Sometimes Caregiving Looks Like This

Pull Up Big Girl Panties

There were days when I felt more like the mean girl than the patient saint some believe caregivers to be. I didn’t want to do it any more. I got mad. I hollered back when he shouted at me. I regretted it the moment it happened but let’s be honest, this is what caregiving is like some days.

I have to admit I never looked that good when going through it. I more closely resembled the image below, right down to the scraggly plumage. But, I couldn’t resist posting this image. I love her attitude.

Rough Week

 

It is critical that we address the realities of caregiving  and not sugar coat it.We have to do everything we can to support the over 65,000,000 caregivers in this country and the millions more who will become caregivers very soon.

 November is National Caregivers Month. The President has issued a proclamation in support of caregivers. Caregiver conferences are being held across the country. It’s time to talk less and provide more help. Our legislators would do well to read caregiver support sites and hear from the caregivers themselves. Feel free to start by sending them a link to my blog.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

On God and Santa

santa list

When I was a little girl I thought Santa Claus and God were a lot alike. First there was that “making a list and checking it twice” song to let us know that Santa was watching “to see who’s naughty or nice.” Then Sister Anne told us God has a big book up in heaven and when we die we’re going to have to stand in front of everybody in all creation while our sins are read out loud for everyone to hear. I had to think that with a book like that someone was checking it at least a couple of times.

Santa seemed be easier to please than God. He judged you on an annual basis and on Christmas morning you knew how you’d done that year. If you were real good you got everything you asked for. If you were real bad, you got nothing. I always landed somewhere in the middle. I never got everything I asked for, but I never got nothing either. I usually ended up with one or two things from my list and some other things that were nothing to write home about. Then there were the socks and underwear that came as a warning to do better in the New Year. I figured he must have checked that list and seen me trying to peek at some answers on a math test or watched me picking on my little brother. He also seemed to know I always tried to do better and found it in his heart to give me a bit of credit for that. I figured that’s how I got my first pair of roller skates.

face of God

God is tougher. He expects you to be good all the time and if you can’t quite pull it off, he wants you to tell on yourself. That’s what they call ‘going to confession’ in my church. Then you have do penance and pray for your immortal soul. There are no presents to let you know how you’re doing. Confession was always a problem. What if I forgot something? What if He looked away when I was good and didn’t see how hard I tried? Even a pair of socks would have been some indication of how things were going. I thought God should have a chat with Santa.

During Christmas things got all mixed up and everybody went a little crazy. Jingle Bells and Away in A Manger competed on the stereo. Santa images appeared everywhere. Baby Jesus was getting ready for his birthday and his straw bed was right up there at the front of the church and at home we placed it under the Christmas tree with the sheep and the cows, the chipped wise men and one shepherd with a broken staff. Mary prayed and Joseph stood guard over all of them.

In the midst of all this I heard about some kid seeing his mommy kissing Santa Claus. Imagine something like that happening when everyone is expected to be on their best behavior. It was enough to drive a kid to distraction.

Right after that, we had to practice for the Christmas pageant and get into a solemn state worthy of Our Lord. I tried. However, even with the best intentions I never managed to behave well enough to be considered for the part of Mary. I did manage to be a pretty good sheep once and from that success I moved up to play a well disguised wise man the following year.

As I look back on those innocent years, I realize that as adults we feel the same pressure to be good, to answer to more than one standard at the same time. We grow distracted and fail to see Him in the stars, the morning sun, or the loving eyes of our spouse. We no longer notice the prayer in a child’s laugh or a loved one’s crooked smile. It’s because of times like these that God reminds us to think of others.

It is through Him that we opened our hearts long ago and created a joyful old elf to carry His message. That is why God and Santa look alike to an innocent little girl trying her best to prepare for when the time comes to check that list. Faith comes in many forms but always at the heart of it is a message to try to do your best, to appreciate the gifts that life offers and share our love with family and our community.

Now when people complain about how commercial the season has become, how gifts and parties have taken over, I smile and look into the face of Santa, and I see Him there, smiling back at me with all the love a father holds for a child trying hard to be good.

