Read an Excerpt
I have the distinct honor of presenting the Caregiver of the Year Award at Home Instead Senior Care’s annual international convention. This caregiver is one who best exemplifies the attributes of a model caregiver from among 65,000 caregivers throughout North America.
Selecting the Caregiver of The Year has given me an enormous appreciation for what it means to be a caregiver, both the challenges and rewards it provides.
STRENGTH FOR THE MOMENT is my salute to caregivers who many times go unrecognized for their hard work, compassion and devotion. They are truly unsung heroes in their households and communities. Caregivers generously shared their stories in the spirit of providing inspiration, strength and encouragement so that others may learn from their experiences.
The caregiving stories you are about to read are real and are drawn from our Home Instead Staff, Franchise Owners, International Franchise Partners, family members, friends and other acquaintances. It was not difficult to find people caring for their parents, spouses or special needs children. I learned they are all around us. And, most caregivers work quietly and privately not seeking recognition. Yet many feel overwhelmed and are yearning for comfort and encouragement.
I have written a brief introduction to each of the stories based on my own thoughts and experiences. I pray that it gives you some insight into my life and helps to put the focus on important lessons we can all learn from one another.
I was amazed at the many touching stories of love and compassion that family caregivers so willingly shared. I appreciate the genuineness of a daughter struggling to find peace in the midst of a father’s Alzheimer’s disease. And the arduous daily routines of a mother with stage-four cancer who must finally accept Hospice care.
The 52 stories in this devotional book emphasize the many different emotions that are common among all caregivers. Remarkably, many people told us that just the act of telling or writing their story was cleansing or therapeutic for them. It is my prayer that within these pages you will find new inspiration and a fresh perspective for your caregiving situation.
I have quoted Scripture from the New International Version with which I am most familiar. I encourage you to read these verses in your own Bible. You will find that comparing different translations gives God’s Word more depth and meaning.
From the beginning, this project has been covered in prayer by my Bible Study Fellowship girlfriends. They helped me select the right Bible passages and assisted me in creating the beautiful prayer at the end of each story. This Caregiver Prayer is for you. It is meant to bless you and turn your focus to God, the source of everything needed for your caregiving journey. After all, you are precious in His sight.
May God Bless You Abundantly,
THE LADDER OF LOVE
I believe we are called to honor and care for our parents until their very last days of life. God commands us to honor thy father and mother in Exodus 20: 12. He felt it was so important that He wrote it with His own finger on stone.
Our next story is a beautiful example of a daughter’s struggle to keep her mother at home. She likens the stages of her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease to descending a ladder rung by rung.
“Give the proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
I Timothy 5:3-8
Mom was only 71, in great health, fun-loving, vivacious and outgoing when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Strange as this may sound, that diagnosis was a relief! She and we knew something was wrong, so we were all relieved to learn that there was a medical reason for her forgetfulness.
Mom had enough wits about her to worry that others might think she was just dumb, stupid or forgetful. In fact, she proudly added that bit of “news” in her annual Christmas letter.
I learned to view Mom’s Alzheimer’s as though it was a two-sided ladder with each rung representing a year. When life was normal, Mom advanced in age up one side of the ladder, but with Alzheimer’s she began to move down the other. The simple imagery helped me talk about her situation in ways that really helped me communicate what was happening.
When Mom “turned” six on the back side of the ladder, my granddaughter, Jaiden, was also six. Mom loved Jaiden, but suddenly this innocent six-year-old irritated Mom. She would scold, pick on her, and blame Jaiden whenever something was missing or broken. At first this was surprising and frustrating to me until I caught a TV program about young girls fighting. That’s when I realized that my Mom was just a little girl too.
At “five years” Mom discovered boys and developed a crush on Ed who happened to also live in the Memory Support unit. She talked about him constantly. She would primp and fuss to make sure that he noticed her. Ed was married and his wife visited him daily but that didn’t matter. Mom was convinced it was just his mother! Mom always did have an eye for the good looking men!
When Mom “turned three” I moved her into my home. It seemed such a waste to be paying all that money for her to live elsewhere when she still needed me to be with her each day. By now Mom couldn’t entertain herself. Like most three-year olds, she demanded my full attentionfollowing me from room to room, staring impatiently at me on the phone and pouting when I didn’t have time to play with her.
Luckily, I discovered an activity that kept Mom’s attention. Just like every three-yearold, Mom liked to sort! And, when I moved her into my home, I brought her rather large collection of costume jewelry along with her. It turned out to be the perfect activity! She would sit and sort for hours. Item after item got a close inspection before she would look for the exact match. It was perfect for Mom and perfect for me!
Seeing Mom happy made me happy, but also sad. It was at that point that I knew I had to let go of the Mom I once knew. She was gone. I leaned heavily upon my faith and prayers. It felt as if I was mourning my mother’s death while caring for the child she had become.
At “two” things got harder. I should have knownthey don’t call them the terrible twos for nothing! Mom’s vocabulary shrank. Her temper tantrums worsened. She became jealous of my husband. She would meet me at the door pointing and glaring at him. She would mutter and mumble about “him” without end. I explained to her that Jeff is my husband, that I loved him and that she needed to be nice. But like a two-year-old, she rejected everything that she couldn’t understand.
Thankfully, I was blessed by marrying an extremely patient and kind man. He knew it was the disease talking, not my mother. It didn’t matterit still hurt! It still looked like my mom. It still sounded like my mom. It was next to impossible not to respond. I started to take out my frustrations on my family. I cried – a lot! Mom loved it when Jeff and I would fight. She’d make comments like “What is he doing here? I thought we got rid of him!”
It felt as if I was losing my family. Yet, somehow I had to face reality. I knew that I could no longer handle this alone. I prayed for God’s guidance about the difficult decision just ahead.
I live by the motto, “Look, See, and Tell the Truth.” I didn’t have the time, mental capacity or energy to give my husband, my children or my grandchildren what they needed. I wasn’t taking care of myself.
Finally, I moved Mom back into an Alzheimer’s care center. It was the right decision, but it was also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. It felt like abandoning my baby! What would she do without me? What if she got scared? What if she needed me? What if no one knew what she was trying to say? What if she thought I didn’t love her anymore?
Mom is now around “eighteen months” on her age ladder. She babbles and uses her hands to try and tell me what’s going on. Her face lights up with delight when I come to visit. She blurts out one of the few words she has left. “Really?!”, “Really?!” She stammers. Mom is in diapers most of the time and has trouble keeping her balance. In most every way, she’s a toddler.
I bathe her (she loves playing in the water!), fix her hair or go for ice cream. My favorite time now is cuddling on the couch and reading Bible stories to her. She just loves hearing my voice, but it’s the sound of my voice not the words and stories that provide solace and acceptance.
I try to give her everything I can. I want to take care of her the way she took care of me. When I tuck her in at night and tell her I love her, I’m almost overcome with joy. She just smiles and in a timid little voice says, “I lo. . . lo. . . lo…love you, too.” The disease changed everything, but there’s one thing that it can’t take away from me: She is still my Mom and I love her with all my heart. LuAnn Anglo