Read an Excerpt
Loving Your Parents When They Can No Longer Love You
Part 1: Embracing Caregiving and Aging as a Spiritual Journey
1. In Two Years She Will Be Dependent 15
* The fright of aging
• What is aging?
• The courage of faith, the humility of love
• Heroic to humble
• A worthy and courageous woman with a problem
• Aging: who needs it?
• When love is difficult
• Embracing the aging process
• The struggle continues
2. It Is Never Too Late to Finish Family Business 37
* Why are we obligated?
• The cry for blessing
• There is always fence work to be done
• But is it Christlike?
• It was worse for him than it was for us
• There is a chance it may be fixable
• Unfinished business and peace
Part 2: Embracing the Work of Caregiving
3. Aging and the Way We Were Not 63
* I feel so guilty
• Growing old: the times, they are a'changin'
Bible and caregiving
• Three biblical principles
• The power of the powerless* We're in it together
• Life on the anvil
4. When Physical Things Can't Be Fixed 83
* What happens when we age?
• Assessing the caregiving need *
Three special issues that need addressing
• Know when to take the plates down
5. Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Confusing Place 111
* Like stealing a watermelon
• The options
• What care is appropriate or best?
• Moving out and leaving home
• Help, home,
and precious memories
6. Where Is the Kitchen? Dementia and Alzheimer's 139
* How do you know if it's Alzheimer's?
• Caregiving and Alzheimer's
* How about you?
• Do this in remembrance
7. Show Me the Money: Legal and Financial Issues 165
* Control of finances and fiscal decisions
• Making a plan
• Help available: Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance
• The power necessary to make it so
• Medical decisions and advance directives
• Here we go again
8. The Struggle of Family Relationships 187
* What if caregiving was needed and no one showed up?
• Some words to the wise about family relationships and caregiving
• Where is the fairness?
Part 3: Embracing the Hope of Defeat
9. Depression and the Fall to Nowhere 207
* Depression is not 'the blues'
• Causes of depression
• Treating depression
• The spiritual lesson of depression
• Commissioned to a special work
10. We All Get Stung by Death 229
* Avoidance is the norm
• Stop the avoidance
• Making dying a victory
• Talking about death and making plans
• Making sense out of life: the exchange of wisdom
• The giving of a blessing *
Caregiving for a dying parent
• At the moment of death
• The spiritual lesson of dying
• It's hard to lose a hero
This is a book about struggle. It is the struggle to be weak when we desire to be strong, to be helpless when we want power, and to be sacrificial when we'd really rather be selfish.
This is a book about struggle.
It is not a struggle that exists so much between the generations of caregiver and older person but rather one between all people and life. Aging, in this generation and at this time in history, just happens to be the vehicle through which the struggle seems most evident and present.
On the one hand, we desire to control our destinies, implement our wills, and enjoy the freedom to choose when, how,
and who we love and who will love us. Western society bombards us with these desires. We want to decide our career paths and educational backgrounds, achieve financial security and neighborhood safety, and have convenient and close relationships.
Most of the time we can ignore situations where our needed talents receive little compensation. We can remain ignorant of the needs of the world and so use our financial resources for our own desires. And we can cocoon ourselves tightly in predictable and emotionally neutral relationships.
But then there's the other hand. God wants us to understand the value of vulnerability, weakness, and sacrifice---and it is in these vulnerable states that God's power becomes active in our lives. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, it is in our weakness that God makes us strong. Most of us know this fact and feel more than willing to cooperate---at least, until weakness really touches our lives. The struggle for us comes down to becoming the weak ambassadors of a mighty God, in the face of our desire to exercise control, power, and choice.
Enter aging. Precisely at this time in history when we seem to have so much ability to control information and so many reasons to get self-focused, our parents and family are living longer than at any period in modern history. Medicine has devised ways to keep people alive, but a good percentage of them will have chronic health problems that demand care from others. Who will provide this care? If you are reading this book, chances are you are currently a caregiver or see caregiving in your near future. In caregiving we lose a good part of the control of our lives, we become powerless to determine outcomes, and we must put our needs behind theirs. Aging and caregiving in the twenty-first century force us to struggle with the reality of life. This book is about how we work within this struggle but also how we are changed by the struggle.
Aging, of course, is not optional. It is like a giant vacuum cleaner that will eventually suck us all up. You can pour on the lotions to smooth out the wrinkles and mix in the dye to color the hair, but you will not be able to cover up the problems and challenges that aging presents to the family.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all occurs when we confront the complex reality of giving care to an older parent.
When you consider your busy schedule, how deeply you long to control your own life, and how frail and needy your parents have become, the job of caregiving can stress the living daylights out of you.
Loving Your Parents When They Can No Longer Love You comes out of personal experience. I have cared for older people in a personal care facility, and my wife and I have cared for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer's disease. This book will bring you face-to-face with some of the hard-hitting realities that must be faced, such as taking care of your parent's legal and financial issues, choosing where to live, the type of care your parent will need, and how to deal with physical and emotional health problems. Much of what I suggest comes from my years of studying aging families as a professor and therapist, but most everything in this book has been worked out in the school of hard knocks in my own experiences of caregiving.
This is not just another book about how to care for aging parents, however, or even how to care for yourself while you provide the care. It is at its core a book on how you can lovingly and tenderly embrace the job of caregiving as a spiritual journey that can deepen your faith while strengthening your character.
Caregiving is both a story and a journey. I intend for this book to help you grasp the importance and opportunity of the job you have taken (or are about to take) and to assist you in creating your own special story and journey---and what a journey it can be! A journey to the depths of learning how selfish and withholding we can be, to the difficulty of managing the day-to-day work of care, to the desperation of learning how to hold on to God when no more hope or energy remains. I hope yours will be a journey and story like mine, one that has changed me in ways from which I wish never to recover.
Aging as a
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Congratulations! You have been elected. Maybe you slid into the job a little at a time; perhaps it happened with a single phone call.