins to look like a bargain...when I use my head, that is.

My heart sees it differently. It feels as though my mother's remaining financial assets are evaporating into thin air.  She is receiving services for her payments, but, probably because I was her primary caregiver for so long, I feel usurped.

It's important to recognize these emotions and to allow my Christ-directed mind to take precedence over my emotion-driven heart. Otherwise, some strange behaviors can erupt, because emotions can't be kept in a box.  They will escape their confines and influence seemingly unrelated situations so that we act, in a word, weird. The past few months I have been at best, stingy, and at worst, irrational regarding matters of money, and it is because I've confused losing an earthly inheritance with the loss of my mother. The one can be released without regret, but the other is an eternal connection through Christ.  I don't have to mourn my mother's slow passing away as though I had no hope of seeing her again when we are resurrected in Christ. Our relationship will evolve but it won't disappear.

Meantime, I'm going to do my best not to act weird about money.  It'll be a challenge, but I think even in the face of a Medicaid spenddown, I can do it, because the Lord is my help.

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Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

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*If you consider becoming a primary caregiver for a loved one who is infirm, it is highly recommended to confer with an attorney who is an elder law expert. Membership in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys doesn't guarantee expertise, but it is a starting place to help you find someone who keeps up with Medicaid laws and is an advocate for those who have special needs and their loved ones. You can use their search tool to find an elder law attorney in your area.

P.S.  My blogger friend, Georgene, from over at Living On Less Money, asked why it is recommended to see an elder law attorney when one becomes a caregiver for a loved one who is infirm. Here are the reasons we spent several sessions with a local attorney who had worked for Medicaid and was on the board of a local nursing home:  1) I needed Durable Power of Attorney for health care and financial needs for Mom.  This is a legal document that, as far as I know, needs to be drafted by an attorney.  2)  Mom was adamant that she would pay me a salary, but we worried that anything she paid me would have to be paid back in a Medicaid recapture of funds. The attorney assured us that if both parties desire a care agreement (she called it an in-advance contract) that this is acceptable to Medicaid.  That contract was very specific as to the services that would be provided Mom (right down to washing her windows at least twice a year!!), and was written to protect her rights.  The salary she paid me was small, but helped defer the financial loss I incurred when I quit my teaching job to care for Mom.  3)  Mom wanted to create a living will.  She does not want to be put on life support.  We needed the attorney to create that document.   4)  Mom wanted to set aside monies for funeral expenses, which are safe from a Medicaid spenddown, and had no idea how to go about this. She ended up purchasing a prepaid burial plan, but this isn't always recommended because if a funeral home goes out of business, the investment could be lost. We needed the attorney's advice on how Mom could safely set aside money for these expenses.

When we were in transition into the role of caregiver and patient, our emotions were running high and we weren't necessarily thinking clearly.  We had many decisions to make with Mom shortly after her Alzheimer's diagnosis.  Building a mother-in-law addition was the most monumental of these, and our attorney led us through this process in a way that blessed Mom and protected her rights as well as ours.  The attorney's suggestions were invaluable.  I don't know whether we would have had courage to move forward with the addition without our attorney's guidance, but it proved to be a wonderful blessing for my mother.  No one (but the Lord) could have anticipated that she would spend twelve happy and peaceful years with the security of having us next door whenever she had a need.

Hope this clarifies the reasons I recommend the guidance of a competent attorney who has an interest in elder law.