Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a journey of challenges. Some of the challenges are the daily routine. Some take you by surprise. And often the surprises become the new routine.
My Dad always used to say, “The only thing we can know for sure is that things will change.” How true that was.
I’m learning that again with my mother-in-law. Last night she kept wondering why we hadn’t fed her supper, even though it was five minutes after we’d finished and the dirty dishes were still in front of her. She had no memory of it.
A little bit later, as she was falling asleep in her chair, my husband asked her if she wanted to go to bed. She said that yes she did. So Jeff stood up and took her afghan off so he could help her up.
Mom looked shocked. “Why did you do that?” she asked.
“So you could get up and go to bed. You just said you wanted to.”
“I did? I don’t remember saying that.” She scowled, so Jeff covered her back up and she closed her eyes so she could continue napping in her chair.
It must be hard to have no memory of what just happened or what you just said. Or to have no memory of what you’d actually enjoy or what needs to happen to keep you safe and healthy. It reminds me of a day six years ago with my mom…
Sometimes putting on a coat was just too hard.
Dad had called that day to check in with me. He said he’d wanted to take a little drive with my brother to pick up lunch. Mom had typically been enthusiastic about going for a drive. The problem was that it was cold. They needed her to wear her coat, and apparently on that day a coat was an object of torture.
Even though she’d been in a pleasant mood all morning, when they tried to get her to put her coat on she got upset and started hollering, “Don’t do that to me!” She couldn’t understand why they would want to make her do something she didn’t want to do and saw no need for.
They’d manage to get one arm in the coat and then she would walk out of it before they could get the other arm in. And she kept hollering and being agitated by it all. So they finally gave up.
My brother went to get the food, and Mom and Dad missed out on a drive they both would have enjoyed. They just stayed home.
After I talked to Dad and I thought about this I wondered what good things I’ve missed out on because it started with something I thought was too hard or didn’t understand. Has my own stubbornness, my unwillingness to submit to something I didn’t like at first, kept me safe and stagnant?
It makes me want to listen closely to God. I want to soak in His word, and spend time praying and worshiping. I want to grow ever deeper with Him so I will become more sensitive to His leading.
Because who knows what wonders and beauty He might be longing to show me? Who knows what ministry He may call me to join Him in? Who knows what fun and adventures and challenges I might be missing by refusing to make that uncomfortable, awkward beginning?
And sometimes following Him may mean leaving the coat in the closet and staying home to care for someone who can’t even appreciate what we are doing. Or it may mean spending hours visiting in a care facility and ministering there. And sometimes we may feel the fun and adventure is passing us by.
But God has lessons for us in the caregiving. He is growing us and stretching us. He is calling us to listen to Him and depend on Him and trust Him in deeper ways through all of this. He is working on our hearts. He is leading us to take refuge under His wings. He is training us to fly higher in faith.
Sometimes God asks us to do things and we don’t understand why. But we can know that He loves us and that He has a plan. And whether He calls us to go or to stay, we can trust and obey.
“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV