Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A sisterhood emerges from the fire

5:34 p.m. Today's project was to lead a Mary Kay pedicure and facial spa party at the home of Mary Lou, a member of our pilot Alzheimer's/dementia caregivers' class given at the Riverside County Office of Aging. There were 4 gals enjoying the even complexion mask while they soaked their feet in the mint-eucalyptus scented pedicure bowls. Wish I could have joined them, but I had to conduct the class so they would get the most out of it. (Besides, I try to give myself a foot treatment once a week during the summer). We started with a Satin Hands treatment and ended with a delicious lunch.

As I sit on my living room loveseat with my legs up on the piano bench Steve so nicely moved for me, with a heating pad behind my lower back, I thank the Lord that He gave me the strength to not cancel the party. I actually needed to continue staying off my feet, using the cane, and keeping my sciatica leg elevated today like I've been doing since Friday. But our group needed the fellowship and they all definitely deserved the pampering! I sold a couple of products, and have booked follow-up appointments with them individually, but the best part was all of the sharing and encouragement we gave one another!

Willie Mae told us how her husband will insist, "I'll write the check" at church, but then quietly hand the checkbook back to her, saying, "You do it." I comforted her with, "At least he is asserting himself as the head of the family, as he always did before; it's when they just passively go through each day when it's tragic." Our loved ones all appear to be at a similar stage in the disease, even though Steve is 30 years younger than their parents or in one gal's case, her husband. So we can talk quite a bit about deteriorating abilities and manners at the dinner table, for instance, and what that means for future socializing as a couple or family.

Dressing and undressing, and changing out of dirty clothes has become a challenge for the men now. Resistance to changing a favorite shirt, no comprehension of clothes getting stale or stained, and confusion in dressing, reversing front and back are mid-stage attributes. Michele has her husband go upstairs and supervise his dad at bedtime to make sure he changes into pajamas. Steve and I have agreed to rid his closet of t-shirts that have designs on them, because he consistently puts them on backwards and becomes very stressed-out about it. We are keeping special event memento shirts, like the "Ben Born Again" outreach shirt from the 70's, folded and put away.

How blessed it is to be with women who totally understand what I'm going through, and I understand their issues. But we've all tried to do it on our own before enlisting professional help. MaryLou's dad is now at Encore Village and enjoying it; Willie May's husband goes to Care Connexxus adult daycare 3 days a week; Michele has a private respite home where she can drop her father-in-law off for a weekend or a week when she and hr husband travel; Diana and I have in-home are for our dementia victims.

But each one of us knows to enjoy them now for as long as possible, have fun and make an enjoyable life together while they are physically capable and know who we are!

Sometimes I marvel at how a newspaper article that I may not have even caught has impacted my life. The Lord had prepared my heart by making it clear to my mind that I needed help! That help came as written and verbal presentations from professionals, and mutual emotional support from fellow caregivers. On paper, everything looked good-I had help coming in that was paid for with long term care insurance funds; all legal forms had the i's dotted and the t's crossed. So why was I dabbing my eyes almost continually during classes?

It was me, the person, who was on the verge of breaking down, and I didn't even know it. God knew it, though, because He knows each person better than they know themselves. Listen to these beloved verses, Psalm 139:1-4:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up;

You understand my thoughts afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing me sweet sisters to walk through the fire of affliction with!

Thank you that I am not alone.

And thank you that I could give them a relaxed pampering session--it's the least I could do!

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