Mama is Better. I’m a Blank.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Something has happened to my brain.

Twice now, yesterday and today, I’ve sat down to write … and could not formulate a thought. It’s stress, I think. And lack of sleep, I think. And being overwhelmed, I think.

It’s understandable, I tell myself. It will pass. I believe that and don’t worry about it. I know it’s just part of this process.

But … sheesh … I have the blankest of blank minds. It’s almost as if I’m not fully in touch with myself, or as if part of me is asleep, even when I’m awake.

Mama is — almost miraculously — doing better. She was able to go to adult day care all day yesterday. And she drove them crazy with her repeat questions while she was there. Then, last night, she sat at the table and ate supper, and by that I mean, she actually ate. It’s wasn’t a feast, but she managed a chicken leg and a helping of mashed potatoes. Then, of course, she raided the fridge for ice cream.

Mama was back.

Nobody, including me, expected her to ever be this good again. Mama is oblivious to all the stress, but I’m worn slick from it. I feel like I’ve been to the brink and back and I no longer know where I am. The hospice nurse told me to enjoy the good days. I didn’t do that yesterday. In fact, I spent the day expecting her to crack like an egg at any moment. I also did a good bit of feeling sorry for myself.

I need to take the nurse’ advice and enjoy these good days. Who knows how many of them we have left? I prayed last night — a lot — and, as usual after I pray, I feel better.

But the blank mindedness continues. That’s why I’m writing a diary today instead of a post about world events. I find that world events don’t interest me much right now. I hear the latest shenanigans in Congress, and, given my long time in politics, I see through them immediately. But I don’t much care.

I’m more focused on simpler things, like the fact that the oil in my car needs changing and I have to unload the dishwasher and put the sheets in the dryer. Stupid as it sounds, that’s where my mind is.

I do battle every day with the sick smells in Mama’s room. I wash sheets, empty and wash the portable potty, throw away the used tissues, and get it all clean smelling. It’s a stalemate, this war between the sad scents of urine and decay and me, but I’m fighting the fight on a daily basis.

I went to the doctor myself yesterday. Nothing serious, but I had to be very firm get away long enough to do it. What surprised me is that going to the doc felt like an outing. My life has become narrow indeed when taking myself to the doctor feels like recreation.

One odd thing that has happened is that Mama has started calling me “Mama.” It happened the first time when she was so near the edge a few days back. I did something for her, I forget what, and she said, “Thank you Mommy.”

During the day, she knows who I am, but now, late at night, when get up to take care of her, she often calls me “Mama” or “Mommy.” It doesn’t bother me when she does that. In fact, I find it touching.

It is, after all the truth of our situation.

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Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Walking Mama Home.

Mama last May. Believe it or not, her appearance in this photo seems robust to me now. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Mama last May. Believe it or not, her appearance in this photo seems robust and sharp-witted to me now. Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Mama seems better the past couple of days, but she is hallucinating, which means no sleep for me.

I’m sorry I’ve been so slow to come back to blogging. I’ve been going minute-by-minute on Mama care, and when I get a moment, I usually crash.

I did take a few minutes to write this post about Lord Carey’s advocacy for euthanasia, as well as one of the tougher moments I’ve had with Mama since I brought her home from the hospital.

I’m asking for prayers all around, my friends. Pray for me, as I find that the exhaustion is undermanning me seriously. Prayers for Mama. And prayers for our world that is so in love with the culture of death.

I’m going to do my best to blog more this week. But if I can’t, know that you are in my prayers.

From the National Catholic Register:

Mama slipped through my hands.

It was as if her bones were strands of boiled spaghetti, as if she was liquid rather than solid.

I fought the fall all the way down.

She landed in a sprawl against the oxygen machine, her head wedged between it and the portable potty. “Ohhhhh,” she moaned. I tried to lift her, but those spaghetti bones and her little bit of weight were too much for me.

The master bedroom, where my husband was, is all the way across the house from where Mama and me. I yelled for him to come help me. Yelled again and again. Yelled so loudly that my throat strained.

He didn’t hear me.

I left her there and ran to the master bedroom, yelling his name as I went.

