3 Everyday Lessons for an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
by Kathleen Brown
I discovered Mom had Alzheimer’s during a September trip. September. Its flower is the forget-me-not; its gemstone, the sapphire. Sapphires were once associated with clear thinking. As I began caring for Mom, in the house where I grew up, I hoped the clear thinking part was for me.
If you’re an at-home caregiver, you know it presents unique challenges. My first weeks with Mom felt like one emergency after another; I was on adrenaline overload. Then I began noticing the miracles: tiny ones (finding one of Mom’s shoes in the trash can), and huge ones (Mom suddenly agreeing to a long-needed bath). Feeling the Lord’s presence and help, I calmed down and began to learn. Fear not—you’ll see miracles, too.
Three of the Biggest Everyday Lessons
#1-You always have options.
In the beginning I thought there was only one right way to accomplish any care task. Wrong. There will always be more than one way to do what you need to do. Finding the best way, however, means we must look at all the options.
Example: Doctor to Mom: “Exercise.”
Mom to doc: “No.”
Solution: Two carts at the mega-store. While Dad shopped with one, Mom used the other like a walker, happy to stroll with me all around the store.
#2-Be ready to laugh.
Laughing in the face of Alzheimer’s is absolutely necessary for survival. The day Mom opened her mouth and I saw her dentures were in upside down, I smiled when I wanted to cry. After I fixed them, I laughed. Her poor gums were no longer being bitten by false teeth! Humor is an invaluable companion in caregiving.
#3-You will make it, even through the most difficult times.
When you need strength, you’ll have it. When you need words, they’ll come to you. When there’s nothing you can do to help your loved one, she will, against all odds, help herself. I can’t tell you how it happens—who can explain a miracle?—but I can tell you that resolution always comes. Expect it.
Expecting solutions widens your field of vision. You’ll find resources and strategies you won’t see if your eyes are closed in despair.
We hope effective treatments for Alzheimer’s will come—someday. Ways to cure and even prevent it. Until then, our peace will be in knowing we can help our loved ones through it. We can.
Kathleen Brown is a writer, speaker, and firm believer in everyday miracles. The author of A Time for Miracles: Finding Your Way through the Wilderness of Alzheimer’s, she focuses her work on needs of at-home Alzheimer’s caregivers. You can reach Kathleen through her blog, www.hopeandhelpforalzheimers.wordpress.com, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Surprised by Tears
Five years have passed since my mom died. Her final years brought significant back pain from a narrowing of the spinal column, or something like that. We used to range far and wide on bicycles; she had to give up bike riding. She stopped driving. She couldn’t even go for a walk. To get anywhere required holding onto someone’s arm.
Her life contracted to the house with visits to the therapy pool at the YMCA.
And then dementia began destroying her mind. She’d put plastic bowls in the oven. She forgot how to spell. Children’s books became her preferred reading.
Staying patient with her wasn’t always easy. When I had full care of her during my dad’s absence, she insisted he didn’t want to bother with her anymore. I kept telling her, he’s on a business trip, he’ll be back. She would not be consoled.
There were times I wished she would die. There is, after all, no more pain or crying in Heaven. She was no longer living; merely existing. A painful, confusing existence. What’s the point in this suffering?
And then she died. She is free from pain and crying and sorrow. But we are not. Five years has passed, and sometimes, still, the grief strikes fresh.
While cleaning the house, I decided to look through the half dozen boxes stacked in the tiny sewing room. They contained remnants of yarn. Mom was a prolific knitter and sewer. As I pulled out the skeins, I remembered their use. I remembered when she fell on ice and broke her arm. She had completed one mitten of a new set for me and wanted to finish its mate before I returned to college after Christmas break. With her arm in a cast, she couldn’t knit, and was so frustrated.
I remembered trying to sew a new top for the first day of a school year. I had to rush off to orientation, my sewing unfinished. I returned home, wondering what I’d wear, and discovered she had finished it.
Holding that yarn, the tears fell. The agony and horror of her last years are fading, and the memories of the good years are pushing forward. And I miss my mom. The mom who could be found in the church kitchen stirring up Kool-Aid during Vacation Bible School. The mom who helped plan and hosted a birthday party for two friends and me, born just days apart, with the church youth group.
