Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ten Years and Counting...

I've grown used to a look of incredulity on peoples' faces when I tell them my husband and I have taken care of my Alzheimer's mom in our home since November of 2004, and I can hardly believe it myself.  But from my vantage point ten years into this adventure, I am able to see ways God has brought blessing to us not only in spite of this difficult situation, but through it.

When I began this post I tried to include all of the amazing ways God has taken care of us while we have provided care to Mom, but the list was long and some of the details seemed too personal too share.  Suffice it to say God has provided for our jobs, finances, and living conditions in ways that at times have seemed miraculous. And, though I'd always known my husband was a pretty admirable guy, he gained hero status in my eyes by his willingness to partner with me to care for Mom.  I can honestly say that taking care of Mom together has blessed our marriage. 

I couldn't see the potential for any of these blessings on that day back in the spring of 2004 when the doctor said, "I am confident of the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease for your mother. She meets all of the criteria."  I thought it was the end of the world as I knew it. But as we prayed, asked others to pray for us, and earnestly sought God's will, we became convinced that we should provide care to Mom at home.  Step by step the way opened for us to do so.

Through Mom's Alzheimer's I've learned the truth of the statement, "Where God sends, God will provide." The transition period was rough, but we've had more or less smooth sailing since that first difficult year.

If you are a Christian struggling with a transition into the caregiving role, I hope this post serves to remind you that the Lord hasn't let you down yet, and He won't now.  Remember that God provides us just enough information to navigate the worries of today, and He expects us to trust our tomorrows to Him.  Whether you are facing nursing home placement, home care, or end of life issues for someone you love, God is faithful.  It is safe to leave the future in His hands. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mom Writes and Sings

My mother is 90 years old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's ten years ago. We've had our share of drama along the way--there was the 911 call (I'd missed her telephone message requesting a package of saltine crackers so she called the police).  There was the time she got angry at me for suggesting we take a walk, and while I ran upstairs to take a phone call she decided to go alone (sans coat or outdoor shoes on a 30 degree day).  There was the fall over a throw rug that resulted in a broken collarbone (I was a novice caregiver; elderly people should not have throw rugs in their paths).  We've weathered stomach flu, cataract surgery, and a couple of really bad colds that threatened to turn to pneumonia but did not. 

I share the above incidents because I don't want you to think that our path has been atypically uneventful or to imply that because of our faith in God everything's been easy.  But over these ten years of time my fear of the disease has decreased as I've seen my mom coping well in the moment she's in because she consults God about every little thing.  And because I figure I can learn to do the same, I believe that I have the best insurance possible against an Alzheimer's diagnosis of my own.  If worse comes to worse, God will be with me as He has been with my mother before me. (But Lord, I would ask to be excused from dementia if at all possible, AMEN!). 

My mother writes constantly, filling page upon page of spiral notebook after spiral notebook, and I believe this is one reason she's done as well as she has for as long as she has. Sometimes the lined sheets are filled with nonsensical or illegible words, but very often her thoughts are coherent and uplifting. It is encouraging to me that although Alzheimer's patients have lost memory of the immediate past, they may, far into the disease process,  retain the ability to enjoy life in the present moment. Also, it is interesting that Mom can list our names and relationships accurately as she writes but when she speaks with us often asks questions such as this: "Now, who are you? Who are you married to? Where do you live?" For my mother, the act of writing seems to help her link to memory.

Caveat: You probably can't teach an old Azheimer patient a new trick, such as journaling. But there is some evidence that a habit of journaling pre-Alzheimer's is helpful after the diagnosis. 

Here are some excerpts from Mom's journal--the January 1 entry is a typical section when she is a little more lucid, the January 2 entry illustrates her more garbled entries:
January 1, 2015 Thursday afternoon--Anna Ruth Williamson, 88 years of age (she's actually 90) is blessed to be allowed to live in this very nice apartment attached to the farmhouse. 
There is a large 3 way window looking out on the winter world.
I feel so blessed to have this apartment in which to reside. My L.R. furnished with divan and 2 big chairs--one very comfortable for me. I do appreciate. Thank you Lord, Linda and John.  
John Edgar in to visit awhile on his way to different chores...good.  
My personal Christmas tree pleases me so beautiful and thinks me of early Christmases in past. Now! Old and Senile. 
Friday, Jan. 2, 2015 (She is apparently interacting with the Christmas music that's playing in the background. BRB is her code for "bathroom break," and AR is her abbreviation of her own name.)
Come let us adore him - repeat - Jesus our Lord - We listen - guidance all I can get - O come let us adore him repeat Jesus our God - Orchestra (illegible portion) I wait: orchestra listen! Christmas Day. 
Need help assistance as possible ---orchestra races Tidings of peace & joy -- we listen--sleep. warmth--thank you! comfort & Joy (she must have dozed off here, she often does)! 
Hold! Orchestra plays on -- we listen--Information please! Wait! Help--orchestra--nice on & on! Need BRB. Why not moving? Lazy...
Back from BRB...
...In silent adoration!! I'm home!!! Praise!!!! How great thou art!!!!!!
A.R. smiles and enjoys what is...
Well, there you have it. Anna Ruth smiles, and enjoys what is!