He was able to lift her from the floor, and back onto the bed. Meanwhile, I collapsed on the small sofa at the foot of her bed. Throughout the last week, from her first collapse into unconsciousness on Tuesday night, all through that long night in the ER, and then through her rousal the next day and lapse back into deep sleep from which she could not be awakened … a sleep that lasted for four days … I never cried a tear. I couldn’t cry. My eyes were dry and I just kept going, one foot in front of the other foot.

But when my husband lifted Mama from the floor and put her back on her bed, I sank onto the sofa at the foot of her bed and broke into great, gasping sobs. I cried until the muscles in my chest hurt from the exhaustion of the sobbing.

Meanwhile, Mama, half conscious, kept mumbling something. I got up and sat on the bed beside her, but I still couldn’t make out what she was saying. I leaned forward until my ear was almost touching her lips.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/it-is-a-great-gift-to-carry-the-cross-of-someone-you-love/#ixzz3j5fxj56d

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It Was a Mama Kind of Night

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Caring for an old person is a little bit like driving a car with 300,000 miles on it. You never know when it’s going to break down, or in what weird way it will do it.

Last night was an example of this. Mama passed out on us in a 3-2-1-lights-out sort of way, and then she stayed passed out. My oldest son and I spent hours in the er beside her bed while she was off wherever it was that she’d gone and the medical staff tried to figure out what was happening.

Then this morning, she woke up like an old car that wouldn’t start yesterday but today kicks over as if nothing had happened. She’s still in the hospital, and I’m glad to have her there. She needs the care, and we need the help.

I wrote about it for the National Catholic Register.  Here’s a bit of what I said:

Old people — and by that I mean very old people — are funny.

They’re not funny in the sense of laughs. They’re funny in the sense that you never know from one moment to the next what’s going to happen.

Caring for a two-year-old is a piece of the proverbial cake compared to caring for a 90-year-old with dementia. My family and I have been doing our best to care for my 90-year-old-two-year-old for years now.

Her dementia started when she was in her high 80s. It was a late-comer to the aging party, but once it arrived, it went through her brain like a laser, cutting away pieces with every pass. Dementia never stops taking. It is an aggressive and remorseless beast that slowly, but inevitably, lops off chunks of the person you love.

Mama is my baby now, complete with diapers and the sudden medical crises that go along with the physical declines of extreme age. A 90-year-old going on eternity can slide straight down from doin’fine and being a pest to the brink of forever in one, breath-taking step.

Consider last night.

What we had was Mama, prattling along with her nonsensical word-salad talk-talking while changing into her night gown. With no warning, she stopped talking and slumped forward.

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10th Circuit Rules First Amendment Protections Don’t Apply to Little Sisters of the Poor

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Goat_Girl https://www.flickr.com/photos/112363286@N08/

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.

Ditto for the Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic organization through which the Little Sisters buy their insurance.

While that may sound a bit off-the cuff, it’s the gist of the ruling.

This is how the on-going war against people of faith is played out. It rides in on the back of the legal sophistry that the First Amendment only applies to recognized churches and then only to what is done within the aegis of that recognized church. The verbiage is to limit “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship.” This kind of limitation effectively destroys our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.

The 10th Circuit has bought into this fiction big time, because … well … because they are idiots. Or rather, because they are ideologues. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I repeat myself.

There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts. That is a dangerous notion that I will write about at length later. But the public attitude underlying it has its roots in this kind of absurd ruling. This is a re-writing and abrogation of the First Amendment that damages the freedoms and liberties of every American citizen today and into future generations.

The people who support this are throwing away their own freedoms for no other reason than a desire to get at someone whose opinion and beliefs they do not share. The courts are playing fool to this because — and this seems obvious — at least a number of members of the judiciary are ideologues with only a narrow understanding of their responsibilities to our country.

This particular move is a result of the HHS Mandate which is a result of the hubris of a president who seems addicted to an imperial view of himself and his office. How many times has President Obama made statements that he can enact policy without Congress? How many times has Congress answered him in the affirmative?

