REFLECTIONS OF A CAREGIVER
by Mary Ponder
My husband and I are in our sixties
and the topic of retirement comes up in conversation often. Recently I heard a quote that I think is worth sharing.
“Retirement is paying yourself for doing what you love”. That idea sounds great but as I look around,
many of the retirees I know are not following big dreams but are caregivers for a loved one.
Another phrase comes to mind, “Pay
it forward”. In my world, retirement is closer to this idea. Retirement may become the time when we are
asked to “pay forward” to the next generation by caring for the needs of our aging parents who loved and cared
for us as we were growing up.
Being a caregiver is a part of life and we should be prepared to take on that role when the
time comes. Parents become caregivers for their children even before they are born. Many scriptures deal with
parents caring for their children. The fifth commandment in the Old Testament discusses a child’s relationship
to parents. It instructs children to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the
land which the Lord your God gives you”. (Ex 20:12)
I believe that honoring our parents would include caring
for them when they can’t care for themselves. A little over two years ago, my mother suffered a stroke and my
family just wasn’t prepared to take the caregivers role. My mother was a very independent eighty-one year old,
who had lived alone for about 30 years. Her health was good, she drove her own car, took care of her finances, did gardening,
and cooked for herself and many others. She needed little from her children but visits. Yet, it took only a second
on one quite Sunday afternoon to change the dynamics of our family forever.
Being independent and a fighter no doubt helped,
but the many prayers on her behalf helped bring about a good recovery. After her hospital stay and rehab, her Doctor
recommended that my mother consider living in an assisted living facility. This meant that we had to quickly
find our Mom a new home.
The month she was in the hospital and rehab was a busy one for us. We took turns staying with her, we moved
her things out of her apartment, searched for important documents, and took care of the paperwork for banking and insurance.
Then, last but not least, we had to find her that “new home”.
These were not easy tasks. Had we planned
better for this event, most of our work would have been unnecessary. So “preparation” and having a plan
are very important steps in becoming a caregiver.
I hope others can learn from my family’s experience during my Mom’s
stroke and illness. The truth is that each person has to find their own way and the experience is different for each
family member. My Mom was blessed that she had a very good recovery. She has to use a walker now, due to a weakened
right side, and also has some memory loss.
Finding our Mom a new home at an Assisted Living Facility proved to be quite
a challenge. Location was very important because I was the most logical choice to be the caregiver, so we needed to
find a facility near my home. Luckily we found a beautiful Assisted Living facility about fifteen minutes from my house.
There are obviously
many challenges when moving someone from their home to a caregiving facility, no matter how beautiful it is. To make
this move easier for our Mom, we decided to decorate her new room using some of her furniture and other things she loved,
hoping she would feel more at home when she first arrived. About 2 years after she moved in, I overheard her telling
someone that the familiar surroundings had made a big difference in the way she felt when she came to her new room that first
You will also
need to consider the extra things that a caregiver will need to do for a resident in an Assisted Living facility. There
are many responsibilities: Doctor visits are numerous, shopping for personal items, buying food not furnished in dining
room, taking your love one on outings if they are able…..the list goes on and on. In my case, I’m with
my Mom 2 or 3 days a week, depending on the Dr. appointments. But remember, the caregiver is on-call 24/7.
can be a gift to both the caregiver and patient. I get to spend time with my Mom as a daughter and friend,
and on the good days we may go out to lunch or go shopping. My sister lives in Florida and comes for a long weekend
once a month and when there is a health crisis. We look forward to her visits. My brothers visit when they can
and sometimes bring friends from back home with them to visit with Mom….She loves it!
Our circumstances are always changing
but it should give us comfort to know we have an unchanging and caring Heavenly Father. He cares for us with a love
that is constant. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Deut. 33:27, Ps 54:4). Prayer is a comfort because we
always have a friend to turn to in times of trouble as well as times of thanksgiving.
Finally, below are some suggestions
that may make your caregiving journey easier:
as much as possible before a crisis event. Have a family meeting to discuss a plan.
a will and choose power of attorney options.
Make a “living will” or advanced care plan to designate a medical surrogate to
carry out end of life choices.
Have a designated place to store all important papers—Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney
papers, insurance polices, banking papers, VA papers, etc.
Discuss what must be done if the family member cannot go back home:
Sell home, deal with rental property issues, take care of utilities and mail, …..etc.
If you need to find a “new home”
for a loved one, research possible locations thoroughly. (On-line and by Word of Mouth). Visit possible facilities, talk with
residents and facility personnel if possible…..Ask a lot of questions.
"But ne'er the rose without
the thorn." When I think of my friend, Cindy Granke, I want to turn this quote upside down as throughout all her many
trials, she has always bloomed.
In regards to Cindy, "But ne'er the thorn without the rose."
In Honor of Cindy
(co-editor of Our Hope)
by Pat Gates
"When we honestly ask ourselves which
person in our lives means the most to us, we often find it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, and
cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."
