3/18/16 Therapeutic Fibbing, An Act of Faith
Often caregivers find their loved ones resistant. A common strategy is to enter the individual’s reality. By meeting them where they are, we have to adapt and sometimes enlist approaches that are not based in our reality. This is often called therapeutic fibbing. But for some Christians, that term seems unsavory. A fib is a lie, right? An explanation helpful to this discussion is the story of Jesus healing the man who was let down through the roof (Luke 5:17-39).
Jesus had drawn such a crowd, that the man’s companions actually made a hole in the roof over where Jesus stood. They wanted their friend, or father, or son, or brother to be healed so much that they looked for a creative way to get him to the source. Therapeutic fibbing is simply a creative way to get your loved one to a space of healing, or hygiene, or safety, or respite from anxiety or anger or agitation. Just as the man’s companions did something completely out of the norm, you too may need to step out of the familiar response and improvise. Perhaps we could call it therapeutic improvisation. Just as the men seeking healing used their creativity and faith in order to access healing.
Caregivers too can receive healing even with diagnoses that have no medical cure. As caregivers, our healing comes from our ability to meet the challenge. It comes from self-care, from improvisation and from trusting in Jesus above all else.
Luke 5:17-39 New Life Version (NLV)
Jesus Heals a Man Let Down through the Roof of a House
17 On one of the days while Jesus was teaching, some proud religious law-keepers and teachers of the Law were sitting by Him. They had come from every town in the countries of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was there to heal them. 18 Some men took a man who was not able to move his body to Jesus. He was carried on a bed. They looked for a way to take the man into the house where Jesus was. 19 But they could not find a way to take him in because of so many people. They made a hole in the roof over where Jesus stood. Then they let the bed with the sick man on it down before Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Beatitudes and Caregiving 10/21
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, 2and He began to teach them, saying:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—caregiver, loved one
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Caregiver, loved one
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. caregiver
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
As we enter what I consider gratitude month, the Beatitudes speak to me. Jesus’ longest speech gives us as caregivers an abundance of hope. The Beatitudes are like a covenant for individuals living with dementia—promising that no matter where we are in the spectrum, God is with us. The feelings and demeanors of both caregiver and loved one are all represented.
As a caregiver, I spend more time poor in spirit than I would like to admit. I do not always see this journey as an adventure, sometimes it is the proverbial death march—grueling, seemingly endless, lacking color and refreshment.
Though in early days of this path, both my husband and I need the promise of the kingdom to mitigate the promise of decline and loss. Our mourning has so far been individual, allowing the other to comfort. But my knowledge and training give me the awareness that we will mourn together. Thank God for the comfort we have felt and are promised to continue to feel, even as we mourn as one.
As to meekness, many would not attribute that adjective to me. But meekness is pervasive with my husband as he limits his activities based on a fear of failure. It is his meekness that makes me take my own medicine, slow down, and consider how my movement impacts his spirit. Stepping back, in humble consideration—practicing meekness.
We both hunger and thirst for righteousness, him as an engineer, me as a professional caregiver and daughter of a loving God. Jesus promises fullness. The promise of being full is priceless, a gift beyond measure.
In my daily moments of not enough, I am promised that my very desire for righteousness brings enough. Perfume of great price individually designed by a loving Creator to soothe and compel me to be merciful and pure of heart.
I am an infant in personal dementia world when it comes to persecution and insults. Despite having been a caregiver for several family members, nothing compares to spousal caregiving. I have a PhD in professional caregiving that rivals the PhD in Aging Studies. Even with all those credentials— my pride reels when I am accused of being the villain by my husband. My instinct is visceral unlike it was with even family members. Because I am now living in the world of denial, the world of where is the man I married. I still think I can reason through this fallacy of understanding. To no avail.
Jesus offers all these promises and saves the peacemaker promise for a finale. Powerful. Being the peacemaker with individuals with dementia is a direct care strategy preached vigorously by a certain Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. Validate. No accident that I spend the most time teaching to Validate. Blessed are the peacemakers . . .
