Saturday, April 23, 2011

Help When I Need It

This blog is written primarily for Christian caregivers, but I welcome all comers.  I don't ever want to exclude anyone on the basis of belief or non-belief.  Since my friend from Germany expressed her exasperation with the fact that I always and forever have a Christ-centered (her word, "moralistic") solution to the most knotty of problems; I've been aware that if I write exclusively to Christians, that I risk hurting hearts and minds of those who do not share my beliefs.  Yes, as Christians we are in the business of sharing the knowledge we have and the peace we've found.  When we know that we KNOW that we've been given eternal life, we want to share the news!  But let's not be obnoxious with it.  Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  I won't say that no one's ever been scared, coerced, or enticed by pious moralizing into the Kingdom of God, but I will say that these are not the preferred ways for us to share the peace we've found and the joy we know.


I've gotten online this morning in order to share the Bible verse I've just found;  one of those "When'd they put that in the Bible" revelations for me today.  (And, since Biblegateway updated their 1984 NIV Bible to a brand-new-for-2011 version, I really am finding stuff I didn't see before because, by golly, it wasn't THERE before...)

Here's the verse. 
"You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me" (Psalm 18:35 New International Version c2011).
 Isn't that great?

As an Alzheimer caregiver, I often feel completely overwhelmed.  Beyond that, the Lord seems to be placing me in the role of a servant/caregiver in other areas of my life. 

I couldn't do it without the Lord.  His saving help is my shield, and He sustains me.  

That isn't moralizing--it's the truth as I've come to know it!  God bless each person who reads these words today.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where is God in Alzheimer's?

I have been speaking and writing about Alzheimer's disease since my mom was received her diagnosis in April of 2004.  During these seven years I've been asked several times,  "Where is God in Alzheimer's?"

All I can do in the face of such a soul wrenching query is to attempt to comfort with the comfort I've received from the same God who allowed my mother (and your mother/ brother/ father/ sister/ husband/ wife/ friend) to be afflicted with this grievous disease.

Here are quotes from my book and accompanying Scripture that might help someone who is trying to find the Lord's presence and purpose in the midst of a struggle with a loved one's dementia:
God is sovereign over life, death, and everything between. There is great peace in accepting this fact. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Common sense based upon the facts of the expected progression of Alzheimer’s disease will lead to despair. Faith based upon the reality of Jesus Christ offers hope. 

The future is in God’s hands, and you can trust Him. No one but the Lord knows the future. Follow Him in your present and leave tomorrow in His hands.

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27a).

Anchor your heart to the Lord. Although everything around you may be in a state of upheaval, God does not change.

God is mighty to act on behalf of those who cry out to Him. I must avail myself of the healing balm of Gilead. Expressing pain and grief won’t kill me—but repressing it just might.

“The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The LORD protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you” (Psalm 116:5-7).

God is with you. If you act burdened and communicate your stress to your loved one, you are in sin against the Lord, who has provided for you.

In all of our trials large and small, God is present with us.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
“The LORD is with me; He is my helper” (Psalm 118:7).
God is the Provider for your loved one, and He will provide for you too.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge”
(2 Samuel 22:2,3).
I was comforted to be reminded that the Lord is in control even of events that are devastating to us. Because I knew Him to be a loving God, there was great peace in this reminder that He was in control. We cannot comprehend the why of distressing events, but we may always find solace when we come to the Lord. It is a difficult truth that our only hope of deliverance from the pain of grief lies in the arms of Him who allowed us that grief.
 I will close this post with a quote from my mother's journal, dated July, 1962.  I pray that each person who reads these words finds the strength and comfort they need to move forward through their own Alzheimer's journey:
Continually look for things that remind us that God is in all things we see or experience. Don’t hold back from life in fear of being hurt—or of seeing or feeling things that are devastating to us. Sometimes these are the things [in which] we may find some of God’s work for us.
Where is God in Alzheimer's?  Right where He has always been, sovereign over every circumstance of our lives, and present with power, provision, and comfort for His own.   
If you feel your relationship with the Lord isn't one that will afford you the peace promised in the Scripture  and quotes above, check out this link. 

Postscript, added 5/20/19:

My mother is still living, still has Alzheimer's, and is becoming more withdrawn and uncommunicative by the day.  Here are added understandings that may be of help at this point:

The Lord does not cause the events that devastate our lives and our hearts.  He is not the author of evil, and, in my comprehension, Alzheimer's disease is a great evil.  But I know without a doubt that in every challenge we face, even during the most difficult time, God  has made a path through it, and He is with us in it. With my limited and flawed understanding, I think that when God created the music of time and creation, He knew the melody must be allowed to play during this short segment during which human beings are allowed the choice of whether to come to Him as His children--or not.  We are not automatons and Satan exists, and so for this age, evil is present.  But God makes us a way through; He always makes us a way through, and from our Lord’s perspective, these present sorrows represent a very temporary situation.  He truly will bring everything together under the banner of His love; the process is underway now as all things are being drawn into His perfect will. Meantime, we are alright because we have confidence that someday He will make things all right, and He strengthens and sustains us in our here and now.  The Bible is full of promises that every tear will be wiped away and all things will, at the end of this age, come under the dominion of our God.

