“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men,”
Since my husband, Paul, returned home from the nursing home on Feb. 18, 2020, I have been his caregiver.
He’d had lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma with monthly chemotherapy treatments from October 2018 until March 2019. From April 2019 on, the Dr. couldn’t find any more cancer cells!
Seven months later, 11-01-19, Paul fell and broke his left hip, After surgery, he went to a nursing home for rehab. There, three weeks later, he fell again and broke his left femur.
After that surgery, he returned to the nursing home for two and a half more months until the therapist pronounced him able to transfer into a car, walk minimally with a walker, and make it up the stairs of our house holding onto railings on both sides.
Meanwhile, the anesthesia from the two surgeries seemed to have done a number on his brain. He had bad dreams or hallucinations and memory loss which dragged on past the normal expectation of anesthesia.
He disliked being in the nursing home, seeming to think the staff people were “out to get him,” “bossy,” and made him feel he “couldn’t do anything right.” Even though I visited nearly every day, he was terribly lonely.
I felt scared that he was getting dementia, but I seemed to hear Jesus say, “Peace I give you, Let not your heart be troubled. No one will snatch him out of my hand—not even dementia.”
That February 2020, the Doctor started him on a new medication and I noticed an improvement in his mental status. A week later, I was able to bring him home (shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown when no one could get in or out.)
Needless to say, caring for him was more work for me. I had to help him with all his dressing and personal care, meds, with wheelchair or walker, do all the household chores, finances, yard work, laundry, cooking, correspondence, make Dr. appointments and drive him to them, help him with computer problems, water gardens, and other details including finding his hearing aids and glasses every day.
It’s certainly a challenge being a caregiver, especially when the loved one is so needy.
But it also can be a gratifying experience when the person seems to become happier and more contented and is making progress in self-care. My husband told me, after several weeks at home, “You are so kind and helpful. You’re an Angel to take such good care of me.”
I’m glad to be able to care for my husband because I love him and he needs me. But if he thinks I’m an Angel caregiver, that gives me a special kind of joy.
I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned from my own experience (both with Paul and also from nursing private duty patients many years ago) that may help others become “Angel Caregivers.”
- First and foremost in importance is the desire to serve the Lord through caregiving. This desire will give strength and the willingness to do whatever it takes. We can’t do it well without yielding to God and accepting his strength and grace that is sufficient for us.
- Above all, the person we care for needs kindness and smiles. He/she is often depressed because of not being able to do the things formerly taken for granted. Therefore, he/she may be irritated, frustrated, and angry. When I cared for a bedfast MS patient forty years ago, she constantly criticized whatever I tried to do. I felt deep compassion for her, but her criticism hurt and hindered my care. Finally, one day, I blew up. I angrily told her it wasn’t my fault she was sick and that I really wanted to help her, but that her criticism made me feel like giving up. That evening at home, I felt so guilty. I felt I’d failed God in not being kind to her. The next morning, empowered by forgiveness, I came with a plan. After the necessary morning care, I told her my Pastor had suggested everyone read five Psalms a day. I asked her if she would like it if we read them together. She agreed. That led to discussions about what we read and about other spiritual things. As the weeks went on, she turned into a sweet person and a close friend. A year later, even though her physical condition did not improve, she told me, “I’m glad I have MS because, before, I did not know the Lord and now I do.”
- An angel caregiver will listen with understanding and compassion. The patient may be lonely and probably can’t get out to have much social life, but needs someone to talk to and to care about feelings and ideas without ridicule. These conversations may lead to opportunities to encourage submission to God.
- Whenever possible, do things together: walk, ride, puzzle, church, movies, cheerful conversations. Show interest in listening to memories, even if you’ve heard them many times before.
- Be available to help with dressing, exercise, finding things like hearing aids, etc with gentleness and patience. My husband can dress himself now, but I try to stay close in case he calls for help. If we are walking together, I need to remember to walk slowly.
- Of course, pray daily both for the one you are caring for and for yourself to have kindness and wisdom and patience…lots of patience!
- Also be sweet, gentle, loving, cheerful and helpful, but don’t jump in too quickly to help him. Let her do what is comfortable. Give choices when possible, like: “Would you like to bathe now or later? Would you like ham or tuna fish? Do you want me to help you or do you want to try it yourself?” Choices are so important because no one likes to be bossed around. Let the person make as many decisions as possible, but give choices that are safe no matter which he or she chooses.
In the Bible, an angel is usually a messenger from God. An Angel Caregiver will give the message of love.
Judith Vander Wege, 12-02-2020