The Beatitudes were given to me in meditation this week—a timely and particularly appropriate covenant to remind me yet again—you are human, you have flaws, I am with you.
My new business coach calls this life a Divine Assignment. It is as if all these years of experience and education has led to this Divine Assignment. Grateful today to realize the Divine presence has got my six.
Sarah, Beacon for Caregivers, 7/10
In prepping for a seminar for the Jewish New Year, I am looking at Sarah as the mother of a nation and fallible. As an Alzheimer’s caregiver, the story of Sarah in Genesis 21 is rich with reflection. Sarah was a woman who had been in a lot of powerless roles as a woman.
She is barren, and is told by God that she would be mother to a son, despite her advanced age. But she does not instantly trust God in his provision. She laughs at the idea that she would conceive. Her disbelief results in encouraging her husband to conceive with her maidservant, Hagar. A common enough custom of the time, but a forcing of God’s plan. God delivers his promise despite her manipulations and favors her with the birth of a son, Isaac at the age of 90. So now Sarah becomes jealous of Hagar and fearful for the future of Isaac. It seems tawdry, mean-spirited, and not what one would expect from the mother of a nation . . .
As an Alzheimer’s caregiver I can very much relate to Sarah. I am not the mother of a nation, even though there are days my emotions feel like it. Neither have I had any direct-voice-of-God communications about our future.
But I have laughed in the face of God’s promise of continued sustenance. I have questioned His wisdom in this path. I am not proud of my unbelief. It seems tawdry and faithless.
I too have questioned my age and how unreal it is that Alzheimer’s or a related dementia has intruded in life so abruptly, and off-schedule—Cate’s schedule that is.
I have been jealous of others who are not coping with dementia in their lives. I have been mean-spirited in my thoughts. I find myself saying things that I train others not to say.
I, like Sarah, have taken over God’s plan and forced things. Ignoring all my best knowledge and resisting faithful patience. Operating from a space of distrust in God. I have pushed and prodded with very poor outcome. As I look back, once I quite forcing and pushing, things have occurred in exactly the time and order that was appropriate, despite my lack of faith and my determination to make things happen.
The beauty of Genesis 21 and this segment of Sarah’s story is that God is there for her despite her unbelief; despite her questioning; despite her jealousy; and despite her forcing things out of her distrust. A nation is born, with Sarah as the mother.
As I counsel daughters and wives, I hear so much guilt and anxiety. I see Sarah, I hear Sarah. It is easier to identify her in others than in myself. But the message I am quick to offer them and slowly embrace myself is this:
God’s plan will persevere despite our failings. The weight of a nation that I feel will lighten when I pray for forgiveness, when I offer prayers of thanksgiving for each blessing including God’s perfect timing. When I get nostalgic of what could have been, fearful of what will be, I can remember Sarah, prickles and all. Mother of a nation.
6/7/16 Sailing Through the Storm
Navigating the seas of Alzheimer’s and related dementias requires vigilance and acquired wisdom. While reading Acts 27:14-44 I was struck by the many lessons from the story of a shipwreck and Paul. Having become somewhat of a sailor the story really spoke to me. The fear of wintering in an unsafe harbor is much like my concerns of summering in hurricane zones. It is this fear that drives the sailors to weigh anchor despite Paul’s warning. In navigating Alzheimer’s it is often fear that precedes a poor decision. The fear of a future not yet here that keeps my caregiving brain awake when it needs sleep.
The sailors are initially surprised by a wind from land that threatens the safety of the boat. Land wind is a rare phenomenon. So even though they felt they were proceeding to safety, they find themselves in a brand new fear zone. Sometimes as we caregive for loved ones with dementia we find a good plan quickly dissolves from a surprising direction. The afternoon outings to provide stimulation that suddenly produce a catastrophic behavior; the truthful response to a question that brings a day of anxiety or grief.