I don’t think that Alzheimer's (or any other horrible thing) is caused exclusively by human free will and sin.  Evil is the culprit, evil is in the world, and, as Scripture says, God is allowing the wheat and the weeds to grow up together during this season.  Evil is a fact for now (and Alzheimer's is, in my book, a great evil) but at the end of all things God's plan will be done on earth as Heaven, and all things will be brought together under one head; Christ (Ephesians 1:10).  And while we wait for that blessed day, we have the promise of His presence and provision in our here and now.  He will always make a way. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Think I Can't/Please pray for Me!

I am tired.  This morning I took a long look at myself in the mirror and said aloud, "I can't do this."

"This" is an all encompassing term that refers to:

  • giving up my job as teacher
  • facing retirement at age 57 with a laughably small retirement fund 
  • becoming dependent upon Farmer John (my husband) for all my financial needs, and by extension, upon the farm itself; which I've learned is an undependable source of income.  
  • watching my mother continue to fade away from me
  • carrying an increasingly heavy caregiving load
  • coping with the fact that the much anticipated (and thus far one-and-only) royalties check that I will receive from my publisher will be for a grand total of $144.00.  I am being paid approximately fourteen cents a copy for the books my publisher has sold for me.  
 I could go on.  And on and on and on.  But I'll spare you.  Suffice it to say, that unlike the Little Engine That Could, I don't think I can.

If you are annoyed by Christian platitudes, as is at least one of my readers, please stop reading now.  You may go about your business, leaving me in the depths of depression (gloom, despair, and agony on me...).


I'm praying as I write this gloomy post, and here is the verse that comes to mind:

"Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you"  (1 Kings 19:7).

These are the words that an angel spoke to Elijah, who, even I will admit, was in worse circumstances than mine.  He'd fled for his life from the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel,  he was the only prophet left alive who was a true spokesman for the Lord; and now they were trying to kill him too!  When the angel spoke to him, Elijah got up, ate, rested some more, and then ate again.  He was then able to continue his journey.

I don't need physical food right now, I really don't.  I've just imbibed a 23 grams-of-protein power bar.  And so what kind of intake will truly strengthen me for the journey ahead?  Of what can I partake that will kick the whine out of my voice and put a sparkle back into my eye?

Wait, I know this one...

Prayer.  Praise.  Fellowship.  Scripture.

That's the formula I taught my students back when I used to teach Sunday School, and it is a formula that has usually worked for me in the past.   But there is one more element not listed here, and that is intercession.  It's hard to ask others to pray when we are in need.  It takes humility, and a willingness to admit we can't pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

This morning I was at just that point of despair.  After I'd proclaimed to my own reflection the impossibility of the path before me, I went to my computer, composed a pathetic little "Please pray for me" email, and sent it winging on its way to three dear friends who are my closest prayer partners.  When I arrived at work about an hour later, one of those precious intercessors was sitting in my classroom, praying.  She gave me a hug, held my hand and prayed aloud for me, pledged to continue to pray and was gone.

And I'm ok now.

The point of this rambling entry is, dear fellow caregivers, that you really cannot do what you need to do all by yourself.  Cry out to the Lord, and humble yourself to ask others to intercede for you.

Because even if you think you can't, the Lord can; and the intercession of others will help you to go forward in His strength and not your own.

Scripture:  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Change is Hard

I've felt so angry with my mother the past few days. I don't believe I'd better describe in detail the reason for my anger; but my fellow caregivers understand. The anger is justified.

What's that? I don't blame my mother's negative behaviors on the disease?

No. I blame her inability to hide her "negative behaviors" (aka, sin) on the Alzheimer's disease. Sin is sin.

However today I had a little bit of a revelation.  (I always think of the line from one of my favorite movies, Hook):
Smee:  "I've had an apostrophe!" 
Hook:  "I think you mean an epiphany..."

This particular epiphany should have occurred for me much sooner.  I've written a caregiving book, for Pete's sake.  Here, belatedly, is my renewed understanding:  In a caregiver/patient relationship, if change is needed, the caregiver is the one who has to change. 

I am the one who must make the necessary changes to accommodate my mother's needs. Admonishing her won't help, because she can't remember what she did wrong. Becoming irritated by her behaviors might be justified, but doesn't help the situation at all! 

The challenge comes because Alzheimer's disease progresses so slowly.  My mother has spent a long stretch of time at roughly the same level of functioning, and this allowed me to become used to the status quo.  But recently Mom has lost the ability to monitor impulses that she previously was able to control.  The behaviors I now see that are disturbing and inconvenient aren't patient issues, they are caregiving issues.  

Change is not easy, particularly not for someone like me.  I am the proverbial stick-in-the-mud, clinging stubbornly to antiquated ways of dealing with my world in the face of change.  (Who prefers a teakettle to heat water anymore, when the microwave is faster and easier?  I do!)   However, as an Alzheimer caregiver, I must resign myself to the fact that my mother's condition will continue to deteriorate, and that I must accept the responsibility to change my patterns of responding to her as her needs increase. 


I'm feeling comforted today by this Scripture:  "I, the Lord, do not change..."  (Malachi 3:6).  

And by this line from the old hymn "On Christ the Solid Rock:" 

In every dark and stormy gale my anchor holds within the veil...
What a relief to depend on the Lord, who does not change, in the midst of all the uncertainties of life.   If you'll excuse me now, I'm going to go heat some water for tea.