Wednesday, February 20, 2019


I live in a 100 year old farmhouse. 
The basement was once a coal cellar, and it leaks.  I'm married to a farmer, and those of you who understand what that means will know that home repairs tend to rank low on the list of priorities while available cash flow is directed to putting a crop into the ground.

The woodwork in several rooms of my home sports a 1980's orange tinge, some of the sheetrock has cracked because of settling during drought years, and the kitchen, which was last remodeled 20 years or so ago, sports a wallpaper border.  That border has become the focus of a lot of my angst lately.  Our ceilings are 9 feet high and I'm not as secure at the top of a stepladder as I used to be.  I have taken to staring at that border with a feeling of helpless resentment; I have so many friends who live in newly remodeled homes. Their woodwork is white, their walls are gray, their furniture is not floral.

I made plans to mount a cautious ascent to the top rung of the big stepladder, and peel that wallpaper border down.

I hadn't mentioned this plan to my grandchildren, but what happened next makes me wonder whether they somehow caught wind of change in the air, because just a few days after my decision to remove the border, my youngest grandson looked up at it and said, "Grammy, I really like those apples up there."

I was stricken with guilt.  Here I was poised to tamper with a portion of his childhood memories: to trespass on the sanctity of "Grammy's house."  I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't let this sweet child's fondness for my decor belay my plans. "He's three years old," I thought.  "He's resilient.  He'll get over it."

A week or so later, I invited my middle grandson, age 6, out for a play date.  We had a wonderful time.  He was sitting in the same chair his little brother had occupied a few days earlier, and we made  cinnamon rolls together.  Incredibly, he sat back in the chair, raised his eyes to the spot where ceiling meets wall, and said, "I just love those apples, Grammy."  He paused thoughtfully, and added, "...and those chickens."  The two metal chickens that grace the top cupboard of the north wall of my kitchen had also suffered my baleful stares, and are at risk of the same fate that threatens the wallpaper border.  How did those two little boys know exactly how to make their grandmother pause in her rampant plans to bring unwelcome change to a beloved portion of their lives: Grammy's kitchen.

Perhaps my three grandsons had discussed this matter among themselves, or maybe the Lord is just trying to get through to me, because when my oldest grandson, age 11, was here just last week he too mentioned how much he likes my kitchen.  I said resignedly, "I suppose you like the wallpaper border."

And he looked at me very seriously and said, "I do Grammy, I really do."

My grandparents' home.  
I finally prayed about my discontent with the sweet home the Lord has provided me, and in response, memories of my own grandmother's house came to mind.  My grandparents lived in a home that had begun as a one room log cabin. Grandpa added a second floor, built a room that connected the main house to the tiny cabin he'd built for his own mother, and added a final addition that he called "the utility room."  If you dropped a marble on the floor in Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom, it rolled with increasing speed, to the opposite wall. Their kitchen was small, and I adored it from the white enameled corner cupboard to the tiny window over the sink that offered a closeup view of the propane tank outside.  In lieu of a door, the entry off the kitchen to Grandma and Grandpa's room sported a length of patterned fabric stretched on a string across the top of the doorway.  The ceilings were just seven feet high.

I loved my grandparents' house and love the memory of it still. It never occurred to me to critique it based on whether the appliances were new (they were not) or the furnishings up to date (definitely not).  With the perspective that comes with adulthood I recognize that Grandma and Grandpa were what we would now call "poor," but I don't think any of us knew it or cared.  There was love there, and blessed familiarity: arms that stretched wide to welcome us when we visited, and my grandma's tear-filled eyes when we drove away.  Beloved, beautiful memories that have nothing to do with the quality of material things.

I will confess that the apples that rim my cheery farm kitchen are still not safe from my urge to renovate and remodel, but my discontent has evaporated.  I am the blessed proprietor of "Grammy's house," and I wouldn't trade that role for all the shiplap in all the beautifully renovated farmhouses in the world.


