All posts in Caregiving

Caregiving, the Second Time

At first I thought she had the mumps. Even though I’ve never had them (are they plural) and I didn’t know what they were. All I knew is that my 90-year-old mama’s neck was swollen just behind her left ear.

It came on all of a sudden. Thursday night I noticed some swelling, Friday morning she looked like a linebacker. But just on one side. I called the doctor.

Our doctor of fifteen-plus-years scrutinized Mom.

“I’m not sure if it is an infection from her teeth or from her glands and there is no way to tell unless we do a CT scan of her neck.” He poked and prodded a little more, eyebrows knit together, mouth tight.

“I’m going to give her a strong antibiotic that she is to take four times a day. If she’s not better by Monday, I’ll do a direct admit.” He paused, watching Mom as she sat with eyes closed, warm hand on her face. “If you have any problem over the weekend, call me. I’m on duty and we can admit her then.”

I thanked the doctor, found my friend Miriam waiting in the lobby, and we left.

Miriam insisted on accompanying me since Mom was weak. Two umbrellas guarding Mom, we sloshed through puddles and arrived at the van through a downpour. Mom was dry. We were soaked.

Mom weakened on the trip home. It took both Miriam and me plus my strong husband to usher my mother into bed. And that’s where she stayed for a few days.

I’d forgotten what it was like to care for someone who was helpless. Dad lived with us for over five years, losing both legs to diabetes. Charles cared for him most of the time. But I took turns, too. But not with Mom. Her illness scared me.

It scared me because I realized that her life–my life, is fragile. It scared me because I might lose some freedom that I’d gained after Dad went to heaven.

She gained strength by Sunday. She walked to the bathroom unaided. She spoke in audible sentences. I thought she was on the road to recovery. We talked about it.

“Pauline, why don’t you go to church. I’ll be all right.”

“You’ll stay in bed, right Mom? It would be dangerous for you to try and walk around.” She agreed.

Near the end of church I noticed that she’d called. “Mom, what’s the matter?”

Inaudible noise. “Come home.”

When I arrived home, she was sitting in the family room, trying to call me again. I lost it.

“Mom. Why are you walking around! You told me you were going to stay in bed, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to church!”

She looked pained. Then she told me about the horse that had a bad leg and all the chickens loose in the house, and the choir ladies who were waiting to rehearse. I knew from past experiences with both my parents that it wasn’t dementia, it was just the infection. Both of them hallucinate when they run a fever.

Guilt. How could I have left her? What must it feel like to see things that scare you with no one to help? Why did I yell?

Fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss.

She’s better. A few days ago, I had a hair appointment.

“Anything you need before I go, Mom? I might run a few errands after that.” She said she was fine. Then she added, “Come right home.”

“Why, Mom? You’re all settled. Is there something that you need?”

She didn’t answer. Then as I left the room, I heard her response. It was barely audible.

“When you’re here, I feel safe.”

I came right home.

A Caring Life—Hard Choices

So I know I’m a day or two late on my blog, but when my daughter lives 4 1/2 hours away, has a 103 temperature and then extreme stomach pain—add to that she was to have minor surgery on Friday, and well, I just had to drive to Tallahassee to take care of her.

But if you are a caregiver for your mom like I am, not to mention a 4-month-old puppy, leaving town for a few days is hard. Almost impossible.

Thank the Lord, my little girl is better, but they cancelled the surgery because she was too sick. She wants her mama to stay through Sunday. When I called home to check on the legion of people streaming through my house to care for my mom and puppy, I heard disturbing news.

“Your mom is crying,” my friend, Miriam said. Miriam had puppy duty while her mother, Berta had caregiving duties with my mom.

“Let me talk to her.” Mom was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn’t even understand what she was saying. The gist of it was for me to come home ASAP because she was going to meet Jesus.

Guilty for being with my daughter. Guilty if I go home to my mom. A common dilemma with caregivers. Guilt.

Again, I was helpless. That usually brings me to my knees.

“Lord. Here I am again. I don’t know what to do. I know this seems like a small thing, but you tell us to come as children, and that’s what I’m doing. I need help. I need guidance. Please show me specifically what it is I should do. My heart is to obey you.”

I wiped my eyes, climbed into the comfy chair in Sarah’s living room. I heard her soft breathing from the other room as I picked up the study of David by Beth Moore.

Right where I left off had to do with David’s wisdom in administration. He realized he couldn’t do it all. Then my new BFF, Beth asked, “Are you overloaded right now? If so, what are some ways you can delegate?”

Then Miriam called. “It’s taken care of. Your mom is better. She said you should stay with Sarah. She’s watching tennis and is back to her old self. We will take care of it, Pauline. You enjoy your daughter.”