Merry Christmas Caregivers!

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Lead Me to The Rock

lead me to the rock psalm 61 2

Sometimes prayer was the only thing that got me through the long days and nights of caregiving. Too much stress, too little sleep, very little help, all piled up and sapped my strength and I turned to prayer. In one form another my cry was always the same, “I need help. Please send help.”

And He did. In His time and in a way that may have been unexpected, help arrived.

For all the caregivers close to the end of their stamina, I send out this prayer.

“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

A blessed Sunday to you all.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

 

I Don’t Think I Can Do This Anymore

I felt that way so many times in the seven years I spent as a caregiver for Rodger. I cried and vented and wished for more wisdom daily. I saw every setback, every new symptom, and every dreadful new diagnosis as a sign of failure on my part.

Scalded by guilt, worn down by his refusal to trust me, I resented him. Fearing where this spiral would take us and knowing any chance of respite care was weeks away, I began to pray. There were no miracles for us. He was not cured. I did not develop the patience of a saint. But it helped me understand, again, that he and I were not alone. And in that moment that’s exactly what I needed.

Dear God

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

A Prayer for the Caregiver

As a caregiver I spent a lot of time praying. I doubted my ability to carry on and castigated myself each time I lost patience or failed to protect my father-in-law from another setback. While I recognized his frailty I forgot about my own. I expected perfection where there could be none. I prayed for guidance and asked God to show me the path he wanted me to take. There were many days when I doubted He heard me. Often I wondered if I was worthy of His help and attention. I cried a lot. But always, when I was at my lowest, help arrived in some form and I knew my prayers were heard. Today I share this prayer for you, the caregiver, so you know you are never alone and you have done well.

A Prayer for the Caregiver

By Bruce McIntyre

Unknown and often unnoticed, you are a hero nonetheless.

For your love, sacrificial, is God at his best.

You walk by faith in the darkness of the great unknown,

And your courage, even in weakness, gives life to your beloved.

You hold shaking hands and provide ultimate care.

Your presence, the knowing, that you are simply there.

You rise to face the giant of disease and despair,

It is your finest hour, though you may be unaware.

You are resilient, amazing, and beauty unexcelled.

You are the caregiver and you have done well.

Prayer shared courtesy of A Place for Mom

The following is an excerpt from Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver:

There were only two cars in the church parking lot when I pulled in, but considering it was a weekday afternoon, that wasn’t surprising. After dipping my fingers into the holy water font and making the sign of the cross, I slipped into a pew near the front of the church. For several moments I simply sat there, taking in the lingering aroma of incense, candle wax, and furniture polish. …

“Our Father, who art in Heaven,… ” I prayed, the words taking on a new importance as tears of frustration and guilt streamed down my face. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done …”

All right, God, if it is Your will that I take care of my father-in-law, I’m happy to do it. But You have to help me. I’m new at this, and I’m afraid I’m not doing it very well. He’s a sick old man, and he’s not trying to be difficult. I know that. So why do I feel so angry?

“… And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.… but deliver us from evil … ” I sobbed, my heart breaking for both of us. Why couldn’t I be stronger?

“Help me to be more patient and understanding. Guide me to make the right decisions when it comes to his care. Help me find the right words to soothe him when he’s confused and frightened. Please take the anger away. It frightens me. It weakens me, and I need to be strong to do this. I don’t want to let Mike down, and I can’t let Rodger down. He has nowhere else to go. Please, hold me in your love and light and show me the path you want me to take. Amen.”

My prayer complete, I struggled to stop crying, but the harder I tried the harder the tears flowed. Just as I began to fear they’d never end, exhaustion and embarrassment forced me to gain control of myself. Get a grip, I scolded myself. You’ve had a good cry, and it’s time to go home.

I’d left my purse in the car and had nothing to mop up the watery mess I’d made of myself, leaving me with no choice other than to wipe my nose on my sleeve. I didn’t notice the near-silent approach of the only other person in the church until a tiny elderly woman, dressed all in black, touched my shoulder and handed me a bunch of tissues.

