“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Do you carry a burden for your loved one? Does your heart ache for the heavy load you bear? It doesn’t matter if they are old or young. Somewhere, lying deep beneath the surface there is a treasure in the trial. Every day, Robert and I are faced with a variety of scenarios. What will the new day hold?
We jokingly say, “How’s the patient in 1A?” In other words, will it be a good day for Grandpa? Will he actually have enough energy to stay awake at breakfast, or will it be a down day when he can barely drink his water and put in his teeth? Will he be able to stand up to get his diaper changed or will he have a F.B.S. (floppy baby syndrome as my husband calls it) and barely be able to sit up on the edge of the bed?
I find myself feeling very old, my thoughts totally revolving around his inconsistent behavior, his sometimes blatant ungratefulness, and the bodily functions of a 93-year-old or lack thereof.
This is a crazy way to live, wrapped up in another person’s psychological and physical state, so much so that you feel like you have a constant burden upon your shoulders, a weight that you just can’t shake. Yet, the Bible tells us, that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do.
“Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ. If a man thinks he is “somebody,” he is deceiving himself, for that very thought proves that he is nobody. Let every man learn to assess properly the value of his own work and he can then be glad when he has done something worth doing without dependence on the approval of others. For every man must “shoulder his own pack.” (Phillips)
Trust me, my husband and I are bearing a huge burden as Grandpa is increasingly unable to shoulder his own anymore due to his physical and mental frailty.
I wish we could say along with the songwriter, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” but he is heavy, physically and emotionally, and he is ours – all ours!
So this is our miserable, depressing state of existence . . . or is it? Are the struggles we experience in taking care of an elderly parent all there is to life? Are we locked in a downward spiral of hopelessness? Are we hidden victims? The answer is n0.
I find that writing about our experiences as caregivers helps me to cope. As I commit this journey to paper or this blog, I can sort through my emotions and have a good laugh or a good cry.
Lately, though, I have been all bottled up inside and having a hard time finding the humor in our situation, and consequently unable to write. That is a scary place to be! Long-term stress can rob you of your joy and your sense of humor.
Keep laughing, I remind myself!
Do you carry a burden for your loved one? Does your heart ache for the heavy load you bear? It doesn’t matter if they are old or young. Somewhere, lying deep beneath the surface there is a treasure in the trial.
Remember, he gently leads those who are with children . . . and the elderly, too!
If we knew what life held for us some days, we wouldn’t get out of bed.
I’ve had days like that.
Four significant ones come to mind – days that altered the course of my life forever.
I didn’t see them coming. Some I was prepared to handle more than others, but nonetheless, they were days, in my very limited wisdom, that I would have rather skipped.
God, however, knew they were coming, and that I needed to walk through them. And in His infinite wisdom, He allowed me to wake up to the days I would hear:
My husband lost his job.
Our baby was born with a terminal genetic disorder.
My spinal cord was permanently damaged in a routine operation.
My elderly father was now my family’s sole responsibility.
These were some of the worst days of my life – days when tears of grief fell heavy like huge droplets of rain into puddles of muddied dreams.
The weight of these days almost melted my heart for fear.
Yet, these were the days I woke up to God’s grace poured out heavily upon me like Mary pouring perfume over the feet of Jesus – the Alabaster box of costly Nard just opened, the pungent fragrance escaping, drifting up, overpowering the senses.
On the days I could not lift my head, Jesus opened His Alabaster box of grace and poured it out over my life. And by the power of His Spirit, He sustained me in the midst of my deepest pain.
He sustained me with His grace.
He will do the same for you.
None of us knows what tomorrow holds. We can fret and fume and fear or fantasize and fill our days with a thousand yearnings for some other day, but this is the only day we have to receive His grace.
It may not be a day we would choose – the circumstances, the trial. But it may be the very day God uses to usher in a whole lot of other grace-filled days when we experience His love and care poured out upon us like never before.
Even in the midst of our deepest heartache, we can bow low and worship at the Lord’s feet.
We can lift our cupped hands to receive His grace poured down from the throne of grace – grace sufficient for every need.
Overpoweringly more than we can contain.
Sit at His feet today, and let Him wash your soul in His grace.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
You know how a suicidal person tries to jump off a bridge and a total stranger grabs them, pulls them back, and yells “No, no, don’t jump!” Well, today, I single-handedly saved Grandpa from going over the edge of his own mind!