God is good, isn’t He? He cared enough to show me that I can’t do it all. I need to be where my body is—with Sarah, not in another city where my mother is.

God is also good in providing me with good friends. Godly friends. Treasures. Hope you have some. I’m praying that you do.

Monday’s Musings—A Caring Life

I have two women that help with the care of my mom. They are gems. Berta is 80 years old. She speaks with a heavy Cuban accent and is Mom’s friend. This morning I heard her reading The Daily Bread to Mom. Later, laughter spilled out of the room.

“Did you change your mother’s doctor appointment.” She asked me as she carried Mom’s calendar into the family room.

“Yes, thanks for asking.” I smiled as I thought of how Berta had ministered to our family over these last four years. But she’s not the only one.

Paula cared for her father who was also a double amputee. Her mom lives with her now. Her mom is totally dependent on Paula for all her needs. She has a feeding tube, takes oxygen, and has to be moved with a hydraulic lift. So Paula gets her mother situated in the morning and then four mornings a week, she comes to our house. I’m glad.

Several years ago, when I was preparing to bring my father home from rehab the first time, I was terrified. It showed as I passed Paula in the hallway at church. She asked about Dad.

“I’m bringing him home in a few weeks and I am so scared! How will I care for him?” I said in between sobs. I especially dreaded the physical aspect of his care. My cheeks reddened at the thought.

“You’ll be all right. That’s the easy part.” She smiled and tilted her head. “It was a privilege to care my father. I still miss him.”

I had no idea what she was talking about since at that time, I had no context. I’ve just caught a glimpse of what she said lately—three years after Dad died.

Sunday, some of the ladies met at my house because we want to minister to caregivers. We’ve decided to start with prayer.

We’re going to go to the source of all comfort. The one that Isaiah talks about in chapter 40: 11, “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom, He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” We can help, but God is the Great Caregiver.

I think He wants us to start with Paula.

Monday’s Musings—A Caregiver’s Walk

We entered the dark theatre, understandably late. At twenty minutes to showtime, I arrived home and suggested the movie. After a little prodding, Mom said yes. We hurried to get ready.

Arriving at “True Grit,” ten minutes into previews was nothing more than a miracle since Mom moves at her 90-year-old-Tim-Conway-speed. I held onto the back of her waist, as in the dark she steered toward the back of the auditorium.

“Mom, that’s the back,” I used my stage whisper as I tried to urge her body toward actual seats. We stumbled upon the handicapped chairs as I helped mom off with her heavy coat.

Mom saw the original decades ago with Dad and their best friends, so I thought this would be a treat. I hadn’t seen the movie, so the entire story captured me. Occasionally, I glanced sideways to watch Mom and wonder about her thoughts.

As the lights came on I located Mom’s walker as she stood. Her heavy coat hung down, along with Mom’s head.

“Pick your head up, Mom. It’s hard to button when I can’t see.” Standing straight up for my mama is like 15 push-ups for me. She lifted her head and then, like the sun, it sank. I continued to button the large tan and cream buttons as my mind shifted to another time.

My four-year-old daughter stood in front of me preparing to meet up with the
Davis girls from across the street. They’d ride zig-zag patterns with their mini-training-wheel bikes on our block, while Kathy and I shouted directions from our lawn-chair-coffee-station. I pulled together the sides of Sarah’s coat, buttoned and patted it for extra good measure showing both my approval and my love.

My daughter is in graduate school now.

Mom’s head sank again as I finished. Time flies.

I patted Mom’s coat for good measure as Tim, I mean Mom and I shuffled home.

A Caregiver’s Walk

The soothing voice wafted through the family room, up into the dining room. I knew what time it was and decided to join them. I entered the room and heard Paula, Mom’s companion, reading out of Hebrews 12: 1-3:

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so daily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself , so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Paula continued reading in The Upper Room devotional. She read about a man who’d been beaten down with words and accusations. I listened intently. I was beaten down–not with words, with my circumstances. I was discouraged because I’d taken my eyes off of Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

Then, Paula looked at my 90-year-old Mama, and Mom gestured for her to pray. As she began, it was if God Almighty lifted our family up with her prayers. The music of them played in my ears like a magnificent melody.

Isn’t that like Jehovah to minister to us in unexpected ways.

I am blessed to have a helper for my mom that is part of our eternal family. We don’t share blood, but through the blood of Christ, we will share eternity.

After Paula finished, I prayed. I lifted her up. I lifted her invalid mother up. Her concerns, her circumstances, her cares.

And all God’s people said, “Amen!”