My dear friend, Cindy Granke, is such a friend -- one who I have shared countless
pain with over the years and always received understanding and warmth in return. In fact, I guess you could say our friendship
developed from pain and became stronger through the trials of life. Our conversations began due to the similarities in our
illnesses but they progressed into the realization that we found each other to be like-minded in our interests, our humor,
and especially in our spiritual thinking. As time went on, we shared our deepest joys and sorrows to the point we would tease
each other about having our very own therapist. Cindy and I had many many trials over the years and often we would find ourselves
binding up each other's wounds.
the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."
"Feeling safe with a person," is truly a blessing that happens rarely in life and that's how I feel
with Cindy. I can tell her any of my thoughts, even those that come purely out of emotions, and she will understand. Without
judgment, in past conversations she recognized my need to express the pain within me and she understood what was
purely emotion talking and that I didn't really mean everything I was saying. ("Do ye think to reprove words, Seeing
that the speeches of one that is desperate are as wind? Job 6:26). I had complete trust in Cindy,
not only in her willingness to sift my words, but I knew my thoughts would never be repeated; not once in many years
did she ever disappoint me and cause any distrust in me.
I decided to take the plunge and go from a paper version of Our Hope to an online publication, I knew I would need help
as my son was very ill at the time and I didn't know if there would be times I wouldn't be able to complete the tasks. Immediately
I thought of Cindy. We were like-minded and I knew we would work well together. I could trust her knowledge and
wisdom and I wouldn't have to worry about the content of her articles nor would I be concerned with how she would respond
to reader's questions. When I asked her if she wanted to be a co-editor of Our Hope she gladly accepted and there wasn't a
day I regretted asking her to join me in this endeavor. Not only did she write relevant, scriptural articles but she displayed
her love and kindness in her writings. She also became better than me with responding to others in personal emails who were
needing extra encouragement.
More than two years ago our emails
to each other began to slow down. My son's increasing illness was taking more of my time and energy and Cindy was
going down physically. On top of living with disabling Fibromyalgia, she was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease.
It seems unfair that such a great woman should have to be afflicted with yet another serious trial, but such is life for some.
"Time and Chance happen to all," but I just wish so much suffering hadn't happened to my dear friend.
With the final blow of Parkinsons, Cindy let me know she could no longer write
for Our Hope. This is heartbreaking to her; not only did she enjoy writing, but she helped develop the online publication
which makes the loss more difficult to bear. She did such a fantastic job that her loss is mine as well. I miss her. I miss
sharing and discussing Our Hope, but most of all, I hurt for her increased inabilities.
Cindy recently sent me an email telling me to go ahead and take her name off of the writer's list on the "About
Us" page. However, I just can't bring myself to do it; her picture and presence on that page comforts me. It makes me
feel she is still with us, cheering us on...and I know she is.
The following passage perfectly fits my friend. Cindy, I love you.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the
same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also
to the interests of others. Philippians 2:1-4
BRING ME ALL YOUR FLOWERS NOW
I would rather have a single
From the garden of a friend,
Than have the choicest flowers,
When my stay on earth must end.
I would rather have the kindest
Which may now be said to me,
Than flattered when my heart
And this life has ceased to
I would rather have a loving
From friends I know are true,
Than tears shed ‘round
When this world I’ve bade
Bring me all your flowers,
Whether pink, or white, or red,
I’d rather have one blossom
Than a TRUCKLOAD WHEN I’M
- R.D. Richards
A friend is one who needs us and one whom we need. Around us may be many whose companionship
we enjoy, but were they suddenly to drop out of their places there would be no soreness, no sense of deprivation, no lack
of comfort. We do not need them; neither do they need us. A friend is one to whom we cling, though many leagues of space separate
us. Though days pass with no sight of his face or word from his pen, we know our friend loves us and that when we meet
again we will be on the same old terms; we shall begin where we left off. A friend is one in whom we can confide. The
secret chambers of our soul are open to his touch on the latch. - Jesse Dinger
by Pat Gates
What dignity is not:
Do a search on the internet for
the word dignity and you will come up with anything from names of healthcare facilities to clothing stores and into the different
facets of activism such as treating the elderly with dignity, death with dignity, and even gay activism. If you look up living
and dying with dignity, the result is page after page on dying with dignity which can cover being treated with dignity from
others to whether or not Dr. Korvorkian should be by your bedside, helping you be more dignified. Over and over I read how
all of us deserve to be treated with dignity and we will allow no less. If you are relying on the internet to define
dignity then our conclusion would be: Dignity is demanding to be treated with respect and being able to choose how
we want to live and die.
Is our dignity dependent on whether or not we are treated with respect? Do we only have a dignified life and death
if they are free from complications that cause dependency? Does our dignity come
down to the responsibility of others to serve us correctly and to die a quiet, painfree death?
Now, with that said, is it
not the responsibility of others to treat us in a dignified manner? Yes, of course, we should all treat each other with
dignity, however, if we ourselves do not possess dignity we will not know how to interact with others in a dignified
manner. Dignity begins inside our spiritual man and is then displayed in our speech and actions. If dignity
was dependent on how we were treated by others, none of us would possess it as we all come in contact with selfish, rude
individuals. If dignity is a characteristic to fight for and demand from others, we will all end up dissatisfied and
undignified because people and circumstances in life, most of the time, refuse to cooperate with our desires!
