Monday, July 28, 2014

To Caffeinate or Not to Caffeinate--That is the Question!

For no particular reason, I decided to skip my daily cup of coffee this morning.  At about 10:00 a.m. a headache began behind my eyes and then quickly radiated to the top of my head.  It felt like a migraine, and I did not at first connect my lack of energy and head pain with the absence of the stimulate contained in just 8 ounces of Folgers Simply Smooth; my brand of choice. 

When the thought occurred that absence of caffeine might be to blame for the headache that threatened to send me back to bed, my first response was, "Surely not."  But a little internet research revealed that when our bodies acclimate to the caffeine in just one cup of coffee, skipping that daily dose can result in a thunder-boomer headache and lethargy. 

I would swear off my morning brew but for the studies I've read that say coffee drinkers who have mild cognitive impairment are less likely to progress into full blown Alzheimer's than their java imbibing counterparts.  I actually read a report of one of these studies on the very day I had decided to remove caffeine from my mother's diet.  She drinks coffee every morning and sips diet cola throughout the day, and I had decided too much caffeine might cause more harm than good. But once I'd read about the potential benefits of caffeine for Mom, I took a careful step away from the decaffeinated diet cola display at my local grocery store.  We need all the help we can get. 

I would never give an elderly patient caffeine in pill form; one has only to read recent news reports of the deaths associated with powdered caffeine supplements to know this would be a very bad idea.  And, caffeine may carry other health risks that you should talk over with your doctor.  But if your dependent loved one is a long time coffee drinker (and with your physician's approval) I wouldn't deprive them of the small amount of caffeine in a daily cup of joe.  The benefits may well outweigh the risks. 

Here is Web MD's article about the potential benefits of coffee:  Web MD Coffee Benefits

Again--talk to your doctor before changing health habits either for yourself or for your loved one. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make a pot of coffee! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bible Verses, Hymns, and Devotions for Alzheimer Patients

Ten years ago I began providing care to my mom, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the spring of 2004.  During that time I recorded heartfelt prayers along with the Lord's answering solace here at this blog.  The blog was seen by an editor who asked me to write a book for her company.  The publisher named that book My Mom Has Alzheimer's: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers. I did not like this title at first, but then I realized: my mom does have Alzheimer's and the book does contain inspiration and help for caregivers!  

Almost as soon as that book was published in September of 2009, I felt the Lord's strong push to write a book of devotions for my mother and others who struggle with dementia. It is too easy to forget the spiritual needs of those precious care recipients whose physical needs overwhelm us while our own hearts are aching with grief of loss and burden of care.  And so I began rewriting devotions from My Mom Has Alzheimer's, this time from the patient's perspective. This was a valuable exercise for me as a caregiver, because it forced me to put myself in Mom's place as I attempted to view the world through her eyes.  

It is with a profound sense of having completed a task the Lord wanted done that I announce the publication of Beautiful in Each Season: Devotions for YouThe book is available as of today in both softcover (large print for patients who are still able to read independently) and as an eBook for the Kindle format.  I was able to hand the proof copy of the book to Mom today, and I just can't describe the blessing and relief I felt as she opened it and began to read aloud.  I am so grateful I accomplished this task while Mom is still able to benefit, and it is my prayer that others are blessed as well.  

The first few devotions in the book are available for preview at Amazon using the "Look Inside This Book" feature. Please pray with me that this book reaches those who can be helped by it!  I've included the back cover copy below: 

“People with Alzheimer’s aren’t dumb, they just have trouble remembering!”
Anna Ruth Williamson, Alzheimer patient since 2004.