“God bless you,” she whispered as she turned and walked away.

Yes, God bless me. I sure do need it.

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NaBloPoMo November 2014

A Year of The Imperfect Caregiver

It was one year ago today that The Imperfect Caregiver blog appeared for the first time. Within days I started hearing from other caregivers and caregiver bloggers and with each new connection I learned more about how enormous this community is and how little the people around us know about what we do and the impact it has on our society.

As a writer I try to inform through story telling. In doing so I hope to connect with caregivers and the people around them. So often our family members don’t understand what it’s like to care for a seriously ill loved one twenty-four hours a day for a period of many months or years.

Siblings live far away and can only visit once or twice a year. Others have demanding jobs that keep them too busy to help. Families aren’t perfect, many have troubled histories filled with anger and resentment. A son, daughter, mother or father may have good reason  to stay far away from someone who abused them in the past. Still someone must step up and when that someone is you your life changes dramatically. Even when the person you care for is a treasured spouse, parent or child the constant demands can become too much and the caregiver begins to fall apart.

Quotes by caregivers include:

“I haven’t had a good nights sleep in 4 days! I just want to walk away from it all, but I won’t.”

“Oh lord, I think my family might be on the verge of working as a team. Please make it true.”

“This is taking a toll on my marriage of 31 years and its breaking my heart.”

“I want my mom back. This is a nightmare.”

“I go along with her delusions, she’s upset. If I try to tell her the truth, she’s upset. Nothing is helping.”

“I’ll never understand the disease…but today I’m at peace. I pray you all are blessed with these rare moments too.”

And here’s a quote from me about one of the hardest days I had as a caregiver:

“I put my head in my hands and I cried. It wasn’t a dainty cry with gentle tears moistening my cheek. It was a hard-driving, gut wrenching, chest heaving, sloppy, ugly, sobbing cry. My nose ran and my eyes burned from the force of it and there were moments when I thought I might never stop. But I did. And then I started again. And again after that. And again after that, until my eyes were nearly swollen shut and my head pounded and my heart stopped aching. I cried. I let it out. But you know what? That didn’t make me weak.I was still the caregiver and I was thankful. … I was thankful for a good hard cry.”

As you can tell from these comments caregivers don’t have all the answers nor do they have unlimited resources or energy. They simply do what needs to be done. And that takes a very special person.

wisdom and energy

If you know a caregiver reach out and lend a hand to help or an ear to listen and let him or her know they are not alone.

Thank you for following The Imperfect Caregiver.

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Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?

“I don’t get it. Why is so hard to do good work?”

“I don’t know, honey,” my husband said. The creases in the corners of his beautiful brown eyes deepened, indicating he was trying to think of something to say that might help me with my struggle to understand why offering loving care to his father was always met with such resistance. He didn’t come up with an answer that night and neither did I

For weeks I prayed and asked God that same question. Why does it have to be so hard?

I got my answer one Sunday morning. When the priest began to speak after reading the gospel, I felt that he was talking directly to me.

“I’ve been hearing the same question over and over lately. ‘Why is life so hard? Why is it so difficult to do good works?’ A chill ran through me. God had heard my cry.

“I’m here to tell you,” the priest lectured, “No one ever told you it was supposed to be easy. There are many examples in the Bible of people being tested to their very limits. It’s in adversity that you grow in spirit. It’s when you step up and do the hard stuff God asks of you that you earn your place in heaven. So quit whining and do what you know has to be done and remember you are not alone. He is there for you when you need Him.”

After that, when things got very hard I tried to make light of it by telling Mike, “I earned my place in heaven today.” He believed it, even when I didn’t.

At first I couldn’t take the words of the priest to heart. I wanted a better answer. But, as things went on and the more I repeated the words, “I earned my place in heaven today,” the more at peace I felt. I was not alone. God was with me and by doing the hard work I was earning the grace to make it possible. Not easy. But easier. What I thought in moments of weakness and exhaustion to be impossible became possible. Being a caregiver is not a job that we can do alone. We need help from our community, our family and our friends and in the moments when all of them are too busy or too far away there is one who is always there.