Dictionaries describe the meaning of the word dignity as: The state or quality of being
worthy of honor or respect; a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect bearing, conduct, or
of self-respect or
appreciation of the
formality or gravity
of an occasion
or situation; nobility or elevation
of character; worthiness: way of appearing or behaving that suggests seriousness and self-control.
Does the definition of dignity
focus on how we are treated by others or does it focus on ourselves? Rather than demanding dignity from others,
as well as circumstances, the true meaning of dignity is a character that is within us, not being dependent on our environment,
nor on the actions of others. Dignity is a responsibility put on us, as individuals, to act in an honorable
matter, being worthy of respect by possessing a noble character. A dignified person can live among disrespectful
people and still hold on to their dignity.
The realty is:
(1) Many in this world are not going to treat us with respect whether we demand it or not.
(2) The quality of dignity within us in not dependent on how others treat us; whether
or not it stays intact is wholly our desire and self-control.
Seeing as God sees: Understanding true dignity in life and death:
"Looking to Jesus, the founder and
perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2) If we desire the true definition of dignity we must look to our Lord. Any good characteristic
we should possess will be identified in our Lord, Jesus Christ. Was Jesus dignified when He lived on earth as a man?
From men's perspective, Jesus' birth, life, and death were not dignified, otherwise he would have been born in wealth,
lived in honor from all who knew him, and would have died peacefully in old age. God, the Father, however, judged His
Son's life and death in an entirely different way than how the world thinks: "God has highly exalted him and bestowed
on him the name that is above every name," Php 2:9.
As we examine Jesus' life, man's conception of dignity soon fades into misconception, and the
glory of true dignity is revealed:
Jesus birth determine His dignity? "And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling
cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luk 2:7) As Mary laid her precious,
helpless newborn in a food trough she may have thought it was not a dignified bed for the future king of Israel and the
"Son of the Most High." However, God the Father knew dignity was not determined by status or where we lay our head.
Did Jesus' family determine His dignity?
"And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this
man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter,
the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they took offense
at him.' (Mark 6:2-3) Jesus was not born into a family of educated nobility, nor were they dignified by the world's
standard, therefore, men did not respect the wisdom they heard nor the mighty works done. God, however, does not define dignity
by our ancestry. Our possession of dignity is not dependent on who our parents are, nor on our education.
Did Jesus' treatment from others determine His dignity? "For he
grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at
him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:2-3) Rather than
honor the Son of God, men despised and rejected Him. God, however, does not judge an individual's dignity by whether or not
that person is treated with respect.
Did Jesus' death determine His dignity? Was torture and scoffing "dying with dignity"
by the world's standard? Far from it. By God's standard, however, how a man dies does not determine whether or not he
is dignified in life or death.
How do we know Jesus possessed dignity if His birth, family, life, and death were not dignified
by the world's standard?
Jesus possessed dignity within Himself and it was not dependent on how He was treated by others, nor was it determined
by dying a nice, clean, pain-free death.
What Jesus thought about
determined His dignity: "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I
seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me." (Joh 5:30) Dignity is not self-seeking nor does it demand respect
from others. Dignity is humbly seeking God's will in our thoughts and actions, even if it leads to our physical harm. Dignity
has nothing to do with physical comfort but it has everything to do with inner peace that comes from obedience to God.
How Jesus treated
others displayed His dignity: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed
and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt. 9:36) I would have to copy and paste the entire gospels to display
Jesus' life-long dignity in how He treated others, but I chose this passage to show that there is compassion, patience, and
love contained in dignity. It is not self-seeking and demanding, but rather compassionate and patient.
in a dignified manner when treated harshly by undignified people: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet
he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so
he opened not his mouth." (Isa. 53:7) Jesus remained calm, acting in a dignified manner by humbly using wisdom in
His submission to the will of the Father.
Jesus lived in dignity: "And he went down with them and came
to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in
wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." (Luk 2:51-52) "I glorified you on earth, having accomplished
the work that you gave me to do." (1 John 17:4) Jesus lived a worthy life by accomplishing the work He was sent
to do and giving all glory to His Father.
Jesus died in dignity: "But
we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the
suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone." (Heb. 2:9) Our Savior
died in dignity because His suffering and death was a display of His perfect unselfishness, mercy, and love. Notice the Holy
Spirit tells us He was crowned in glory and honor because of His suffering, not in spite of it.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay
aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking
to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against
himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Heb 12:1-3)
As exemplified in our Lord's life, dignity is possessing a noble character that humbly lives in obedience
to God's will, foregoing any selfish indulgence of the flesh that demands respect. It is calm, even in dire circumstances
because it possesses a wisdom from above. "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing
to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown
in peace by those who make peace." (Jas 3:17-18)
May we seek dignity and may that dignity
reside within us.