As the sailors in Acts put out a sea anchor, a storm strategy, and give way to the wind things continue to fall apart. They begin to gradually abandon all hope. As we navigate Alzheimer’s we too can find ourselves losing hope.
But Paul comforts them. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that [k]it will turn out exactly as I have been told. 26
The ship would be destroyed, but not the sailors. At one point some of the sailors try to go ashore, but Paul reiterates, unless you remain in the ship, you will not be saved. As we watch our relationship morph into a facsimile of the past, we are tempted to abandon ship. But this verse advises me to hang on even as things look as if they are irretrievably damaged.
The stress of the storm resulted in the sailors not eating. Paul says, 4 Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish. This speaks to the self-care required in caregiving. Our preservation insures their preservation.
The sailors had to lighten the ship, throwing off supplies. We too have to jettison what is weighing us down. Sometimes that is responsibilities, people, activities.
The sailors had been committed to killing the prisoners. But the centurion wanting to deliver Paul safely, tells them to let loose the prisoners so that all could get to shore. How often do we as Alzheimer’s caregivers hold family members hostage to an ideal when the very holding of the grudge or resentment is keeping us from thriving/getting to shore?
Grace is delivered in so many ways. Grateful for the storm, the angel(s) and God’s word today.
As I research scripture for a September program, a favorite verse from Jeremiah was reinforced in the Creation Story, Genesis 1: 1-20. God created water first, then the remaining dry ground was called land (10). Then God created vegetation (11). Now as I write this, I say well yeah, that was logical. But what struck a chord for me was that the order of creation matches Jeremiah’s statement in 17:8, a tree planted by the water is evergreen. God didn’t start with land and then bring the water, He started with water and then called the dry ground, land. It wasn’t the tree that came first, it was the water.
As I continue to share my message to caregivers, my core message is represented in Jeremiah 17:8. In order to thrive in dementia, #dementiathrive, we must stay within reach of the water. Living water, the spiritual roots that fuel our continued health, our sustenance of self. The creation story affirms that light and water are the primary requirements for life, for growth.
The journey of Alzheimer’s has seasons of bounty and of scarcity. As caregivers we do not have the luxury to simply drop our leaves and hibernate for the scarce season, we need to be more like the evergreen, sustaining growth throughout the seasons.
Where is your light? Where is your water? They came before the struggle. Reach for them. Allow yourself the time to focus on your spirituality in order to thrive.
3/25/16 Darkest Hour
Darkest Hour, Just Before Dawn
Good Friday is always a day of reflection. Today’s reflection may differ from our early years. From noon to three many of us remember observing these hours in quiet reflection. Perhaps in a darkened church draped with black, perhaps in a darkened home in silent fasting.
As an Alzheimer’s caregiver Jesus’ time on the cross is personalized with a shared understanding of Jesus’ question, why have you forsaken me? (Matt. 27:45). Like His time in Gethsemane, many of us implore take this cup from me at one time or another. Even the hours of Jesus’ crucifixion speak to a frequent afternoon blues where as a caregiver we run out of answers to the repeated statement, we find ourselves reacting to our loved one’s behavior rather than responding. Even the location of the crucifixion, Golgotha, the place of the skull, speaks to some of our darkest caregiving moments.
The comfort offered today, this Good Friday is that Jesus, God’s holiest and only son had moments when he questioned God, where He requested relief. Where He cried out in a loud voice (Matt. 27:50). We can quit our self-judgment. It is okay for us to doubt, to question and even to scream.
We can find comfort in the next part of the journey, the resurrection. Even as we face what feels like the insurmountable, we can remember we are in good company. We can trust that joy is right around the corner.
