Monday, April 25, 2011

Refreshment for our souls

5:35 p.m. Today's project was to take Steve with me to an Alzheimer's caregivers' support group at a church in Canyon Lake. It's about 30 minutes away, but we met up with my old friend Barbara McConaghy who drives up from Oceanside to support her mom Dot, who lost her husband to the disease, but still enjoys the fellowship of the friends she's made.

The church has an activity program for the Alzheimer's victims while we meet for two hours. When Steve and I entered the gymnasium, a wheelchair volleyball game was in progress. Obviously that would not interest fully physically active Steve, so we were shown to another room where he and another gentleman watched an old classic movie. I suppose that if there are more people on a regular basis, more games or puzzles or books might be made available as well. As our meeting progressed, I looked through the open door and saw him walking around the gym with an attendant who was pushing a man in a wheelchair, so Steve wasn't made to stay sedentary, at least. Thank the Lord for church volunteers! What a difference they make in the lives of others.

Today the caregivers' group had a speaker from Riverside County's Office on Aging, who had a wealth of information and sound advice and tips for our well-being. She said, and I have no reason to doubt it, that caregivers often die before the loved ones they are caring for! The people in the group asked, Why?" in amazement, and she said, "Stress!" Uh-oh. When I heard the sharing of people who were told by Hospice that they couldn't take their spouse out of a care home to the emergency room without permission; people whose longterm care insurance set up new, extra-contractual restrictions on which agencies they would pay for; Medi-Cal worries and caregivers no longer able to care for their loved ones because of their own advanced age and health issues, I am so thankful for a place where those caregivers can share and encourage one another.

I did speak up about the excellent way Genworth long-term care insurance handles their claims, and the fine experience I've had with the Brightstar agency. There's no reason to settle for inferior care from agencies that pay their people poorly; or hospice companies literally pushing themselves on patients who don't even need it, taking advantage of the caregivers' distress. While the presenter was very helpful in the guidance she offered, the love and prayerful support the members of theis tight-knit group gave to one another was just wonderful.

We won't be visiting very often, because I am determined to find a group here in Riverside, and maybe more people like me, dealing with this disease at a much earlier age. I hope to find a Christian group especially!

One dear 85-year-old retired nurse struggling with so many aspects of managing care for her husband in late-stage Alzheimers said, "I am just praying that I can go quietly in my sleep and my kids never have to deal with any of this!" The group laughed and said, "Yes, that's what we all hope!" But I popped up and declared, "What we really hope for is the Rapture, don't we!" Thinking of Jesus coming back for us sure did lighten our mental and emotional load at that point, as it has done for believers for two millenia!

Two portions of scripture from Ephesians came to my mind today as I reflected on my experience with the group.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (4:1-3)

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (4:32)

My soul was refreshed in the two hours I spent in discussion with the group, Steve enjoyed his time, and God opened a new door of Christian fellowship to us today!

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