Saturday, April 13, 2013

Growing Into the Role of Caregiver

Taking care of someone who used to take care of you is beyond difficult. 

Resentment and grief of loss swirl together to form a cocktail of anger that, if drunk to the dregs, can cause broken relationships and long term damage to the spirit. Negative emotions can't be contained tidily in a box labeled with the name of the one who "deserves it."  Toxic feelings seep out of their  container and are expressed toward innocent bystanders.

 In my early days of caregiving I began with resentment and blame toward my mother, but my attitude poisoned every close relationship I had. My poor husband had to dodge my blame-filled words, an overflow of hurt that didn't belong to him. It is so odd that we are able to shape our circumstances to fit our emotions.  My attitude was "If I feel angry  then you must have done something wrong!"  

Alzheimer's causes an egocentrism that is especially painful to bear when the loved one once was focused on the caregiver's needs; it is heartbreaking when someone who was once your champion becomes demanding and rude.  Separating the disease from the person is nearly impossible at first, because the behaviors exhibited are so familiar.  My mother's anger was familiar to me; who hasn't seen a parent angry?  But it was as though the volume had been turned up, and her target was always me, the one she once had believed was nearly perfect.  I was unable to protect my heart from hurt.

So, I had to grow up.

I had to learn that my mother's anger and disapproval did not have to break my heart.

I had to stop depending on Mom for sustenance and to figure out how to draw my strength from God.
I recognized that the place in my heart that had once been filled with my mother’s nurture and care now needed to be filled with the Lord. A Scripture memorized long ago, Isaiah 6:1, came to mind as I remembered that Isaiah saw the Lord in the year that his king died. In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers refers to this revelation given to Isaiah and says, “Our soul’s personal history with God is often an account of the death of our heroes. Over and over again God has to remove our friends to put himself in their place, and that is when we falter, fail, and become discouraged. Let me think about this personally—when the person died who represented for me all that God was, did I give up on everything in life? Did I become ill or disheartened? Or did I do as Isaiah did and see the Lord?”*  from My Mom Has Alzheimer's: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers
Caregiving is not easy, but we don't have to sustain emotional injury when our care recipients display vindictive, angry behaviors.  With the Lord's help we can follow His example and respond to negative behaviors with love.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1) . 
  1. *Taken from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, edited by James Reimann, June 13 deovotion, The Price of the vision © 1992 by Oswald Chambers Publications Association, Ltd., and used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI 49501. All rights reserved.

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