Perhaps I don't write enough about the difficult aspects of caregiving.
With God's guidance I've set up rules for myself to follow regarding anything I write about Mom. First of all I must honor her as my mother. The Lord has made it clear to me that the strong must serve the weak, and my mother is weakened by disease (see Romans 15:1). Jesus washed feet and didn't respond to abusive words; that's because He knew His own strength. His rule was that He was governed by God's will and God's love, and this rule must govern me lest I fall into disobedience to the most Holy God.
However, other caregivers might surmise there is nothing for them to gain from reading about an experience that's all sunshine and roses as compared to their own difficult journeys. And, since God's power is made perfect in weakness, I won't hold back from writing some humiliating truths about my own weakness today.
Here is my confession: In five years of caregiving, I have never adapted to the task of bathing my mother. She is in stage 5 of Alzheimer's disease with just a few beginning characteristics of stage 6 (click here for stages of Alzheimer's disease from the Alzheimer's Association). And so, if I lay out washcloths, soap, and clothing; she is still able to wash and dress on her own each day. Based on her behavior when I help her shower, I think she probably errs on the side of repeating behaviors (such as washing her face several times) rather than omitting them altogether, and so she is very clean.
However, she is unable to shower by herself, and so Saturday is bath day. Using words Ma Ingalls might have uttered, I playfully tell Mom, "You've got to go in all over at least once a week. Anything less is just not what decent folks would do."
I dread bath day, and in five years my angst has not decreased at all. In fact, in some ways it's gotten worse. I have always had a sensitive nose and a stomach that responds to my emotions, but the past few weeks the merest whiff of any normal body odors not my own has caused my stomach to churn. Last week on bath day I became so nauseated that I left my mother perched on the shower seat and fled from the room to phone a friend to pray for me. The fact that I was almost immediately better when she began to pray reveals that this is a spiritual battle. This week in the middle of the procedures, I sent a panicked text message to my daughter for prayer because I had become nauseated and emotionally upset. My knees were weak and actually buckled at one point, causing me to lose my balance. I feel ridiculous confessing all this.
Why don't I find someone to help me, you ask? My Mom does not yet qualify for Medicaid and I was quoted a price of nearly $150 when I attempted to find someone to hire to help . But beyond the expense is the fact that the thought of hiring a stranger to bathe Mom horrifies me. I understand her disease and her responses, I know her, and I love her. For the most part, I've learned to respond in love when she snaps at me out of frustration or weariness. If she were rude to a stranger during the bathing process when she is so vulnerable, what would that person's response be? At the very least most people in the world would respond in kind. I hate the thought of her being cowed into submission by someone unfamiliar to her. I feel so protective of her poor old body. While Mom is aware of who I am and still feels modest or afraid around strangers, I believe that this bathing ordeal is an anointed task that I am to perform. It's my job.
The Lord has shown me how to cope effectively. When I have an intercessor I am able to proceed as though I were a stronger person than I am.
The point of this entry today is the importance of humbling oneself to ask for prayer. If a caregiving task is difficult or even if it is abhorrent; this doesn't mean that we as caregivers need to be excused from the unpleasant task. We can ask God to for strength. We can ask friends to pray.
Scripture: "Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us" (1 Thessalonians 5:25, New Living Translation).