Congress has always had the power to rescind the HHS Mandate. They did not have to let it go into effect in the first place. They have not used this power in any way except as a campaign tool to win elections. If campaign promises were Congressional action, this would be an entirely different country. It would be a country in which We the People would have some hope of making a difference when we vote.

As it is, most of us have figured out that, no matter who we elect, they end up lying to us, ignoring us and doing things that hurt us. Why should we be surprised when the judges these folks appoint behave in the same way?

The 10th Circuit does not necessarily have the last say on this issue. The Supreme Court can chose to hear the case and overturn this ruling. The question is, will they?

As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they intend to continue in their ministry and stay faithful to their faith. This is the challenge and the example for each and every one of us.

From CNA Daily News here at Patheos:

Disappointment follows ruling against Little Sisters in mandate case

Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.

“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.

“And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”

Sr. Maguire responded to a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 14.

The sisters are among several hundred plaintiffs that have challenged the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.

Met with a wave of protest, the contraception mandate has undergone a number of revisions. However, the sisters say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs.

 

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Belgian GPs “Killing Patients Who Have Not Asked to Die.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steven Depolo https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steven Depolo https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Evidently, the greatest danger to an elderly person in Belgium is their doctor, a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

If you give people the legal right to commit murder, they will commit murder.  What’s more, people who enjoy committing murder will be drawn to the profession which is allowed to kill without legal consequence.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steven Depolo https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steven Depolo https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/

We have become a society which only grants a basic right to life to those who are able to go into court and defend their lives themselves. Now, we are becoming a society in which even this opportunity to fight for your life in court is being removed.

Belgian doctors are killing people without informing either them or their families. The docs just decide who to murder, and then they murder them. There’s no room in that equation for legal challenges and courtroom appeals for a stay of execution. Belgium has evidently given its doctors the legal right to kill at will, with no corresponding right to protest on the part of their victims or their victim’s families.

It’s the Final Solution in a white coat.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alden Chadwick https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldenchadwick/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alden Chadwick https://www.flickr.com/photos/aldenchadwick/

From The Daily Mail:

Thousands of elderly people have been killed by their own GPs without ever asking to die under Belgium’s euthanasia laws, an academic report said yesterday.

It said that around one in every 60 deaths of a patient under GP care involves someone who has not requested euthanasia.

Half of the patients killed without giving their consent were over the age of 80, the study found, and two thirds of them were in hospital and were not suffering from a terminal disease such as cancer.

In about four out of five of the cases, the death was not discussed with patients subjected to ‘involuntary euthanasia’ because they were either in a coma, they were diagnosed with dementia, or because doctors decided it would not be in their best interests to discuss the matter with them.

Very often doctors would not inform the families of plans to lethally inject a relation because they considered it a medical decision to be made by themselves alone, the report published by the Journal of Medical Ethics said.

 

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Pope Francis: A Society That Does Not Take Care of the Elderly, Has No Future

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marjan Lavareski https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marjan Lavareski https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/

The Church teaches us to love and care for the elderly, disabled, weak and helpless. It teaches us that every human life has immense value. It reminds us over and over again with a consistent voice that human life is sacred and we may not murder.

The world is doing its best to teach us to love euthanasia.

The difference, my friends, is Jesus.

I often get comments when I write about my own elderly mother, telling me that if euthanasia was legal, I would have a “solution” for my problems. Caring for an elderly parent is work. Caring for an elderly parent with dementia is hard work.

It can be painful, frightening and lonely. But it is also and always a gift. My son took Mama to her adult day care this morning. He told me later how much he enjoyed those times with Amah.

As the days dwindle down, each one of them becomes precious.

Pope Francis tells us that a society that does not take care of the elderly has no future. I would say the same thing, only differently. A society that consigns those who can not defend themselves to death because they are a “burden,” is dead already.

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I’m Triaging My Life for Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

I volunteered to host my book club at my house tonight.

Then, life piled on and I made a decision to move the book club meeting to a local restaurant. My fellow book-clubbers were not only gracious about it, they seemed delighted with the prospect of dining while we talk.

I could, if I had been stupid, have soldiered through, putting together snacks and polishing my house so I could play hostess. But that would have been, as I said, stupid.

