This Distance Caregiver Thing

I may not be cut out to be a personal caregiver.  After 3 decades of working as a healthcare professional and caring for a thousand or more adults over my career, you would think that this would come easy for me.  It is not.

It’s one thing to work with up to twenty different personalities in a single day for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, trying to facilitate a therapeutic experience that is meaningful for the person and billable to his or her insurance company.  I learned to quickly develop a rapport with each individual, turn our focus to the therapy evaluation and treatment process, and wrap it all up with a plan for the next session or discharge.  Often the most challenging patients were put on my schedule because of my experience working in mental health settings and with persons diagnosed with dementia.  Many were depressed, angry, resistant, unable to focus for more than a brief moment, or simply were not coherent at all.  I would often have to come back to a person’s room several times a day or miss my own lunch break to facilitate a feeding session during his or her mealtime while my tummy growled.  There were the difficult families, co-therapists who would “steal” your patient throwing off your schedule, the CNAs who wouldn’t bring the client to the clinic, or the patient who almost always needed a diaper change before we could fit in any therapeutic activities.  Standing tolerance, functional transfers, and self care were easy goals to fit in when the nursing staff just couldn’t fit in the care needs of their residents; occupational therapy gotter done.  I wiped a lot of bums in the process.

It’s another thing to try to help an aging family member 1,000 miles away with a range of personality, behavioral, cognitive, and early physical changes.  I am having difficulty managing the frustration of dealing with a person who can make decisions one day and not the next, seem to engage in manipulation/pity partying/whining then be as sweet as sugar, ruminate on minute details for hours, and complain more than converse about most everything else.  She has changed this past year for sure then other times she seems just like her old self.  I just didn’t see some of these more difficult characteristics before this year and before I understood that the diagnosis of a brain disease has made everything in her life more complicated.  Of course she wants to make her own decisions and we agree.  Of course it is hard even a year after diagnosis to accept that she is having problems and needs help.  And when depression, anxiety, and compulsive tendencies take over, it is nearly impossible to help her to keep moving forward.  I just don’t know what to say or do sometimes.

I could do nothing.  My husband and I could do nothing.  Instead we have offered to help and have devoted probably 100 hours of such thus far.  She has asked to stay with us this summer then backpedaled when picking apart every detail of the visit that will not be perfect, problem that will not be solved in the way she would like.  I am sorry.  We just cannot move across country to cater to your every need in sunny Florida my dear!  There are always limitations to what any caregiver, professional or family member, can do for a person in need.  We will likely continue to help her and have started to set some boundaries too.  I am still in recovery from a serious illness and, while I can do more than when I first discovered her illness just 3 months ago, there are limits.  Should she come she will have to contribute some financially and is reluctant to do so.  She will need to follow the routines of our household and is reluctant to do so.  She will need to leave a tropical climate for the ravages of the four seasons in the Midwest and is reluctant to do so.  She wants to see what it would be like to live with us but isn’t sure she wants to come for a visit.  Whatcha gonna do lady?

Tonight I am frustrated.  The Lord has set me on a path to healing with a trip to a medical specialist that happened to reside in a town near my beloved family member out of state.  It seemed to be providential that I would spend some time caring for her as I could when in town for medical visits.  We prepared for each trip for many hours on the phone and followed up for many more thereafter.  I helped her with 2 day-long projects in-person with great physical consequences for me after the last time I was in her town:  travelling alone for the first time in over a decade and only 5 weeks into recovery from a new treatment that is working!  Geez oh man.  I just don’t know how much more I can do until I am further along in my healing process.

The stress of caring for my beloved family member, even at a distance, is weighing heavily on my heart and frame tonight.  I know I am called to help her some.  The amount is unclear for every time I set a boundary there is push-back.  My ability to manage stress has changed since battling a serious illness  for over six years.   I am saying no, making things as clear as I can.  My hubby wants to accommodate her this summer (and permanently if desired) as best we can yet to do so could create some financial and scheduling chaos.  My beloved family member is not yet willing to consider some things that we see need to be done for her personal protection and safety long-term.  We understand that these are big decisions.  However, waiting seems to just foster more indecision on her part, more stress on our part as her potential caregivers.  Dear Lord, what shall we do?