 “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9

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On God And Santa

Christmas Manger

When I was a little girl I thought Santa Claus and God were a lot alike. First there was that “making a list and checking it twice” song to let us know that Santa was watching “to see who’s naughty or nice.” Then Sister Anne told us God has a big book up in heaven and when we die we’re going to have to stand in front of everybody in all creation while our sins are read out loud for everyone to hear. I had to think that with a book like that someone was checking it at least a couple of times.

I figured Santa might be more forgiving than God. He judged you on an annual basis and on Christmas morning you knew how you’d done that year. If you were real good you got everything you asked for. If you were real bad, you got nothing. I always landed somewhere in the middle. I never got everything I asked for, but I never got nothing either. I usually ended up with one or two things from my list and some other things that were nothing to write home about. Then there were the socks and underwear that came as a warning to do better in the New Year. I figured he must have checked that list and seen me trying to peek at some answers on a math test or watched me picking on my little brother. He also seemed to know I always tried to do better and found it in his heart to give me a bit of credit for that. I figured that’s how I got my first Barbie.

God is tougher. He expects you to be good all the time and if you can’t quite pull it off, he wants you to tell on yourself. That’s what they call ‘going to confession’ in my church. Then you have do penance and pray for your immortal soul. There are no presents to let you know how you’re doing. Confession was always a problem. What if I forgot something? What if He looked away when I was good and didn’t see how hard I tried? Even a pair of socks would have been some indication of how things were going. I thought God should have a chat with Santa.

During Christmas things got all mixed up and everybody went a little crazy. Jingle Bells and Away in A Manger competed on the stereo. Santa images appeared everywhere. Baby Jesus was getting ready for his birthday and his straw bed was right up there at the front of the church and at home we placed it under the Christmas tree with the sheep and the cows, the chipped wise men and one shepherd with a broken staff. Mary prayed and Joseph stood guard over all of them.

In the midst of all this I heard about some kid seeing his mommy kissing Santa Claus. Imagine something like that happening when everyone is expected to be on their best behavior. It was enough to drive a kid to distraction.

Right after that, we had to practice for the Christmas pageant and get into a solemn state worthy of Our Lord. I tried. However, even with the best intentions I never managed to behave well enough to be considered for the part of Mary. I did manage to be a pretty good sheep once and from that success I moved up to play a well disguised wise man the following year.

As I look back on those innocent years, I realize that as adults we feel the same pressure to be good, to answer to more than one standard at the same time. We grow distracted and fail to see Him in the stars, the morning sun, or the loving eyes of our spouse. We no longer notice the prayer in a child’s laugh. It’s because of times like these that God reminds us to think of others.

It is through Him that we opened our hearts long ago and created a joyful old elf to carry His message. That is why God and Santa look alike to an innocent little girl trying her best to prepare for when the time comes to check that list. Faith comes in many forms but always at the heart of it is a message to try to do your best, to appreciate the gifts that life offers and share our love with family and our community.

Now when people complain about how commercial the season has become, how gifts and parties have taken over, I smile and look into the face of Santa, and I see Him there, smiling back at me with all the love a father holds for a child trying hard to be good.

Merry Chrsitmasfrom the Imperfect Caregiver! I’ll be posting more on caregiving in the New Year.

Note: This story is included in my book of short stories titled, Pencil Dances.

The Imperfect Caregiver December Giveaway – Hello God, Are You There?

HelloGod

Register to follow the The Imperfect Caregiver during the month of December and your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win to win a signed copy of, HELLO GOD, Are You There, by Vickie Fisher

“In today’s difficult time when we seem to be losing everything, have we lost God too?”