I had plans to write a blog post today about a topical issue, taking my own slant on the subject. I’d done some research, filed the links in Omnifocus and had it ready to put together. That was going to be today’s big post.

Then, Mama’s hallucinations came back and I need to spend the day going from doc to doc. I could, if I had been stupid, have skipped my early-morning aerobics class and put that post together. But that would been, as I said, stupid.

Both these things would have violated the triage I’ve set up for my life. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to establish iron-clad priorities and stick with them, even when it stings. That’s the life of every successful elected official. I would never have been elected without the ability to do this, and I could never have passed all the legislation and taken care of my district and still had a happy home life without it, either.

I thought I was past that kind of self-discipline when I walked out of the House. I ping-ponged around for months, while the exigencies of Mama’s dementia made hash of my life, my health and my state of mind. I wasn’t managing these things; they were managing me.

It all came to a resounding crash a couple of months ago. Mama’s dementia tripped over into active 24/7 hallucinations of the ugly kind, and then, right on schedule, I got sick and couldn’t get well. Suddenly, I was out so deep in the deep that I couldn’t touch bottom, and I was so tired, that, try as I might, I was swallowing water and dipping under.

Enter depression, a big shot of despair and anger. It was miserable.

I prayed and prayed and I didn’t think I was getting answers. But God was answering me, He just wasn’t telling me about it. Help came in the form of new medications and healing in my own body. Help came in that small still voice that told me that I wasn’t going to be able to do this perfectly, but doing it in a messy way with lots of mistakes was alright. It was ok to just muddle through.

God gave me something I didn’t pray for but which has helped me more than I can say. He gave me peace with my own weaknesses and faults, acceptance of my failures and stumbles. He gave me His love and His acceptance and His assurance that imperfect was good enough.

I didn’t hear voices, and I didn’t get specific direction. What I got was a gentle attagirl and a loving Peace, Be Still.

The rest came from me. God gave me courage and peace. He freed my mind from the depression and anguish and that let me find my own way out of the woods.

Robert Frost said that the way out is through. In this case, he was absolutely right. The way out is through. I’m not the perfect daughter doing the perfect job of caregiving. I am just me, seeing my Mama home the best way that I can.

The first rule of going through is to make sure that you get through. What that means in direct terms is don’t get sick. In the new triage of my life, I have a husband, a mother, and my own self to tend to. My precious children are adults who can and do take care of themselves. Not only that, but they’ve come on board big time in terms of Mama, or as they call her, Amah care.

My first priority isn’t taking care of Mama or even being a wife to my husband. My first priority is taking care of me. By that I mean two simple things: Don’t get sick spiritually and don’t get sick physically.

A couple of the Catholic Patheosi are pretty much saints. I won’t embarrass them by detailing their life of prayer and worship. It’s enough for the purposes of this post to say that I ain’t them. For me, not getting sick spiritually depends an awful lot on God’s mercy. I pray, and I pray often. But many of my prayers are said while I’m driving my car or loading the dishwasher or giving Mama her bath or throwing out her dirty diapers.

One constant prayer is simply that God will save me from my inner jerk.

I go to mass, but only once a week. There was a time when I went every day, but not now. I probably should start going more often, simply because every time I take the Eucharist, it heals me, and I do need healing. But it’s tough to start something new right now.

My first area of triage is simply this: Get 8 hours sleep (I’m not doing so good at this one), go to aerobics class and ride my recumbent bike on the off days, stop eating junk. This is number one. If I crater physically, I can’t do anything else.

Right next to this is pay the bills, keep the car and house maintained. This isn’t time consuming, but it must be done.

Still in the first area of triage is say a prayer, read the Bible and play some music on the piano every day. The piano soothes and heals me almost as much as sleep and exercise. Ditto for prayer and Scripture.

Then, my next first area of triage is take care of Mama. This is huge. It’s hours and hours. It’s unpredictable and crazy making. It’s why I have to stay prayed up and exercise, sleep, eat right. I can not take care of Mama unless I do those things.

The other thing in my first area of triage is my husband. He’s my other half, my life’s partner, my lover and my love. It’s a joy to spend time with him. I can’t let him and our relationship be shoved out of my life by other things.

