Honoring "the one who changes the diapers of the incontinent"...

A quote from Mark Galli's essay Insignificant is Beautiful...
When we think of making a difference, we think about making the world a better place for the next generation, not caretaking people who have no future. This is one reason we are quick to push the incontinent into "managed care" staffed with "skilled nurses." No question that this is indeed a necessary move for many families—I had to do it with my own father, sad to say. But let's face it. A fair amount of our motive is mixed. How much skill does it take to clean up excrement from an elderly body? Mostly it takes forbearance—and a willingness to give oneself night and day to something that, according to our usual reckoning, is not all that significant.
Read the whole essay.

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A merry heart...

My mother lived with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis for most of her adult life. Her legacy to me in that was that she did so with much grace and humor. She often reminded me that "growing older isn't for sissies", but she spoke with a chuckle and always made light of her disabilities.

By the time I cared for her in our home, her memory had faded and her disabilities were many, but her ability to laugh through it all remained.

I remember trying to dress her before figuring out that she needed special clothing. I would get one arm in her shirt sleeve, but not the other, and we'd both laugh at our predicament. Often my own physical struggles made it painful or difficult for me to turn or reposition her in bed. Mother would laugh at my groans, and so would I.

The laughter was always good medicine.



Dying to self...

In a recent conversation with a delightful young friend, we considered what it means to die to self, particularly in the ordinary tasks of every day life, and to live sacrificially in our home and community to the glory of Christ.

The "dying" this young lady referenced was a simple household chore that had nothing to do with family/elderly caregiving, but it's application was obvious. My friend lamented that it should be easier to put her desires and contentment aside for the benefit of other. "But then it wouldn't be dying," I countered.

Truth is, whether it was those days a few years ago that I was caring for my mother or the opportunities I've been given today, I haven't always wanted to wash the feet of the saints. It's been a series of "dying to self" moments.


Every day is Saturday....

Theologically speaking, we all know that today, the Saturday between the Cross and the Resurrection, is the longest day of the year.

And, it pictures where we are in life. While we have a certain and fixed hope, we still wait for the return of Christ.

Nowhere is this felt more keenly than in the nursing home.

Read the rest: In the nursing home, every day is Saturday by Pastor Chris Brauns



Chocolate cake...

Since mother's passing years ago, I've tried to be sensitive to the needs of others in similar situations. For the past two years, I've been helping an elderly disabled widow so that she can remain in the home she shares with her single adult son.

My friend is unable to safely shower without assistance or accomplish certain tasks, like mailing packages, getting to the beauty shop, or picking up a prescription from the drug store. She can manage other tasks, like changing her bed linens, but it takes great effort and something I can do quickly and easily.

Today I am baking a chocolate birthday cake. The cake can cool while I change her sheets and help her shower, and together we will frost and decorate it to surprise her son on his 45th birthday when he comes home from work this evening. It's such a little thing for me, but huge for my friend.

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But my house isn't big enough...

Moving mother and all of her equipment into our home was initially a logistical challenge.

Our house was small and full, with a tiny "great" room, a kitchen, three small bedrooms, two bathrooms, two teenage sons, a young daughter, and Louis and me.

The larger master bedroom with access to the master bath was clearly the most practical for mother's hospital bed and equipment. The boys shared a bedroom with bunk beds, so Louis and I slept in Emily's room, and Emily slept on the living room couch.

Hardly ideal, but it worked. A citrus farmer, Louis woke up early every morning, tip-toed through the living room to avoid waking Emily sleeping on the couch and showered in the master bedroom and dressed in the closet so he wouldn't wake mother.

Eventually we were able to enclose a porch off the kitchen with a futon where Emily could sleep.

Even before the enclosed gave us a little more breathing room, I don't remember my family ever complaining. Given the opportunity to make the same sacrifices, I have no doubt that they would do so again without hesitation.

Their attitude reminds me of the quote by Gregory Laughery in the header above:
"Others come first - through washing feet, laying down lives, loving as Jesus has loved us."




My training and practice as a professional nurse most certainly gave me the confidence to choose to care for my mother's complex needs at home, but it wasn't my training and experience that qualified me.

I learned from my work in hemodialysis that people without any medical experience can be taught the skills needed to provide in-home hemodialysis treatments for others. The requirements included a desire to learn, the responsibility to practically apply each skill as they had been taught, and the maturity to ask for help when they needed it. I've come to believe that is true of many other non-intensive care treatments, as well.

Shortly after mother was moved into our home, despite my training, I realized that I lacked many of the skills needed to care for her. Because home health nurses and a physical therapist were ordered initially, I was able to learn from them how to properly care for mother's bed sores and how to do her range-of-motion exercises. Over time I learned how to provide a variety of treatments I had never used in my nursing practice to meet mother's increasing needs.

Though my confidence may have waned a bit initially, I remembered my hemodialysis experience and knew that I could learn what ever skill was needed to provide the loving and personal home care that I so desired for my mother.