3/3/16 Wisdom for the Horses
In Practical Grace I labeled the four common dementia behaviors as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are:
Each one of these can be overwhelming to face as a caregiver. It is as if an unpredictable stallion is living with you. In Practical Grace we refer to David’s five smooth stones as a metaphor for dealing with these Alzheimer’s behaviors. David was able to slay Goliath with one stone. The five stones in the Practical Grace arsenal include the stone called Validate. Proverbs 16: 25-26 illustrate how validation works.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
When our loved one is raging or obsessing or simply staring into space, can we use gracious words instead of the right words that one day may have been effective but are no more?
Can I say to my loved one who is obsessing about the time, I know you are worried about being late, I love how punctual you keep us?
When what feels right to say is,
Give me a break here, I am doing the best that I can to get out the door, please . . .
There was a day not so long ago when he would have responded appropriately to the second approach. He would apologize and calm down. But the disease has changed his response. Now his agitation would accelerate perhaps to extreme agitation or aggression—the death spoken of in Proverbs 16: 26.
Now as a caregiver I can choose the stone Validate. I can vent to my support system, my family, my doctor, my journal. But today I am the Horse Whisperer whose gracious words are a honeycomb calming and healing the unpredictable stallion.
One Smooth Stone as Ammunition
In our recent Practical Grace seminar, we used the story of David and Goliath as a metaphor for how a diagnosis of dementia appears as a Giant. We looked at Five Stones to keep in our pocket for taking the giant down.
Taking measure is the stone that hits the mark with behaviors. Remember Dr. Cate’s four horses of the apocalypse: apathy, agitation, aggression, anxiety? Taking Measure is where we look at unmet need, environmental stress and our resources.
In Exodus 28 itemized instructions are given for outfitting Aaron and his sons for the priesthood. Precise quantity, quality and design is provided. What caught my eye particularly in my morning reading was Exodus 28: 29-30.
He will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the Lord. . . . Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord.
As a caregiver of an individual with Alzheimer’s, there are times that a behavior cuts straight to the heart. It is as if I have no breastpiece of protection.
Remember how David was unable to use the traditional armor to fight Goliath? Here is a breastpiece made of the names of the sons of Israel that is going to serve Aaron as a reminder of his roots.
As caregivers we too can use the memory of the healthy individual as a heart-shield in the face of a troubling interval. Remember the husband you married, the father who guided you, the friend you laughed with, the grandmother who mentored you, or the individual who once was a powerful member of your community. In remembering the wholeness of the past, you are bolstered for the present.
Take measure of where your relationship was strong. Use it as a continuing memorial before the Lord, as a means of making decisions and of protecting your heart as you serve the Lord.
Yes, But to Yes And
As I read my Bible section of the day, I chuckle to be reading my favorite story of Moses. The one where he tells God he can’t lead, but I stutter. What struck me today in Exodus 3,4 was how many signs God had given Moses of His collaboration. First Moses is given a burning bush as an personalized introduction to God’s power. Then as Moses continues to doubt, God affirms I will be with you with a staff that turns snake when Moses tosses it to the ground.
Is Moses convinced yet?
No, his insecurity then prompts the power to give himself leprosy with a touch of his own hand and then heal himself. Three amazing signs of God’s collaboration with Moses. Yet Moses . . . but I stutter.
Here is a prophet who shares my anxiety closet. The closet that opened up just last night with worry by worry parading out one by one saying, Yes, but . . . If Moses’ legacy is rife with doubt, I suppose I am in good company.
One of my Practical Grace training exercises is the improvisational exercise Yes And. Yet as I grapple with current life issues, I find my Yes but is strong. Today I have the reassurance that God will be patient with me as I slowly begin to say Yes.
Let It Go
A good friend gifted me with a beautifully finished clay cross recently with the phrase “Let it go.” She is an active component of a project called Answered Prayers that makes clay crosses with messages. She gave this to me in the break of my first Grace-Filled Alzheimer’s seminar at Connect 2 Christ Church, Seminole. As she handed it to me she explained that she had argued with God about giving this particular cross. She would rather have given a different color, presented it in a gift bag, perhaps chosen a different message. But the Lord would not leave her alone, He was clear, this was the cross she was to give me before leaving.