Spiritual and physical health, Mama, hubby: These are first priorities.

Second priorities are the book and the blog. The blog comes after the book in priorities.

Third is everything else. That includes keeping the house clean, doing laundry, etc.

So, the reason I haven’t been blogging as much is simple. The blog got bumped to second place of second place. I blog after I take care of me, Mama, hubby, pay the bills, change the oil in my car, get the air conditioner serviced and write my book. The blog still comes in ahead of running the vacuum and doing the laundry. Fortunately, those things fit easily in odd moments.

When I need to stand up and take a break, I vacuum the living room or empty the dishwasher.

What I don’t do is skip aerobics to blog or short-change my husband to work on the book.

That, my friends, is the new triage of my life. It seems to be working, but as I said, Mama’s hallucinations are back. That may well force a whole new paradigm on me. I’m doing doctor duty today. And that’s why this is the only post you’ll see from me until tomorrow.

Prayers and blessings to each of you.

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My Dead Will Stay Undecorated.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Goerhing https://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Goerhing https://www.flickr.com/photos/carbonnyc/

It’s Memorial Day.

Our big plan was to load Mama in the car and go on our annual cemetery safari, trotting around the state to put flowers on the graves of our dead family. We usually end up running into relatives we haven’t seen in a while for impromptu graveside reunions. We also enjoy the drive.

But springtime plans in Oklahoma are always subject to the weather. This year, the weather says that smart Okies stay off the highways.

Saturday night was another go round of storms and flooding. My husband went to vigil mass. The kids watch Mama every week so I can go to mass.

But, for some reason, I got sick. It was a funky sickness. I was just suddenly soooo tired that I told him I was too tired to go to mass. I know that sounds odd, but this was a tidal wave of tired, kinda like somebody reached out and thunked me on the head and said, “You ain’t goin’ to mass tonight.”

He went on, I stayed home, and the tornadoes and rains moved in. I ended up in the shelter with Mama while he was stranded on high ground, watching the flood waters roil around him.

In the midst of all this, Mama lost her teeth. Or rather, I should say that she hid her teeth and forgot where she hid them. We still haven’t found them.So it was tornado sirens, floods and hoisting a little old lady in and out of a storm shelter; all with an unending background of “I want my teeth.”

When my husband called, he said he was taking shelter from the floods in a car wash. I didn’t say anything to him. He wasn’t in a laughing mood. But between the teeth and sheltering his car from the floods in a car wash, I had a good laugh. I still laugh when I think about it.

Nobody was hurt. My husband was the only one who even got wet. Mama has gotten so she enjoys the drama of going to the shelter, kind of like a little kid. The only losers are our dead family, who, due to more incoming weather, will remain flowerless.

Here are a few videos of the good times for your amusement and amazement.

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This is an area where we normally enjoy family recreation.

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I Left the Legislature a Year Ago and Nothing Has Gone as Planned.

A year ago tomorrow, I cast my last vote …

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

… and walked out of the Oklahoma legislature forever.

I can honestly say that I have not missed getting up and going out there to do the people’s business in the year since. Not once. I have no nostalgia about the place, zero desire to go back out there and make those decisions, sit through those meetings, debates, wranglings and negotiations.

I can also honestly say that, while I’m loving my new life, I’m still working to get a handle on it. I didn’t stop being a Rep until the first of December. That’s when my true life of freedom began.

During that time, my mother’s dementia went from difficult to impossible to a living nightmare. Now, thanks to powerful meds, it’s moved back to a barely livable point somewhere between difficult and impossible. Taking care of her is just possible … just. If one brick falls out of the carefully-balanced wall between getting by and utter chaos, we go back in the impossible soup again.

Taking care of her has taught me something I didn’t know about before: The physical limits of me. I have found the break point in my own physical stamina, and I hate the thing. It’s not just the work of caring for her, though that is a mountain. It’s the stress and worry, the grief and guilt. Of all these, I would say that the grief is the worst. I miss my Mama, miss her with an ache that’s like a broken tooth in my soul.

In the meanwhile of my time, I’ve been trying to put together a writing life. If caring for Mama is the meat and potatoes of my life, writing is the gravy.

