Caegiver kitchen“Loving From A Caring Place”

The article you are about to read is an ongoing message of hope and inspiration for everyone who has or will ever find themselves in the position of caring for a family member or friend.  Care-giving is part of my everyday life and I will add to this article for you to follow me in the journey.  The story is true. My family like yours is not perfect but it the one God gave us. 

We begin…

No one expects to in the position of Care-Taker. More often than not, we subconsciously think someone else will do it. We are too busy. We have our own lives to live. There are people who do “that’ for a living. They are more professional than we are and know more about “these” things.  As you will sooner or later discover, “those” people are you and me.

Our family had always depended upon the sisters who stayed home. Those who lived either in the same city or within an hour or two to cover our end of the care for parents and family members.  The trouble with that is they see those of us who lived away to be more attentive, to come home more often to send more money and to be a part of the family rather than being the long distant advisors we had become.

I didn’t mind sending money or coming back for a visit, but I never dreamed I would ultimately move back to my hometown.

The one sister who lived in my hometown had exhausted herself. She too, had become ill and required medical care. What now? Who would take care of Momma and my special needs sister?

As I thought about writing this article it became apparent that my personal journey of caretaking began with my sister, Sharon.  This is where it really all began for me to learn that family was much more than Holidays and Barbeques. It was also being supportive and engaging.

In 2009, I found myself on the phone with my sister Sharon telling me a large mass was found inside her stomach and she was being transferred to another hospital for further evaluation.

I immediately went into prayer. Prayer is always my  “go-to” for any and everything in life whether there is a crisis or I am wanting to have my daily conversations with God.

When I was around 6 years old my paternal grandmother laid a foundation of prayer inside of me. She was a daily prayer. My mother was a daily prayer. Every night at 9 PM was my Momma’s prayer time.

Sharon lived for 6 months after her surgery.

In that moment, I thought of all of the things I could have done. I did what I could but I was still over a 1000 miles away from her.   I was able to spend some quality time with her, but she was so weak and sick, she could not sit for long.  I never dreamed that she would leave us so soon.

In the months ahead, I was not prepared to discover Momma would lose one of her legs, and be wheelchair bound.   My heart ached. Momma was an independent woman being the full nurturer and caregiver herself for her entire household as well as for the community.

Momma was the one who delivered plates to the sick and disabled every day. She did not wait until Sunday, as she felt and was correct, people had to eat every day.

It was Summer 2013. I received a phone call from my dad stating he could no longer manage Momma’s care alone. He asked (although there was no need to) if I could come. I told him to give me time to take care of a few things and  I would come to stay.                                                                                                             caregivng nurse hat

The next few weeks would prove to be something I could not have ever imagined. I watched the woman who was once outspoken and sometimes witty become vulnerable, helpless and submissive to anyone who would offer a cup of water or food.

It hurt to see my Momma in this place for she had been the true strength of our family. It was she who had been there when we arrived home from school with a big pot of homemade soup. It was she who had awaken in the middle of the night and checked to see if the fever was still there. It was she who attended school events, meetings and watched me get water baptised. It was Momma who always watched as we boarded the school bus and handed out the chore list as we arrived home safely.  Momma, who now needed and depended on me and my sisters to care for her.

There were nights she would cry out in pain all night and I did not understand why. I discovered she was missing a few essentials. I did my best to get her everything she was missing and fought with family members along the way.  Yes, that too is a part of being a Care-Taker. Not everyone will agree with your approach.

I remember my Momma making this statement “Y’all do all you can for me.”  I also remember the Saturday night in the hospital when she told me that she was “not going to make it.” She described in detail how she wanted to be dressed.  That was hard to hear. I cried between my “Yes, Mommas.”  I knew no other way to hear such things.

While I thought the pain of my sister Sharon would never go away, I knew innately, that God would wash away all tears and He alone would bring peace, the pain of Momma leaving was deeper than that of any I had ever known.

As a Christian Counselor, a former therapist and Behavior Specialist; I had come to know that the part of us that hurts the most; is the part that no one can see.  That part of me was being hurt so deeply I was losing strength to make good choices for my own life.

As I look back during the period between my sister’s illness and passing to my Momma’s passing ; I made some of the worst business decisions in my life. My business suffered.

After weeks of both mom and I living in ICU South at Baptist Hospital on September 21, 2013 Momma said good bye to this world.  As I sat there alone in her room during that long night of listening to “Take Me To The King” I talked to her and loved on her. I knew she could hear me. The nurse told me that hearing is the last to go, and I wanted her to know what a great mom she was and how she would be missed. I thank God so much for allowing me this gift of being with my Momma. I could have been anywhere else in the world, but He let me be right there with the love of my life, my Momma.

After the services I decided I needed to take a break and reflect on what was next for me.

It seemed life had to began again. I was not sure what that meant. My entire reason for being in Arkansas was for my Momma.  At least, that is what I thought.