As I was in the middle of a pretty intense ministry experience, I lovingly accepted the “Let it go” cross, also a bit unclear what it meant. I was instead drifting mentally into a familiar territory—the not enough. I was drifting into negativity, the kind lurking just behind my intuitive self, behind my passionate creativity. I was aware of a sponsor’s absence, a yawn, the time. As so often happens, I personalized these things and began to go into my own personal mind ghetto. The place that should never be gone to alone. Dark allies with old thugs who know just where my weaknesses are.
The gift of the “Let it Go” cross was right on time. As I walked back up to the dais, I had the tangible clay cross to place on my stand. As I looked down at my notes, I saw the message and it worked like a loving tug out of the dark, into the light. Let it go Cate, move forward. Here is the path, prayed over, Spirit-led, follow it. So I let it go and finished the seminar.
What a priceless gift. Thank you dear friend. Thank you for following God’s direction.
As I prepare for my next seminar, I am reminded of Sarah, who had her own mind ghetto. Who when told by God that she would have a baby, balked at the idea because of her age. She laughed, and was humbled because of it. Then I think of Moses, who when told to lead said, “But Lord I stutter.” The list of examples of God’s workers who had their own battle with negativity or self-doubt is long. The message, “Let it go,” is a contemporary one that could apply to many things.
But for me, it is the call to move forward in faith and disregard the self-doubt. To let go and Let God.
It has been several weeks since we returned to Salinas harbor after our hurricane safety evacuation to Bahia Jobos. Erika was less troublesome than feared, with her night starting with a starlit sky degrading to wind averaging 40 mph with a gust or two of 50. We were in a small mangrove-encircled harbor with only one other boat far to our starboard. We had prepared by putting out a second anchor and stripping the deck. Our kayaks and dinghy were tied up securely in the water. From a sensory perspective there was much sound of wind and wave, a bit of rocking but not much. Captain spent much of the night going up in his foulies checking the bow line, the anchor alarm and chart-plotter for dragging. The first mate slept fitfully with equal parts worry and surrender and an ear to the captain’s movements.
I was put in mind of Jesus on a boat with the disciples and the storm. I am not a very good Christian. I do not quote the Bible much, my prayer is full of Attention Deficit distractions, and am an overall sinner. But the forces of nature really catch my attention. When I read Matthew 8:23-27 the next day, I was surprised at how the story unfolded. I had forgotten that Jesus was the one who slept through the storm while the disciples fretted.
Flash forward to the day after. The intense rain we had hoped for never materialized on the south coast. The harbor was peaceful. Much like my reflections after a night watch . . . I was stuck with ‘morning after’ music in my head. But what was most profound was a feeling of wonder. I had subconsciously feared the worst. In the preceding three days I had envisioned the worst case scenario . . . having to abandon ship with two pet cats turned feral. Three days of low grade fear and worry. On the third day. . .
Mary was the blessed one to have the first look into the tomb. She was prepared to make the best of things, tending to Jesus’ body for burial. She must have envisioned the worst case scenario in the preceding days. Yet as she stepped into the tomb, she was pleasantly surprised. I shared just a tiny bit of her awe as I stepped up into the cockpit after Erika. There was calm presence. The worst case did not occur. Good news. Extreme gratitude. The latest clear reminder, when life gets tough, my roots are firmly grounded as a Christian.
July 20. 2015
A Wretch Like Me
In my younger years I disavowed this portion of the first verse of Amazing Grace and supplanted it with a more contemporary, “saved and set me free.” After all, who wants to consider themselves a wretch? The slave ship captain who wrote the hymn was clearly a wretch, but me?? Never. . . or hardly ever . . . I have some sins, but not anything that qualifies as wretch-like. So I told myself. Besides the contemporary words work well.