I don’t mean “gravy” in the slang use of the word to mean money. I mean gravy as in the fat, the seasoning, the oh-so-good part of the tough-to-chew-and-swallow that’s underneath.

There are days when I’m too tired to write. My brain is too mushy, my anxiety and worry readings too far off the chart, for me to make my brain work. Those are days when the physical/emotional limits I was talking about earlier have kicked in.

But most of the time, writing is a gift. I feel that God has gifted me with this work at this time. I thought at one point — as my ego-saturated little brain usually does — that I was the gift, that my experiences and insider’s knowledge gave me a message worth sharing. Now I realize that the gift was given to me, not the other way around.

Productive work that God has put in your hands for His purposes is always challenging and difficult. Or, at least it has always been such for me. It is also always a blessing.

The most important and most challenging work He ever gave me was raising my children. That truly is eternity work. It is also the hardest and scariest work I’ve ever done.

Now, I have the twin blessings of writing and seeing Mama home. He has taken me to a place where my ability to trust Him is challenged in ways I never encountered before. I had to re-learn about letting Him handle things with Mama, about trusting Him even when the road is going down, down, down.

My not-so-saintly self always wants to take charge and do everything. I want to be in control. I want to figure a way out of every corner, plan a path and set out on it. I am not a follower. Followership runs against my rebellious nature.

And yet my life is built around followership. I follow Jesus Christ, and often as not, I have to follow Him like a blind woman, hanging onto a rope. He teaches me this lesson. He taught it to me when I was a legislator. He taught it to me when I was raising my kids. Now He has to teach it to me all over again.

Writer’s block, which I’ve had a bit, is nothing more than an internal editor trying to run the show out of pace with the work. Putting the work in His hands does away with that.

The anxieties I’ve felt over Mama are just another dish of the same stuff.

It’s a trick, using all my existing skills and minting new ones to help her, and at the same time, leaving everything in Jesus’ hands. It’s even more of of a trick, minting entirely new skills to live a writer’s life and giving that work, like all the others, to Him entire.

On the surface, it sounds a bit like running a race while sitting in place; an unsolvable conundrum. But it’s not. Here’s what I learned as a legislator, a work that is nothing but unsolvable conundrums heaped on one another.

Get yourself prayed up, then go out there and fight with all you’ve got. Trust that He will be there and He will take care of you. It’s a matter of stepping out on the ice, ever single day.

It also works. If you pray and you trust and you just do your best In Him, the ice holds. You never fall through. And He will guard you in your ways.

Now, I re-learning that same way of living, only in a different manner. I’m not the saint who just does these things. I have to re-learn in every new situation how to work and trust, how to be the child of God that I am.

The key to all this is prayer, and the mass and Scripture. My way of getting through the legislature was simple. I prayed the Rosary every day. Read through the Bible every 15 months or so, and went to mass as often as I could. This held me together when I was a legislator and it is where I go now that I’m a caregiver/writer. Different problems: Same God.

Writing is the same as every gift that God gives. It is a gift, wrapped in a challenge, and it makes me a gift to others.

I think that is the meaning of vocation. Vocation is God, making us a gift to others.

God has gifted me with changing vocations as my life’s seasons change. He has given me every gift imaginable; life, love, health, family, home and work. But the greatest gift of all is that He has given me Himself. He gave me the great gift of His presence, His love, His Spirit, walking through life with me.

Every time God gives me a new task, which I think of as my vocation for my present season, it is a challenge. It is a gift with thorns, a velvet cross wrapped in eternal love.

I have not missed the legislature for one moment. The reason is probably because my life has been so full, the work in front of me so immediate, that my cup runneth over with wine that is both bitter and sweet.

I am seeing Mama home, seeing my young adult children into their lives (a parent’s work is never done) loving my wonderful husband and writing, writing, writing.

Eternity work. It’s all eternity work.

I had envisioned a much more leisurely time of it. I was going to write, travel, drink pina coladas and take up new hobbies. I planned on losing weight, getting in shape, joining the local camera club, taking up golf, maybe buying a horse, going on great trips and living the good ‘ole life.