We are grieved that my family member has strained relationships with several family members who are not fully ready to attend to all that is needed to care for her.  She hasn’t been able to talk directly with them yet which puts us in an awkward situation with them should she have us proceed in our role as caregivers.  We are grieved for the sorrows that her and her children have endured trying to make sense of the heartaches in their pasts and how it strains their relationships today.  Conversely, I have only good memories with my family member so I’d like to think that I am a little more level-headed in honoring her wants and needs.  Who knows?  It is still hard to care for her varying emotional states on a daily basis.  Good golly, why still struggle when there are two people who love you, seem to care about you the most right now, and are willing to invest their time and energies in doing so?  Help us out here my dear:  will you be spending the summer with us or not?  Will we be making some major purchases to help make the visit more comfortable for all of us or not?  I do hope we know the answers to these questions in a couple of days.  This distance caregiver thing is running me ragged!

Stay tuned, Gentle Reader.  We are praying for guidance, peace, and the same for our family.  Let’s all take a deep breath and take care, k?  JJ

As you consider Holy Yoga: Part 1

Holy Yoga, pose, woman, mat, Christian, blog, evaluate, discernment

As an occupational therapist trained in therapeutic exercise and as someone who taught aerobic exercise in clinical settings years ago, I have always watched the trending in the health and fitness industry.  I recently explored various fitness certification opportunities as part of my continuing education requirements as an OT, including those oriented toward low impact dance and yoga.  ROM Dance  was part of my repertoire years ago when working in mental health settings.  Match these interests with keeping a close eye on the alternative health industry that came on the heels of the New Age movement of the 1990s.  Early on I decided to match all of these observations against the available clinical research and especially the truth of Biblical scripture as guiding lights.

So is there a back-story?  Yes, there’s more!  I am seeking a gentle, supportive movement  practice, ideally consistent with my Christian faith, to aid in my recovery from serious illness.  The trauma of this serious illness has left me with several medical complications, deconditioning, weakness, physical limitations, and an altered body awareness that I believe can get better.  I had been exploring and pursuing some possibilities in the world of dance, exercise, massage, and traditional occupational and physical therapies when along came Holy Yoga:  a “community of believers on mission to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth through the modality of yoga.”

In a few blog posts, I will explore Holy Yoga and come to a personal decision about whether or not I will pursue it at this time.  I started my research at the Holy Yoga website then jumped right into some challenging viewpoints but not from the Christian or even medical communities.  Instead I listened to a lengthy YouTube video of Hindu philosopher, Rajiv Malhotra’s, interview of Holy Yoga Founder Brook Boon.  Talk about what the political world calls “opposition research!”  Below is the feedback I posted after viewing the interview.  My next steps will be to research the response of the Christian community and probably attend a class locally.

Here’s Part 1.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Nice job Brooke Boon!  I might clarify to Mr. Malhotra that Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is God:  the God of the Bible and NOT a manifestation of God.  Each person of the Trinity is one God, 3 persons.  Liken this to the fact that I am one human being but a wife, sister, and daughter or 3 person-alities.  Not an exact analogy but it can help understand that the one true God is a clear, Biblical distinction from the plethora of Hindu gods that are dead, powerless manifestations of their “god.”  But more on that theology is a discussion for another time.

Further, I really wish Mr. Malhotra would have had the decency to give Ms. Boon his interview questions beforehand, especially if he intended to debate the nuances of Hinduism and Islam in contrast to Christianity.  He said the interview was to be a “dialogue” however his theological questioning and word choices indicated otherwise.  His agenda to discredit Holy Yoga was polite yet clear.  For example, he said at the end of the video that Hindus must “be aware” and essentially wake up to what Christians were doing with Holy Yoga; he also claimed that Holy Yoga’s purpose was to evangelize.  Seems like evangelism may come with the Foundation’s outreach to victims of sex trafficking but wasn’t this an interview about the story, benefits and beliefs of Holy Yoga classes not the Foundation?  Might want to differentiate the two sir.