But as the years have rolled by and my life has taken on proportions that call for a more frequent humming, singing of this famous hymn, I returned to the historical rendering. My long-term memory has it in its original form, ‘saved a wretch like me.”
Lately we have been immersed in a community of expatriates who have ingrown thinking. They oppose many of our values. We know this because every encounter is full of vehement discussion. Sometimes the vehemence of opposition gets my dander up. I find myself getting self-righteous, pulling my soapbox over.
Needless to say the two times I have delivered a rendering of my truth I did not get validation. I ended up feeling a bit out-of-control and certainly foolish. Consequently I have found the Holy Spirit interceding with the melody of “Amazing Grace”, the historically accurate lyrics, “saved a wretch like me.” Which is the honest to God’s truth . . . I am as wretched as the folks I oppose.
We are wretched together, equally dirty, and able to be saved and set free. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. What a relief. As the hymn drifts through my mind, the soapbox recedes; and the commonality shared supersedes.
Grace bridges the gulf.
What’s on your playlist? 6/25/15
The term playlist refers to a set of musical tunes that you have ascribed to certain activities in life. It may have started with the fitness revolution of the nineties when personalized music became the norm for exercise incentive. Now it has become a universal term for your go-to music. Or in a broader definition, your back-up to specific life events.
Music is a daily mainstay for me.
Yesterday we took the opportunity to go kayaking. We paddled around a local island. Two blue kayaks, my husband in the lead. It was a beautiful morning, still and pure. Nature was particularly nurturing. It was not only Father’s day, but also my oldest child’s birthday. I had already called him and thanked him for initiating the single most rewarding adventure of my life. Travels, PhD, life changes, nothing trumps parenthood for added life value. As I watched Mike be the play toy of a manatee, rising a good 6 inches out of the water on a manatee back . . . I was awed by the power and mystery of nature. This is My Father’s World came to mind. It has not been on my playlist for many moons.
This sensory memory dates back to 8 years old. I remember listening closely and relating the rustling grass, and trees and skies to my favorite place, my backyard swing. Even though I could not sing the hymn well, even in later years, it was imprinted in my permanent natural wonder playlist.
In adulthood, I was fascinated with the reality that this was one of my mom’s favorite hymns even though she was estranged from her earthly father. She would sometimes hum it while we sat at the beach. I also remember my father swimming. It was one of the few times he seemed at one with nature, his own productive way of relaxing. He went past the breakers, a novelty to me. It was worrisome and yet pleasing to watch. He was at one with nature.
So this musical memory had me reflecting on my dad. The few days at the beach were his only true relaxation in nature. My father’s extreme work ethic prohibited him from enjoying the natural world. It has been challenging for me to enjoy the cruising life without judging my day by my productivity. I attribute this to my father’s work ethic. He always had multiple paid jobs. All of this reflection from a hymn memory.
What is on your playlist? When you are in your final hours, what music will provide you with the fodder to depart feeling complete?
Feathering Your Nest, Creating a Blueprint for Comfort is a workbook that can define your sensory preferences. It is available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
It is Well with My Soul-6/15/15
Cruising the Caribbean in a 41 foot sailboat is often stressful to a novice sailor. I have never gotten completely seasick, but I have found that focusing forward is often the only way to keep from being mentally and physically overwhelmed.
Heading east on the Caribbean is often heading directly into the trade winds. Therefore the sea billows (waves) are heading right toward our starboard side. A mere glance starboard can give me a moment of panic. When on watch I have found one hymn stanza comes to mind. “When sorrows like sea billows roll; thou has taught me to say ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’.
I know we have a stout and sturdy boat. I know we have successfully traversed many miles. Nonetheless I can be totally overwhelmed in a very short time depending on my observation of what feels like overwhelming waves. This same overwhelmed-ness has been expressed to me repeatedly by Alzheimer’s caregivers. There are times that the change in a loved one’s behavior or the level of vigilance required feels like waves of sorrow. They are waves of grief that threaten to drown.
