New mercies everyday while caring for an elderly parent
By Angela Wittman
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. - Lamentations 3:22, 23 ESV
It's been almost 2 months since my last post regarding my father and his illness with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases. In that post I expressed my trust in the Sovereignty of the Lord, which hasn't changed. But what has changed is Dad has come to live with me. Here is an update on our situation:
Shortly after Dad's birthday, (July 28th), I began to realize that he wasn't content at the nursing home. This was partly due to new residents who were much more progressed in Alzheimer's Disease than dad and who would wander into rooms (including Dad's), often half dressed and completely disoriented. I also saw the rapid decline of some of the residents and I became alarmed that this would happen to dad unless I put him in a different environment. The final deciding factor was the lack of money to pay for private care. Dad's savings and checking accounts were depleted and the next step would be to put him on Medicaid which involved having him declared mentally incompetent. Well, those who know me well will verify that I am not one for taking state aid and allowing the government to intrude into my private life, so turning all Dad's money and assets over to the government greatly disturbed my mind - I had no peace and I began to earnestly pray about bringing Dad home with me.
One of my greatest concerns was the disruption this would bring to my family; so, after much prayer, I spoke to my husband and he immediately agreed to having Dad come live with us. I then set August 11th as the goal date for bringing him home and began the transition, which went quite smoothly. Once Dad was moved in, I then had the tasks of legally becoming his caregiver, obtaining power of attorney on his behalf, and contacting government agencies to have his checks sent to a new banking account (this is no small task and one that has given me the most frustration.)
I also found dad a new physician and began administering his health needs including medications and driving him to his doctor appointments. Dad is still able to walk, go the bathroom alone and shower when prompted, so the daily care giving is manageable at this point. If he becomes wheelchair bound, I might not be able to care for him as I am of a small frame. So, I am truly relying on the Lord to lead and direct our path during these final days of my father's life on earth.
Here are some of the challenges we're presently facing and request your prayers for:
- Patience - It's challenging for us to respond in a patient manner when dad will repeatedly ask us the same question often within a few minutes time - he forgets our conversations and has poor short term memory.
- Sleep - Dad is often up at night rearranging items in his room and bathroom.
- Exercise - I've noticed Dad is getting weaker and I think it's partly due to a lack of exercise.
- Safety - Dad is often heating his coffee (decaf only!) in the microwave and I fear he will get burned, plus his judgement is not up to par and he might decide he's able to take a long walk on his own or possibly try to drive(!).
I won't paint a rosy picture where there is none, as there are many struggles we go through on a daily basis, but one thing I will attest to is the Lord's mercies are new everyday and when I feel discouraged and doubtful, He sends encouragement our way.
Perhaps my experience of struggling with anger and the fruit of bitterness it will produce if left unchecked will help others. Most of you know I was estranged from my father and stepmother for years and while I still don't fully know why, I've more or less put that behind me as I've entered into a new chapter of life caring for my father who suffers from dementia. However, I have been struggling with anger over the financial and medical confusion I've had to deal with since becoming Dad's main caregiver. I have been angry at Peggy (my stepmother, now deceased) who made many poor decisions. I laid it out before the Lord several days ago and expressed my concern that if I didn't somehow forgive Peggy I would be a miserable, angry, bitter woman. I then told the Lord He would literally have to make me forgive because I just couldn't do it on my own. So, within a few days I came across this book: Thoughtful Dementia Care: Understanding the Dementia Experience (Amazon) which is an easy, informative read that helped me understand what is happening to Dad's brain. But even more amazing is it helped me understand what might have been happening to Peggy's brain, too! There is something called Vascular Dementia that can occur after a stroke, and while I'm not a physician, I can see from the symptoms laid out in the book that it's very likely Peggy suffered from this after her series of strokes. As soon as I realized she was probably confused and making poor decisions due to her strokes, the anger melted away and I'm able to think of her fondly and let the past rest. I once had an instructor say knowledge is power and while I know real power lies in our Lord, understanding the situation and having someone with medical knowledge explaining it helps.
- Alzheimer's Stages and Symptoms (alz.org)
- Thoughtful Dementia Care: Understanding the Dementia Experience (Amazon)
- When we have to parent our parents: help and hope for caregivers (Reformed Perspective)