" content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

Monday, February 11, 2019

Resources for Caregivers

My Mom with her youngest great grandson, Isaac.
My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease nearly 15 years ago, and at age 94, is still able to recognize me, eat without help, and carry on a conversation.  She can no longer read, watch TV, or tolerate groups of people, because she can't keep up with dialogue and group conversation. However, she enjoys listening to music and says she has a good and comfortable life.  We cared for her in our home for 12 years, and she's been in a nursing home since August of 2016.

Some people succumb very quickly to Alzheimer's, but others, like my mother, are able to have a good quality of life for years following the diagnosis.  

The following links do not constitute medical or other recommendations for you, but are based on our experience and may give you a starting point when you are in the information gathering stage. Here are some resources that have helped us: 

1.  The Alzheimer's Association.  This has been the single, most helpful resource for me as a caregiver.    

2.  Most cities have Alzheimer's support groups for caregivers.  Our local Alzheimer's support group helped us through a difficult time when my mother was first diagnosed.  I attended meetings for about a year, and during that time was helped with finding an elder law attorney who in turn helped us through issues such as obtaining Durable Power of Attorney for Health and Financial needs.  To begin a search for local resources, the Alzheimer's Association has a data base here. Click the tab at the top of the page that says "Finding Local Resources."  

3. If at all possible, find an attorney who is a member of the Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  This membership will at least provide evidence that your attorney has expressed an interest and may have some specialized knowledge regarding current elder law.  You want someone knowledgeable about such issues as Medicare approved resources for dementia patients, current Medicaid laws, and in the case of spouses, division of assets.  The Medicare home health benefit covers some types of skilled therapies.  

4.  Mini Mental Status Examination--Now, don't offend your loved one by playing amateur diagnostician, but this little test can be helpful in revealing whether further testing is needed.  At the time of my mother's diagnosis, our nurse practitioner administered this test.  Mom's score was 24/29.  

5.  Find out about current drug therapies, and seek help from medical professionals.  My mother experienced improvement when she began Aricept, Namenda, and a prescription anti-depressant.  She continues with these drugs and I feel they are responsible for her continued, relative well being.  There may be an adjustment period.  It took about a year for her to adapt to the medications.  Aricept gave her bad dreams for awhile, but this effect receded as we stuck with the therapy.  

6.  Video and book resources--With the wonders of the internet, you can always do a Google search, but it is better to obtain lists of dependable resources from your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.  I found resources by contacting The Heart of America Alzheimer's Association.  

8.  Legal planning and legal documents are available at  

9.  Depression is often a part of Alzheimer's disease.  I feel that treating my mom's depression greatly helped her cognition.  Consult your physician regarding this issue.  

10.  Extra help may be available, based on income.  Our Heart of America chapter of the Alzheimer's Association had a program called the Family Service Fund.  My mother qualified for their program that provided incontinence supplies. Other services may be available.  

11.  Your state's department on aging has valuable resources regarding choices in longterm care, in-home services, and many other topics.

12.  As a member of my mother's care team, I have familiarized myself with late stage caregiving strategies.  I feel I know Mom better than anyone else, and I have several times noticed needs even ahead of the competent and caring staff at the nursing home.  Even after a loved one enters nursing home care, he/she needs a patient advocate.  I consider myself a caregiver, still, although I have been relieved of the day-to-day burdens of being Mom's primary caregiver.

13.  We found dependable sources of information in local people who had traveled the road ahead of us as caregivers for loved ones. I made phone calls, sent numerous emails to friends and relatives, and even stopped folks on the street of our small town as I gathered information on Mom's behalf.  

14.  If you are in need of Scripture-based guidance and support, the Youtube video series I completed several years ago may be of help.  Much of the information from my caregiving book is included in these videos.  You can find week 1 of the series here.  A complete listing of links to each episode is available at my website, here.

I hope this post has provided some help for new caregivers as well as those who have been on an Alzheimer journey with a loved one for a longer period of time.  God bless you as you provide care to those you love.