Instead, I’m changing Mama’s diapers. I’m taking care of her because she’s my new baby. I’m also involved in my kid’s lives (their choice) in fruitful, loving and anxiety-making ways that I never anticipated.

It turns out that my grown kids want me around. They want to be with me, talk to me, share their joys and pains with me on a daily basis.

It’s all a gift, and a challenge. God has gifted me with so much that I’m worn out from it.

It’s been a year since I cast my last legislative vote. I had all sorts of things planned for my next life. But, as usual God had other plans. Harder plans. More important plans.

A dear friend of mine tells me that if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans.

I gave up planning a long time ago, because I learned that it does no good. Life has its own immediacies. Then, when I left the legislature, I forgot that lesson and made a caboodle of sweet and soft plans, marshmallow pillows all of them, for my glorious life of unending vacationing.

Silly me.

 

 

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We Need Caregiving for Caregivers of Parents with Dementia

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

A few days ago, I had someone praise me for my “witness.”

This person was referring to the fact that my family and I are taking care of my elderly mother. I wanted to interrupt this person and tell them the truth of it, which is that my “witness” is shot full of holes.

Caregiving for an elderly person with dementia can seem like a piece of cake early on in the process. But as it progresses, and more of their brain switches off, it becomes increasingly fraught.

On top of that, I keep getting sick. Not, terrible sick, but bad enough to suck all the life out of me and make every day feel like a march through knee deep mud. I’ve had two colds in two months. Colds aren’t much of anything, unless you’ve got asthma. But put a cold together with asthma and no sleep and all the rest of my life right now and you’ve got a recipe for lungs that just won’t work.

That’s what happened in March. I somehow did not get pneumonia, which the doc assured me was what happened to most folks. But I did get such a bad case of on-going, never-stop asthma that, as he told me, “Your lungs aren’t moving air.”  Enter the miracle of antibiotics and steroids, and I got all healed up and back in the race again.

Then, along came another cold. It sent Mama to the er last week. Now it’s gone down into my lungs and formed an alliance with the asthma. I’m probably going to have to do the antibiotics/steroids all over again.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want you to understand that my “witness” is a weak and faulty thing. When I’m lying on the sofa, coughing and hacking, I’m not exactly doing a good job as a caregiver. Mama, who can no longer follow a book or a plot on tv, and so is no longer amused by either books or tv, demands constant amusement.

When I’m sick, I can’t do this. Instead of working with her to keep her wound up and moving, I end up letting her sit on the sofa like a zombie, or I send her to her room where she falls asleep. That’s not good care of someone with dementia. But it’s all I can do when I’m sick.

I’ve never resented the spring storms the way I have this year. They set off my arthritis, and somehow or other the stress with Mama seems to make that worse. Plus, I feel the weight of taking care of her in a storm in a way I never felt the weight of taking care of the kids when they were little.

Compared to her, they were ez pz. When they were very small, I just picked them up and did what needed doing. When they were full-on kids, they did what I told them in difficult situations without argument.

But Mama is a never-comprehending rubics cube. She trusts me and will do what I ask of her. But if I’m not there, she fights whoever is trying to help her. That adds a dash of salsa to the storms that, for some reason, seems too much.

That’s what I’m dealing with right now: Too much. It’s all too much. And I’m not sure why.

I think I’ve solved the doctor thing. I simply went on a doctor hunt, and it turned out that I landed on the right square early on in the search. The doc and the staff at the er last week were kind, and they understood my situation almost without my telling them. That was a blessing.

Everything is do-able. Today.

That’s the only promise a caregiver for someone with dementia has: Today. Or, maybe not even today. It may end up that all you know is that things are going good right now. In an hour, it can change, and you are dealing with a full-on hallucination or making a fast trip to the er.

But for today, for this minute, I have loads of help from my kids, and Adult Day Care, and I have prescriptions that seem to be working with Mama and my only problem is that I Do. Not. Want. to go to the doc myself.

I would rather eat dirt than go spend another $160 at an urgent care place to get a script for antibiotics and steroids. But I know that primary care docs with their $20 copay take about 3 weeks to see you, and this isn’t worthy of an er (which is much more miserable than going to an urgent care facility, anyway) so, I have to do the $160 do to get a couple of scripts that, to be honest, I could write myself.