It was about a month later that I received another knock at the door. An elderly cousin was in trouble.

She was described as “losing her memory and being taken advantage of.”  I rushed to her home and discovered yes, indeed she was in crisis. She had not been to a doctor in over 60 years and did not want to go. She was nearing 90 and I did not think that was a major concern but she did need an evaluation to determine what could medically be done for her apparent dementia.

It took a few weeks, but finally I was able to get her to a doctor. Yes, she had dementia but was physically extremely healthy.

Cousin, had one daughter who lived out of state and could not get there. We arranged for me to act in her stead until her arrival. That means, be what her Mother needed me to be for her, and that is a Care-Taker.  She lived in deplorable conditions and refused to move in with me. I was there sometimes several times per day to make sure she was okay and was eating. I took her out often and listen to all of the stories, and there were many.

In Spring of 2014 my cousin arrived. It was time to relocate her mother. We knew this would probably be the last time we would see our elder cousin, and we all gathered to show our appreciation in a special church banquet.

As I drove them to the airport I felt a sense of peace that all was well and I had done what I could as a Care-Taker.frogs-1089784

In May of 2014 my sister who has special needs called crying. She wanted to move out of the family home snd live on her own.  I listened and responded with action.

Although, there was opposition, by June of  2014 she was in her own apartment. I have continued to monitor and support her decision and to make sure she is safe.

Today she is happy and attends a wonderful church where she urshers and has made friends and built a life that will last a lifetime.

Jesus gave His Life for me, and I seem to find myself giving my life to others.  While I never lost confidence in God’s Love for me, I was beginning to lose caring for myself.

While Momma was in ICU another sister was preparing to have her foot amputated.  I ran up and down those elevators daily. Whenever the shift changed in ICU; I went to the 6th floor to spend time with my sister.  I have spent more time in the hospital with this sister. As a matter of fact, at the time of this writing she was just discharged again from being in critical condition.

The hospital is an hour away and we drive back and forth daily when she is there. If you have ever had anyone in the hospital you will understand how important it is for them to have family members around for procedures and anything else that may be going on there.

Care-Taking is not an art it is a heart.

I have and continue to learn that being a Care-Taker is a sacrifice of your days and schedule for someone else in need.  I have to learn to work around everything as I monitor my two sisters.  I know no one ask me to, but are you really suppose to be asked?

The original intent of this article was to care for the Care-Taker; however I could not express how important it is to care for someone who is caring for others without speaking a little on the subject of caretaking.

I can not tell you what I am learning about caring for myself during and after caring for someone.

This is what I know:

  1. Take daily walks or go bike riding (my favorite)
  2. Eat healthy and drink plenty of water and herbal teas
  3. Plan a get-away monthly. Even for a day/night
  4. Talk about your experiences even if you have to blog it
  5. See everything you do as an act of God’s Love in the earth
  6. Pray and Read your Bible Daily (www.theglobalchurchlive.com)
  7. Be a part of a strong Christian Fellowship  even virtual is good. (www.theglobalchurchlive.com)
  8. Listen to music that soothe the soul.
  9. Laugh often
  10. Add your own here…

I have discovered once you decide that care-giving is a calling; you will soon discover everything you need will be within your reach.  You will soon discover the time to do all that is required. Granted, you will be ready for bed earlier and will understand the purpose of planning your time well in advance.

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For years, it has been only my schedule and my plans. Now, that I am a consistent care-giver; I find that my schedule includes the schedule of those with whom you are assigned to care.

So weekly, I have to check doctor appointments, social engagements and shopping schedules to make sure that things are covered on all fronts.

We recently spent 9 days in the hospital due to another medical error. We were daily making the drive to the hospital to spend time with my sister who was extremely sick and in crisis. The doctors were in and out all day and night. The nurses were attentive and working around the clock in an effort to save her life!  It was painful to watch them stick, prode and probe her frail body time and time again, she wanted to cry, but did everything she could to remain strong.

You know the type of strength that is unreal.

I believe the time to cry is, when you want to cry.  Whether y9u are the Care-Taker or the one being cared for; never feel you need to hold your tears.  Tears have a way of giving us he freeing, and cleansing we need to start-over the next day.

I remember feeling that I could not stop to cry when my mom was in her last days. I felt as though I was still in the “fight for her life’ mode and would not let anyone interrupt or disturb that space. I needed to save my Momma!  All I could hear was here words asking me to “do what yall can.”

My sister ongoing need for either a recreative miracle or a kidney transplant leaves me with a constant need to make sure you has the maternal support that is always required in care-taking.  The reason we need that “maternal instinct” is that the emotions that go with the care will involved waking up in the middle of the night to run to the hospital or to make adjustment to medication etc.

I needed to meet the needs of my sisters before they could ask. For instance, by the Grace of God, I was able to create a hair care routine for my sister who is a dialysis patient.  The medication had dried her hair out and it was falling out.  I went on a rescue mission for hair.