The devotions in Beautiful in Each Season were written with respect for the intellect and spirits of those with dementia. The readings are straightforward but not childish in content, and are appropriate for independent or caregiver supported use. Because music transcends language and speaks directly to the heart, a few lines from familiar hymns are included with each devotion. 
Many of the conflicts that arise between people with dementia and their caregivers occur because two completely different perspectives must come together in order for harmony to exist. When the patient is a loved one, the caregiver faces not only an increased workload, but also new financial worries and the loss of emotional support as the relationship of the past is redefined. On the patient’s part, dementia has narrowed perceptions to the degree that there is little awareness or empathy for the struggles of the caregiver. The confusion and disorientation of cognitive dysfunction may result in suspicion and fear-based anger. When both patient and caregiver know and love the Lord, reminders of His steadfast love provide a common ground through which empathy and love can flow.
This book can be used either alone or in tandem with the caregivers’ devotional, My Mom Has Alzheimer’s: Inspiration and Help for Caregivers (Bridge-Logos Foundation, 2009).  

“As caregivers we must not allow our loved ones to forget God’s love”
Linda Born

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Caregiving Decisions: Pray Through to Peace

The single most important edict for a Christian caregiver is this: "Pray through to peace regarding caregiving decisions."  Whatever decisions you make for your loved one, pray and ask others to pray during that vulnerable and emotional time following a diagnosis of dementia. 

Do not let any one source convince you of the course of action you should take, but be open to the Holy Spirit's direction through prayer, God's word, and counsel with Christ-centered mentors and friends. 

Be patient with a spouse whose anxiety over your loyalty and a desire to preserve the status quo may temporarily drown God's voice. Don't trust the direction given by a dementia patient who may, out of fear, make demands and utter threats.  Another scenario is a patient like my mother, who selflessly recommends what she assumes is best for her caregiver in the mistaken assumption that things will work out well for her no matter what.  In each of these instances, the caregiver must carry the burden and responsibility of decision-making by following the Holy Spirit's lead rather than human counsel. 

Interaction with a dementia patient who is also a loved one may require the following interpretation guide:
When an aging parent says, "I don't want to be a burden," she really means "I don't want you to resent me." 

When he says, "I don't want to disrupt your lives," he actually means, "I hope your love and loyalty to me make any sacrifice you must give seem inconsequential." 

When she says, "I don't want you to see me turn into someone you don't know," she means, "I hope you can stay close to me even if I behave badly."   
Do not release a loved one to death before they have died.  Do not reconcile yourself to suffering you might have prevented because "That's the way he wanted it."  Do not too easily accept a sacrifice an aging loved one seems willing to make on your behalf when the sacrifice ought to have been yours, not theirs.

We serve a God who will go to great lengths to ease the suffering of just one of His precious lambs (even though as you'll remember 99 others remained temporarily without a shepherd, though safe in the fold).  When we are safe in the physical and mental strength of our productive years, God may ask us to make sacrifices on behalf of one little old man or woman who can no longer make decisions and has nothing left to offer.   

"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants" (Psalm 116:15).  It is human nature to recoil from the decline and dying of a loved one.  But God will not only sustain, but bless as we care for those He loves, even if the dying process should stretch over years of a journey through Alzheimer's disease. 

A first, instinctive response is to recoil from the upheaval of our lives that active caregiving requires, but if this is God's will for you, stand firm.  Beware voices that say, "You just have to let go,"  or "He's just trying to make you feel guilty," or "You have to live your own life."  Do not let go of anything God has not commanded you to release. He will silence the dissenting voices so that in the end, even they will acknowledge that God's will has resulted in blessing. 

One further direction: do not trespass against your own heart. If God has anointed you as the primary caregiver for a loved one, He will also instill in you the strong desire to provide care. There are those who will interpret that strong desire as being about you and your emotions when it is actually the response of your heart to the Holy Spirit's direction and God's will.  If you go against a Spirit-directed urge, you will break your own heart and quench the Holy Spirit within you. 

Stand firm in prayer.  Few things in life are so important as praying through to confidence over the decisions you make on behalf of an elderly loved one.  Do not rule out either the possibility that God may ask for an extraordinary sacrifice of time and service, or that you will need to lay your loved one on God's altar in the faith of release.  God will very likely ask you to do both these things.  But you must pray through to peace whatever decision you make so that you may have the very great blessing and reward of one who says to the Lord, "Thy will be done."