Research has shown that caregivers who have a sense of spirituality report higher satisfaction with life. The definition of spirituality is broadly defined. Do you have a mantra that you use in the face of adversity?
As I focus only on the forward bow, I distract myself from the fear that comes from looking to either side or behind. Much like keeping your eyes on the horizon for motion sickness. I am present with the immediacy of the moment. This is a safe zone for my mental state. The same has been true when I have been in other challenging positions. Center and forward.
For me, music is cued by my situation and my resulting feelings. Ironically this particular hymn is one I did not learn until I was leading hymn sings on a dementia unit. It is a beautiful melody and its powerful message of facing the waves of sorrow with a recognition of an unconditional loving Father/Parent.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
To hear a frail chronically ill ninety year old woman in a nursing home full throttle, in complete faith. She was a powerful witness.
Your mantra may be simple, but have one. It might be from the past.
Self-Efficacy and Spirituality
Research has shown that caregivers of individuals with dementia have less depression and a higher quality of life if they have high levels of self-efficacy and spirituality. What defines these two variables?
Self-efficacy is the feeling that you can do it, you have the resources, the tools, the wherewithal to succeed. You may have a high sense of self-efficacy in activities of daily living but when faced with life with a loved one with dementia . . . you may feel at a loss. There are many times when you are certain you simply are not up to the task.
What is a high level of spirituality? The study in question used a simple questionnaire referring to frequency of religious service attendance and prayer. Other studies have used a more open definition of spirituality including reflection in nature or meditation rather than religious service attendance. Prayer is a common denominator of all the studies.
So if I as a caregiver feel strongly that I have the resources and the wherewithal as well as a close relationship with the God of my understanding, I will have a higher quality of life and less depression than a caregiver who feels few resources, is overwhelmed and has no time to access spirituality.
As a caregiver, how do you find time and space to practice your spirituality? What gives you self-efficacy?
Working With or Working Through? 5/10/15
Are you working through God or working with God? A recent study of spirituality and Alzheimer caregivers revealed that those caregivers who were working with God experienced decreased depression while those who were working through God had increased depression.
With or Through . . . what is the difference? It is an important nuance that I would posit deals with ego. Working with God suggests a more selfless relationship. Much like a dance partner, God as lead, caregiver as follow. A hierarchical relationship with caregiver cognizant that success lies in following His/Her lead. No move is made without first hearing God’s direction. Then, once followed, the caregiver waits for the next direction. Working with God depends on frequent communication and open ears for hearing His lead. Knowing first-hand just how overwhelming caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be, I would imagine this person has had a reliance and dependence on God prior to the caregiving role.
The caregivers who reported working through God seem like God is a dance partner but not the lead. The dance may look similar, but it is not as smooth. There is a lack of coordinated response when a new step is required. The caregiver stumbles, misses the beat. The more stumbles and missed beats, the less fulfilling the dance. Accounting for increased depression.
How does a person who is used to working through God become a person working with God?
I would suggest that the first step is in acknowledging you are not allowing Him to lead. This might be done in a written format, a spoken review, in a confessional, whatever your spiritual preference is. Humbly ask for forgiveness. Surrender the lead to Him.
Pivotal to the surrender is being still to feel and follow His lead. That can take several forms. Prayer without ceasing, an on-going dialogue throughout a day. Maybe a journal, releasing frustration through words, pictures. It might be adding a daily rote prayer from your tradition. It definitely requires down time to listen.
Working with God requires a strong ear to His lead. Perhaps that is accomplished in a daily walk, an early rising, or a regular retreat from the world.
Susanna Wesley comes to mind. A woman with nineteen children needing her attention. She would pull her apron over her head to pray.
God understands that caregiving is all-encompassing. He will understand brief moments of reliance. He can take all manner of communication—screams of frustration, cries of joy. He simply wants to be the Lead. Can you work with Him instead of through Him?