She was very much an involved mother. Mom had the gift of service. Had she been old enough during World War II, I could imagine her serving as a Red Cross doughnut girl. For my new release, Soar Like Eagles, I named my main character for her. And I dedicate this book to her.
Carol wants to do her part for the war, but can she maintain her ideals?
Chet joins the air force, hoping to find peace.
Carol joins the Red Cross, serving doughnuts and coffee to GIs in England. Convinced wartime romances are doomed to disappointment, she avoids entanglements. She transfers to France, away from Chet, the B-17 navigator who tempts her to throw caution to the wind.
Chet’s father and brothers always belittled him. Now a squadron lead navigator, he longs to prove them wrong. He’s been offered a terrific job with PanAm after the war, but has several close calls in combat.
Carol and Chet continually cross paths. Do they dare make plans for a future together?
Terri Wangard’s first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her occupied as an associate editor. Her first two books, Friends and Enemies and No Neutral Ground, were published earlier this year, but the publisher went out of business one month before the third book in her WWII series was to release. All three books will be released by Celebrate Lit later this year.
Blind-sided by her questionable fiance, Lauren Carter returns to the one place she’s been avoiding, the place she used to call home. As she’s forced to look into the eyes of her past and even worse, her unraveling future she discovers that running only leaves you out of breath on a dead end street. Will she choose to unveil the secrets that haunt her? Or will she bury them once and for all and embrace a new life so different from the one she once held dear?
Blake Tully, wildly successful and breathtakingly winsome owner of a new rafting business, finds Lauren’s unexpected reappearance confusing. As he torments himself with what if’s and what should’ve been’s, he can’t mistake the feeling that crawls down his spine every time he looks at her. Although she broke his heart once, he longs to give his childhood sweetheart another chance, but can he convince her to stop running away when life gets tough? And can he forgive her when he discovers the reason she’s been hiding?
Follow the story of these two shattered hearts as they discover the beauty of grace and forgiveness.
Unraveled is a perfect title because everything in and around Lauren’s life is coming apart. I thought Heidi McCahan did an amazing job crafting a story where a family put band-aids on situations that needed God’s leading and healing. And after running and hiding from people and secrets, everything comes to a head.
I loved this because it was full of chemistry and conflict. Unraveled had consequences and honest communication. I really enjoyed Unraveled for all these reasons, and I think you will, too.
To purchase Unraveled, please click here.
I received a copy of Unraveled in exchange for an honest review.
In a secluded corner of Hope Beach, one woman must decipher a stranger’s memories . . . before they cost her everything.
Elin Summerall was one of the lucky ones. Not only did she get a heart transplant, but the donor was a perfect fit. A miraculously perfect fit.
But when Elin begins having violent flashbacks—and vivid dreams of being strangled—she realizes that she has been the recipient of more than just a new heart . . . Elin is remembering her donor’s murder.
Her strange affliction has attracted some unwanted attention: from the press, from the authorities . . . and from the killer himself. Now, living alone with her young daughter and aging mother, Elin is being stalked—by a man she’s only met in her nightmares.
The police are dubious of her story, but one off-duty FBI agent is eager to help her: Agent Marc Everton, the father of Elin’s daughter.
Of course, he doesn’t know about that. Yet.
Now, in a remote cottage on Hope Island, Elin and Marc must probe the secrets buried in her borrowed heart. And there’s no time to waste. One man is desperate to silence her—before she remembers too much.
I found the plot to Seagrass Pier intriguing. It’s not often I read about heart donors, but to add that the heroine remembers her donor’s last moments and who her killer is, that makes for some great suspense. Add that Elin’s paired with the one man she shares a past with and it’s a set up for great conflict and romance.
Seagrass Pier has all of this and more. I truly didn’t know who the bad guy was until the reveal. There was a beautiful secondary story about fear that I really enjoyed. There was a heartbreaking look at dementia and caregiving. Beyond the donor story there was also a treasure mystery. I thought maybe there would be too many things going on, but I don’t think that’s the case. I liked the diary/treasure story, too.
With the backdrop of the Outer Banks, I can’t think of a more entertaining summer read.
I received a copy of Seagrass Pier from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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