“Vickie Fisher’s HELLO GOD ARE YOU THERE? is page after page of inspiring words and photographs showing us how God uses nature to speak to us. A genuine treat for the eyes! (Bestselling author Loree Lough, author of nearly 100 award-winning books, including reader favorite A MAN OF HONOR)

The photographs and inspiring words of Vickie Fisher’s HELLO GOD, ARE YOU THERE? filled my heart with joy and reminded me to look for the blessing of each day. (Susan Meier, bestselling Harlequin author of A FATHER FOR HER TRIPLETS)

“Vickie Fisher lives on a nineteen acre farm in Westminister, MD. It was on this farm she was inspired to write this book. She enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren, whom she believes are God’s greatest gift.”

View Vickie’s website at http://vickiefisher.com/

Winner will be announced January 1, 2014

Caregiver, Be Careful What You Pray For

Praying for help

“Please God, grant me strength.”

I have said those words many times. Like most people I have experienced love and loss, joy and pain, happiness and grief. During the good times I pray to say thank you for my blessings and to ask God’s protection for my loved ones. I pray for peace. Quite often I pray for things I want. (I’m no saint, after all.)

During the hard times I used to pray for the strength to see me through. I knew no matter how hard things became there would be an end to my suffering. I just needed to be strong enough to see it through. When I lost a baby via miscarriage I paced and prayed well into the night until exhaustion finally overtook me. I prayed so long so hard when my sister died I barely slept for weeks. As a single mother of four I dealt with the many challenges with hope and prayer every day.

Despite my almost constant request for strength my prayers never seemed to be answered. Instead of giving up I prayed more and I prayed harder. After all, God is busy and it often takes time for our prayers to be answered. I dug in and did my best to get through each crisis and when it was over I’d pray for the strength to get through the next one. I always knew more trouble would follow.

Then one day, as I was sharing my woes with a friend, I ended my tale with the same words I so often repeated. “God, grant me strength.”

“Oh Bobbi, don’t say that,” she said. “Look what you’ve been through. What you’ve survived. You’re strong enough already, don’t you think?”

“I know I’m strong but I never know what I’ll have to deal with next. I have to make sure I’m ready for whatever comes my way.”

“That may be true but the last thing you need is to become stronger. Think about what you have to do to get strong. If you want to build muscle you lift heavy weights. The stronger you want to become the heavier the weight you have to lift and the more often you have to heft it. Is that what you want?”

“No. I want the burden to be lifted. I want help. I want to know how to solve the problem before it becomes too much for me.”

“Then that’s what you should ask for. Don’t forget that God endowed us with an intellect and free will. We are in charge of our lives. He assists us when asked but he doesn’t take over and fix our problems. He provides us with opportunities to work them out in our own way. When you ask for strength He provides you with opportunities to become strong. If you ask for patience you will be given opportunities to learn how to wait. Be careful what you pray for. Consider what you really need and ask for that.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you need help, ask for help. If you are lost, ask Him to show you the way. Whatever you do stop asking for strength.”

I thought about her advice for a long time. It made sense and it wouldn’t hurt to change the words to my nightly prayers. I stopped asking for strength.

Years later, after I had been a caregiver for a long time and things were especially hard, I prayed almost constantly for weeks.

“Please send help. Dear God, I need help. Please send help any way you see fit.” Despite my prayers Rodger ended up in the hospital again. Still I prayed. Even on the way to sit at his bedside and feed him I prayed. “I need help. Show me the path you want me to take.”

When I arrived at his room a man was standing at the door waiting for me.  He was a hospital social worker. “Mrs. Carducci, do you need help?”

Not sure I’d heard him right, I asked him to repeat what he’d said.

“I see in Rodger’s files that you’ve been caring for him for a long time and his needs are extensive. Do you need help?”

After taking the time to say a silent prayer of thanks in recognition to God for answering my prayers, I assured the man I did, indeed, need help. Before I left the hospital that day we were enrolled in a respite program that would mean I would have in-home help eight hours a week. I could finally get some rest. I could go to the grocery store. I could go to church and say a proper thank you.

Each night when I say my prayers I ask God to hold me in His love and light and show me the path He wants me to take. The road is often long and bumpy but I always end up where I need to be and I am grateful, and I am strong enough.