I had done some research on what it takes to care for African American Natural Hair.  It was easy for me to get the products, mixed them and take them to my sister.  The plan was to create a daily regimen for her hair. Although we have a ways to go; as of today her hair is growing thinker and longer.

Caring for ever area of your patient’s life is the true Care-Taker’s journey.

My sister’s hair is just as important as my hair.  I think of her body as an extension of my own. I think of her home as an extension of my own without taking complete control, but seeing what needs to be done and doing it. When out shopping if I see something she could use, I buy it. I take the time to to check in daily regardless of how things may seem to be going. The patient not always know what they need and it takes a caring  heart to see, perceive and minister to the needs of people whose physical and mental needs are compromised.

I know what time my sister is ready for her hair treatments. I know what time she needs to be at dialysis. I know when she needs to rest. I know when she is overworking and pushing too hard to be “normal.” I have discovered when a person’s health has been compromised; they become fearful.  It seems disease brings the fear of the unknown with it to further paralyze an individual.

Maybe I should explain why I Care-Take.

I do it because it is my nature to love in anyway that will benefit mankind. The Bible teaches us that “Love Begins At Home And Spreads Abroad.” Love begins with loving yourself. You cannot give away what you do not possess. In order to love others, you must first and foremost recognize what it means to love yourself.

The one thing I have come to understand is that God always put us in the places He needs the Love He is to manifest the most. When people are sick and week, they are also vulnerable.

I have cared for people who were either physically or mentally ill, and sometimes both. At this point in my journey; I think , in most cases the physically ill requires more physical strength and the mentally ill requires both.

For instance, in caring for my great-cousin who was diagnosed with Dementia, was extremely challenging.  She would not come home with me and I could not stay-over at her house. She tended to treat mice as pets, and later I found out snakes were also welcomed.  As you can see, I did not have faith to spend the night there. However, her safety became a main issue.

She began to have visitors that were never there. She would leave the gas on and fall asleep. I was constantly going over to her house and could not get very much done due to my concerns for her safetly.I was elated when her daughter arrived to move her back to Michigan where her mind took over to tell her she was full when you in reality had stopped eating.

On the other hand, I am a member of a community where everything is celebrated or mourned with food. fried food, sweets and as much of it as possible. A diet consist of talking about dieting, we don’t really mean to follow a special meal plan:)

Whether you can cook or not, as a Care-Taker; you will learn. There are times you may have to help with personal care without any compensation.  The rewards for being a Care-Taker far outweighs what monetary compensations may be available.

As we continue this blog; you will learn how you too can become an indispensable part of someone else’s life by being a caring person.

grandmothers-familyPatient And Family Conflict

It has been a while since I have updated this blog post. The reason being is my dad was hospitalized with a stroke. This is a man who has worked since age 12 and who is now 87 years old. He has been active every day of his life and has only been hospitalized for a day or two in his life due to dehydration and over heating.

Today my brother David is the executor and Power of Attorney for my dad while he lives with my oldest sister.  The situation is not ideal as it has taken him from the only place he has known for all of his life.

The picture to your left is that of my paternal grand-mother and her family. She is the youngest girl at the bottom. I love that lady!

He lives about 30 miles from the home place and frequently visits but is dependant upon my sister to transport him. The second oldest sister  is his medical care coordinator and has always been there to take my dad to his doctor’s appointments. Linda is caring and supportive of the family in everyway possible, but her limitations of trying to keep the peace  sometimes hinder her from always making the best judgement calls.

As you can see like most families, ours is no exception to having chaos and confusion. We try to get along for dad’s aake but the turbulance is always there waiting to errupt. The truth is most famlies never admit that there are strains and stressors when in comes to taking care of loved ones. Especially a family member who has been independant all of his life. Now as my dad approaches 88 years, we can tell he is not the tower of strength he thought himself to once be.

His walk is unsteady even with therapy he still requires support to step up and down. His speech is uncetain and you can tell he is afraid. I never saw my dad afraid until I saw him lying in that hospital bed. My first response was to pray with him.

He spoke of turning everything over to my brother and not being able to do things he use to do.

It is hard seeing your parent become weak and dependant.

As my mother’s health began to fail, she became another person. She was so vulnerable and helpless, I fought to hold back the tears.  I do the same with my dad as I watch him struggle with his walk and his speech.

How do you care when others in your family have taken the role as the power to make choices without your input?

I have found the best thing for me to do is to make sure my dad knows I am available. To call and let heim hear my voice from time to time, and to be present at his church when he attends just to keep an eye on him.

dad-bishop-and-clevelandMy brother seems to think dad has resigned to being cared for and living away from his home. But , I am not certain that is the case. I will continue to monitor from a distance and pray for the entire family as this strain of watching what the majority of the family believe is not a good choice for him.

 

Left to Right is DAD