Let me explain . . .
When I walked in the back door this afternoon after running a couple of errands, Elizabeth warned me, “Go away, go away! Don’t talk to Grandpa!” She whispered behind his back that he had just gone on a long dissertation about not wanting to eat lunch, and she motioned for me to leave the room! The problem is, I was already standing near Grandpa when she told me this, and I could see he was not happy!
“I don’t want anyone to feed me!” he said. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“That’s okay, no one wants to feed you,” I replied sympathetically.
The look on his face told me he was ready to call it quits, throw in the towel, kick the bucket. In other words, he wanted to die (again)! The problem is, he has no way to make this physically happen, except by refusing to eat or drink which is a really painful way to go, so he never lasts very long at trying the self-deprivation method. Grandpa loves food too much!
Even though I’ve heard this “death” jargon stuff before, especially when cabin fever sets in, which it has, elderly folks love to say “I want to die” at least once or twice a year, and even every other week when they are sick and tired of being old. Unfortunately, Grandpa cannot come up with an effective way to make a “Grand Exit” permanent. He’s incapable of doing any harm to himself. He’s too much of a sissy.
Well, I put my arm around Grandpa and told him he probably just needed more sleep. “Remember the last time you got like this, Grandpa? You are just really tired.”
He nodded in agreement.
I also told him, “Grandpa, you think too much. You really need to relax!”
And remember that revelation he had yesterday? The one where he said he was really blessed? Well, the winter doldrums have got him. That’s all it is, and I told him so!
“You have the doldrums.”
“What?” he asked?
“You have the doldrums,” I shouted in his ear.
“You’re right,” he said.
“Well, just eat,” I told him, “and you can have a big nap. You’ll feel much better when you wake up.”
Well, pretty soon he started to come around and before you know it, he ate a whole turkey sandwich, some chips, and a bowl of fruit. And tonight, he ate an entire Sloppy Joe sandwich with cheese melted on top and a potato patty on the side.
Grandpa, loves to eat, and that’s why he’ll never be able to do himself in.
Later, after the “episode” was over, I thought I would look online to see what you say to someone who wants to die. So I laughed when I read that a caregiver should use “talk therapy.” That’s exactly what I had to do. I had to talk Grandpa back from the edge of his negative thinking. But you know what? I really didn’t do it single-handedly. The Lord gave me the words, and He made Grandpa receptive to what I was saying because I didn’t react to his “nonsense”– something I specifically prayed for today with Robert.
Grandpa is feeble and old, and he really can’t pull the punches he did when he was a younger man.
But I’ll tell you something, I’m always going to try to save him from jumping off the bridge of life!
As Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18
Today, I had had to take Grandpa somewhere He didn’t want to go . . . back to life, and life more abundant!
“You’re always there when I need you,” Grandpa said as I put his Duck Dynasty blanket around his shoulders.
“I’m blessed!” he said. “I don’t say it enough!”
“You’re right, Grandpa,” I agreed.
“I’m doubly blessed,” he added. “You and the Lord!”
“Triply blessed,” Grandpa, I replied. “Me, the Lord, and Robert!”
Let’s give credit where credit is due! I wouldn’t be able to care for Grandpa – at all, if it weren’t for Robert!
And we wouldn’t be able to care for this feisty little old man this long if it weren’t for the Lord and the help of our kids! It takes a family to care for a Grandpa.
I’ll tell you one thing, I’m so thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness to answer my prayers of total frustration!
Grandpa is a blessed man, indeed!
The many faces of Grandpa. He is a real character.
Wednesday night is my night off. What from you might ask? From giving Grandpa his dinner in the kitchen. My husband, Robert, goes to Bible study on Wednesday nights – one of two weekly breaks from the 24/7 “Grandpa grind,” the other Sunday morning. Our daughters also help out in the church nursery, so that leaves me all alone with Grandpa. Oh, joy!
Now, I want you to understand something, I love Grandpa, but I’m not very talkative when I’m tired, which is usually what I’m feeling in the evening knowing that I have to make dinner for someone who will probably turn up his nose at what I’ve made. It’s a little disconcerting with the price of food (not to mention my time and energy) how Grandpa can pick at a plate he would easily finish if he had been eating with the whole family.