It was important for me as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who is exploring Holy Yoga, to view this interview.  I saw clearly how someone who is not a Christian cannot fully understand the tenants of the Christian faith from, for example, literal translations of scripture.  These literal interpretations weaken Mr. Malhotra’s subtle challenges, arguments, and warnings about Holy Yoga.  Specifically, his references to “the law” were not about Roman law as he claimed but God’s law given to Moses (as documented in the God-inspired Old Testament) to help guide the nation of Israel.  The Mosaic law helped define right and wrong to a lost people, lost society, and provide guidance as to how to live.  It also instructed them on how to relate to God and atone for sins or wrongdoing.  This law was later replaced with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and New Testament teachings from Christ and His disciples.  Persons of various “religious affiliations” or “denominations” outside of Christianity seem to like to focus on “the law” concept instead of Christ’s concept of grace because they are used to the structure and constraints of rituals . . . as if it is the rituals themselves that make them somehow right or wrong:  better people or worse yet, right before their definition of God.  And their definition does not match that of the single God of the whole Bible.  Christians who are born-again believers are free to express themselves with various traditions, cultural garb, etc. (and even try on the dressings of others) but never look to them for salvation.  Cultural traditions/trappings have no inherent power.  Only faith in Jesus Christ alone can save:  bring us eternally into a right relationship with The One True God and eternal life.  It’s simple really:

John 3:16 New International Version (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Of course we want to share our faith with others as our joy and calling as believers in Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:19-20).    Looks like a lot of fun to me, to find an established method of breathing an exercise while praising God!  Wish they didn’t use the Hindu words though, as it will be confusing to many who think that Holy Yoga is completely Bible-based.  There are gray areas for sure.  Holy Yoga borrows many traditions of Hinduism.  I hope that the classes clarify this for participants.  But is that enough to avoid it?  Or not find a way to enjoy its benefits?  Perhaps the earthly “gurus” of Hindu yoga could view the adaptation of the breathing and exercises of their yoga traditions as more of a compliment than a threat.  Such is the nature of humanity to not want their invention changed.  I am sure that the major drug companies don’t like competitors making generic copies of their drugs either!  But hey, children often imitate the characteristics of their parents and hopefully a lot of times this is a good thingy!  Imitation can be an expression of flattery, friendship, even love.

Because of the prevailing pull of the world on Jesus’ own disciples and their need to overcome it, Christ petitioned for divine intercession to keep his disciples “not of the world” by being sanctified through the word of God, which is truth (see John 17:16–17 below*).  Believers must guard our hearts in all pursuits with the truth of Scripture, spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), prayer, heeding the conviction/discernment of the Holy Spirit.  Mr. Malhotra quoted the apostle Paul extensively in his post-interview analysis.  Perhaps the apostle Paul just wanted to be friendly as he adopted some behaviors and garb of the people groups he was trying to reach out to with the hope found in Jesus Christ?  Surely we can understand this today.  Don’t we bring a gift a friend would like to his or her birthday party even if it is not our own favorite hobby, taste, brand, or preference?  Or let a co-worker listen to a CD of our music in hopes he or she will enjoy it and share it with others?  Let’s be clear, however, that the  lovely cultural trappings or activities that make life sweet are never equal to the incredible gift of salvation that comes from belief in Jesus Christ.

Please look beyond the rituals, the cultural trappings, the methods of exercise and breathing, the physical stuff of this world as you evaluate the practice of Holy Yoga.  Each believer in Jesus Christ must decide for him or herself, how to apply the real substance of the Bible (and of life for the believer) is the Word and the truth it professes to our daily lives.  Explore Holy Yoga with knowledgeable believers.  Pray about it.  Examine the world view of your particular instructor too.  And if everything checks out o.k., enjoy a really cool exercise/meditation class in the meantime.

JJ

*John 17:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

New Skills

1 Corinthians, believer, Christian, not be wasted, don't give up, hope, not in vain,

If I had to create a resume today the contents would be a bit different for these past 5 years.  Web design?  Yup.

When I get concerned that my professional skills have eroded, I remind myself that life is measured more than by occupational achievements.  Later I will write about the journey for meaningfulness that led me to simply trust the Lord with each moment, each day.  For now perhaps what they used to call a “Functional Resume” is in order?  So here I submit a list of new things for which I am grateful to have learned despite being sick every day for over 5 years.  Surely the time was not wasted!