See how I whine? See how negative I’ve become?

That’s what I’m talking about when I say my “witness” is less than shiny bright and pretty.

In truth, Mama’s dementia is doing at least as bad a job on me as it is on her and I can’t figure out why. I hit some sort of wall when she stopped sleeping at night. I know part of that wall was simple exhaustion.

One of the two hardest nights of her dementia so far was last month, when I was sick and she would not stay in bed. I felt so lousy, and she was up and roaming and had to be managed all night long. Before these new meds, she argued with me and refused to go back to bed and had hallucinations that terrified her and made her unmanageable.

That night was about 30 years long, and the next day, I was so sick I had to get medical help for myself.

Then, when we put her in the in-patient diagnostic and she just slept through the night and didn’t do any of this for them so they could help us with it, I hit some sort of despair point. I cried for days and couldn’t stop crying. We finally managed to get a script that actually does help, that not only lets her sleep at night but clears the hallucinations.

Things should be all better now. In fact, they were looking up, then we got this blamed cold. The high wire act of dementia care is such that something as simple as a cold can cause everyone to fall off and into the net. That’s what’s happened to me.

The thing I hang onto is something a man whose name I never learned told me years ago. I taught a class at Youth With a Mission in Hawaii a few years back. It was a glorious experience, spending an entire week in that beautiful Christian environment. Everyone I talked to was a spirit-filled, all-in Christian who wanted to change the world for Christ.

One evening, I was sitting out, watching the sunset, when a man with a baby joined me. We got to talking and he told me the story of how he came to adopt this baby. Long story short, the baby had no one, and he was reluctant to take on raising a child at his advanced age. But when he and his wife did adopt the baby, the child blessed their lives with love and wonder as only a baby can.

“God only wants to bless you,” he told me.

I keep thinking of that comment when things are difficult with Mama. “God only wants to bless you.”

I believe that, and I know it’s true of me and my situation right now. Mama has been a blessing to me all my life. Seeing her home is not a punishment. It’s a gift. A blessing.

That thought is what dries my tears and pulls me back out of despair. I write these blog posts as unsparingly as I can because I think that as a society we need to face up to the fact that we not only abandon our elderly, we abandon their care givers.

Care for people who have dementia is a act of life and love. It is pro life for real. Euthanasia, which is being pushed as an “answer” to dementia and a “relief’ for caregivers, is satanic. It is from the blackest pit of hell.

What we need to do as a society is take off our blinders and help people who are caring for their family members with dementia. We need something like the Rain Teams that Christians once formed to help people with AIDs, only for families who are caring for loved ones with dementia.

Care of the care-giver is a forgotten piece of the equation of caring for our elderly. I can tell you that as the dementia gets worse the caregiver begins to need love and support every bit as much as the person they are caring for.

My “witness,” such as it is, is a call for us to do better. It is not a “witness” of my heroism and perfection. It is, rather, a witness of my weakness and failures. I am not a cheerfully self-sacrificing saint. I am everyman and everywoman, just muddling through and hanging on and falling flat and getting back up.

I do not fall into raptures of grace when I am dog tired and at my wit’s end. I sit down and cry. I am not always reasonable. I do not always do the right thing.

I am you. And me. And every one of us.

That, and not some idea of perfection, is my witness. It is why I can say without equivocation that caregivers of elderly parents with dementia need help. They need love. They need comforting and support.

The Lord only wants to bless us. And the first blessing comes from His command that we “Love one another.”

All His blessings are blessings of love and life. Seeing Mama home is a blessing of love and life. If we rise to this challenge that I am making and will continue to make, and help caregivers of people with dementia, we will be blessing ourselves and one another with love and life.

I write about Mama with as much honesty and raw reality as I can. The reason is that I am issuing a call. I am calling Christians to formulate means to help caregivers of people with dementia in the simple, human ways that they need help. Put life and love back in their days of chaos. God wants to use them to bless you.

All God ever wants to do is bless each and every one of us. And the first and only true blessing is love.

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