Needless to say, it wears me out to play food games, so that’s why I came up with a great idea a while ago! On Wednesday nights, Grandpa eats in his room while he watches TV. I started this arrangement last fall when Robert’s new Bible study classes started up again.
But guess what? Grandpa does not like this arrangement–at all (you’re not surprised are you)!
Well, I wasn’t surprised either when I peeked down the hallway tonight and saw him looking at his watch. It was only 5:30 PM. Dinner is served at 7:00. PM. As he wheeled back and forth in front of his bedroom door, killing time, I thought to myself, He’s going to bellyache about having to eat in his room all by himself. I just know it!
Go ahead . . . call it self-fulfilled prophecy, caregiver’s intuition or a chapter on caregiver burnout from “Caregiving for Idiots,” but I knew he was going to gripe tonight even though a piece of paper with Philippians 2:14 is taped to his bedroom wall: “Do all things without complaining. . .”
Sure enough, when I brought his food down to him and pulled his nice little round table over in front of the TV, and placed a hot plate of spaghetti in front of him, smothered with Parmesan cheese (he loves spaghetti, he loves Parmesan cheese), he turned up his nose and jumped a bit in his wheelchair. Then he put on his best “feelin’ sorry for myself face” and wailed, “I’ve got to get out of here!”
“It’s Wednesday night, Dad,” I said emphatically. “Wednesday nights you eat in your room. This is something you can do for me!” I said, my voice rising slightly. . .
“Why are we fighting?” he said all agitated as if he didn’t know.
“You started it! ” I shot back. Then I added, “Listen, Dad, you live like a king! You only have to do this once a week. You have such a beautiful room. I wish I could just sit in my room and watch TV and have my dinner brought to me. You need to look at what you have, instead of what you don’t have. You’re so blessed!”
Grandpa looks down. He has a way of avoiding my eyes when he’s getting lectured, and he knows I’m right!
Anyone in my position would need a little time off once a week – “off” being the operative word.
So far tonight I’ve:
- Fetched an envelope for Grandpa.
- Managed to give an elusive answer when he asked if Robert took the girls to violin lessons. “Why do you want to know?” I asked him, knowing full well he was concerned that it was Wednesday night and he was going to have to eat in his room alone!
- Explained to him “again” why he has to eat in his room on Wednesday night.
- Brought him dessert after he ate only half of his spaghetti, which he divided neatly down the middle, exactly in half. “I can’t finish all of this,” he yelled sitting in the doorway of his room holding the plate on his lap.
- I yelled “Yes!” down the hallway when he asked me if I had made the dessert. Sometimes when we yell “yes!” he thinks we’ve said “no.”
“No?” he yells back. Then we have to yell, “Yes!” again to which he yells “No?” And back and forth we go, yelling up and down the hallway (but it sure beats getting up and walking down the hall to answer one “yes and no” question.
- Put him on the commode for a bowel movement which was a false alarm! (of course).
- Put his night time diaper on so Robert wouldn’t have to do it when he came home.
- Carried all of his dishes back to the kitchen.
- Started writing this blog so I wouldn’t forget all the details because after all, “Truth is stranger than fiction!”
Caregivers have to make time for themselves even if it is a bit hard on their loved ones. One night off a week is not too much to ask from someone who is capable of entertaining himself. He has cable and barely takes advantage of it.
Elderly parents have a way of wrapping you around their little finger and making it seem as if their world begins and ends with you–their adult children. Sometimes you feel used. The lyrics of an old song so apply:
“All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you . . .”
Grandpa really has “no idea” what it takes to care for him, day in and day out. So once in a while, my husband and I have to apply tough love in order to maintain our sanity.
Well enough about my Grandpa journey for tonight. I really wanted to relax a little, but I got carried away writing, and now it’s 10:30 PM. So much for my night off.
The truth is, I’m never really off . . . but I’m used to it!
Gerald Hale said on Facebook: It is worth the pain and suffering you and Robert go through in caring for Grandpa. By being his care givers, you all know how well he is being cared for. Should he be in a nursing home all of you would probably be miserable. May you all be evermore blessed and may Grandpa feel the love you all have for him as you do what God says do……..caring for your elderly dad.
Thank you, Gerald.