I settle into my seat in church, often a few minutes late. I try to pat my fly away hair into place and straighten my clothes. This morning has been rushed again. Of course, you barely know me. We exchange smiles. I try to calm my rapidly beating heart. My husband is seated next to me. He looks fine. His clothes are in place. The last I looked, that wild spot on the back of his head wasn’t sticking out…yes, it is finally lying down!
Sunday mornings are often wild! We get up extra early on Sundays. 7:30 AM! That’s very early for us. I take my shower and wash my hair the night before, so does he now. His pace was always slow and deliberate. Now it is even slower! Combine that with forgetful and it can take a very long time to get ready to go anywhere. If I am out of the room when he is getting ready, he takes the opportunity to lie down again. He is always tired and often forgets he is getting ready for church…or whatever event we happen to be preparing for.
I need to stay on my toes. The time flies and if I don’t keep checking on him, he will be back on the bed, asleep. As the year has gone by since his stroke, this is one problem that has not improved…some days it is worse!
The first stroke he had in 2015 left him able to get around physically, but very unaware of time…its passing, what time of day it is, and worse, that he is even disabled. He used to be the one in our family with the best awareness of time. I miss that.
What do you see when you see my loved one?
I still see the man I married and fell in love with…until I get jarred into reality. I want others to see him and know him too. At this point, it is still possible at times.. He has some defecits, but he still is in many ways that man.
How can you encourage me? Surprisingly, it is when you interact with him. He doesn’t hear well. His strokes (now 4) have taken more of his hearing away. Interacting with him involves talking to him face to face. He does much better than in a large group. He isn’t as brassy as I am. He won’t speak up if he doesn’t hear something. He just stays quiet.
Here are some ways you can interact with him
Anything I can do to help my loved one interact with others and have them interact with him is very positive! There are some people who are mostly shut-in except for Sunday when they struggle to get out to church. It is important that we make a point of talking to them and to their caregivers because this is that rare time when they get out of the house. Finding out if they need help with anything, asking how they are…and giving them time to answer honestly. These are things we need to make a point of doing. (I’m preaching to myself now as well!)
I have noticed recently that Ron has done so much better as he has gotten to know more men in a men’s small group. Now men of a variety of ages greet him and visit when they see him in the common areas at church. He comes home brighter and more alert rather than worn out and ready for a nap right away! (Yes, this was before COVID-19.)
Realize that what you see in many people with drooped heads is not so much dementia, but either Parkinson’s (which gives more of a wooden look to a person’s face with not much expression) and/ or depression (which also takes away a lot of expression as depression gets more extreme causing flat affect). You won’t know until you talk to someone whether they are severely demented or not. At that point, they may not be talking, but they still may understand your words and attitudes. Kind words, a touch (when they aren’t always used to it) are blessings. Conversation from a different source is another one.One way you can offer support to this caregiver, is to interact with my loved one. Click To Tweet
How can we connect?
- What team do they follow?Find ways to join them for those games. Your family can bring popcorn or an appropriate food, for their favorite team they watch and cheer them on.
- What is their favorite TV show? You can get together to watch that favorite TV show one night and bring a snack they are able to eat. This goes double for a child who is sick.
- What books do they enjoy?
- What did they do professionally?
- Find the areas of commonality and work from there.
- Recently, a friend of Ron’s took him for a ride in the countryside. It’s one of his favorite things to do…but with a man rather than me, it was an awesome gift! There is something about the way men relate to each other that encourages them and fills them up. Once they are shut in and sick, they seem to be around women much more and miss that world.
Your ability to visit with them personally vs. visiting with their caretaker and talking about them in the third person, will be much more respectful of them even if their processing or speech is slow. I have found that people who have neurological issues tend to be more sensitive, not less, to how they are treated. They pick up quicker on the impatience of a person, the lack of interest in wanting to wait for their slow ability to speak or respond. Anything we can do to indicate we are willing to wait for them is helpful. For example, sitting at their level, getting closer so we can hear them, not paying attention to outside distractions and in general, focusing in on them!
We have been very blessed. We are in a small group where we have had good friends over the past few years. They have been very good to Ron and me. They are very encouraging. Ron is also in a small group of men that he finds encouraging and stimulating. They pray for each other and study a book together. It is mentally and spiritually stimulating to him. I know there will come a time when he won’t be able to participate in this group any longer. But it has been a gift to him.
I don’t know what helps you as a caregiver or your spouse or parent who is struggling. Hopefully, you can get some helpful ideas for your situation and your loved one. These suggestions may help you speak up and ask for the help you need.
Praying for us
Another way to offer support is to pray for us. Letting us know you are praying is encouraging too. When I know the people who pray for us, I can mention things to them that I wouldn’t normally mention to everyone. The mention that you are praying for us is no small thing!
As you pray for certain caretakers and their loved ones, ask GOD to show you some specific, tangible ways you could show your care for them. I’m not good at coming up with these ideas in a vacuum, but somehow, when I focus on a specific person or family, GOD brings lots of ideas to me.
There is nothing worse than sterile prayer. When all you hear is that someone prayed for you, but you never hear from them or see them, it feels very sterile. I encourage you not to be sterile in your prayers for caregivers or their loved one. (I need this reminder for sure!)
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
**portions taken from a post written 8/7/17. This post relates more to connected with the loved one. Next week we will talk more about encouraging the caregiver. Next Wednesday, I’ll talk more about specific ways you can help the caregiver.