Developed 5 websites:  1 on Etsy and 4 on Word Press.

Self-published an eBook, Hope Beyond Lyme:  The First Year.

Taught myself how to make macramé and handcrafted jewelry, developed Trinity Jewelry by Design, sold hundreds of pieces online and at 5 events, then sold the business 2 years ago.

Learned about Lyme disease, mercury, Candida, seizures, epigenetics, biologic dentistry, shingles-and-other viral infections, biotoxin illness PLUS their respective testing and treatment protocols.

Learned about social media, ecommerce, blogging, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo-and-other online forums, Skype (formed a prayer group), basic video production, online banking/PayPal, how to use a smart phone with Apps, and the like.

Became an Advanced Master Gardener.  Achieved the highest-star rated sustainable garden at our home.  Finally harvested our own blackberries!

Experimented with special diets for health:  ketogenic, low oxalate, low glutamate, gluten-free, SIBO, and the usual dairy/sugar/sweetener/mold-free diets.

Became an Assistant Editor to my Editor/Husband for the quarterly publication Canoe News of the United States Canoe Association.  Learned the basic features of MS Publisher and PowerPoint.

Experimented with various methods of detoxification for health including full spectrum infrared sauna, colon hydrotherapy, Epsom/mineral salt baths, lymph massage, and various binding agents (zeolite, benonite clay, fulvic acid, Intestinal Metals Detox, acai fiber, cholestyramine, chitosan, Welchol, etc.).

Learned about environmental toxins, extreme mold avoidance, types of masks to reduce exposure, cleaning strategies, remodeling, and more.

Implemented energy conservation, work simplification, home safety, accessibility, and novel coping strategies (that I used to train my patients!) to manage changes in my physical abilities.  Trained my husband in same, often in times of medical crisis.

Began a “telehealth” arrangement for part of my healthcare with a naturopath/genetic coach out of State.

Learned to camp in a travel trailer with my beloved hubby, Steve, and our German shepherd pup, Elle.

I bought my pick up truck 5 DAYS before I got sick.  Quickly, I learned to drive a truck then how to pull a trailer, haul stuff, and manage a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Learned basic upholstery crafting to make all new cushions for our travel trailer and two custom cushions for a medical office.

Successfully navigated a complex and long disability case despite ongoing nightly  seizure attack episodes frying my brain at times!

Perhaps there is more yet I will stop here.  As an occupational therapist, I am trained to assess the life skills of my patients and how these are affected by his or her medical condition or disability.  Its as if the Lord knew that I would need the very skills of my profession to handle the devastating effects of a complex, serious illness 30 years after my career began.  In the past I’d often “re-invented” myself at work, moving from mental health to rehabilitation then home health care.  My work included contract work, consulting, and even a public speaking program called the Living Safely ©Program. Just about everything that I ever learned in my profession has helped me to cope and begin to overcome my current situation.

So when I shed a few tears for the setbacks that come, like last night, they simply do not last very long.  Or at least I can clear my mind more quickly than in the past.  Gratefully, I have other things to think about other than illness:  things I can still do when I can get up and get moving again.  And maybe, just maybe, when the seizures stop for good, all of this learning will bring glory to my Lord and Savior as He has helped me get through each moment . . . oh and Stevers too of course!  My husband is a saint!  And very wonderful.

Be encouraged, Gentle Reader.  Lord willing, I am going to get well!  I will be praying for you too this night.  Let’s hang in there, k?

Take care,

JJ

Psalm, 73, 73:6, God, heart and my portion forever, Lord, sustains, sickness, hope, always with me, Holy Spirit, trials, coping, Christian, believer, Jesus Christ

Revelation, 21, 21.5, make all things new, believer, Christian scripture, hope, help

Now for some horticulture therapy!

 

Some good things noted in our gardens this year included:

  • Plants from our local Master Gardener Plant Sale did really well at bargain prices; patience paid off by the end of the season for the new rose bush ($5) and 2 tomato plants ($1 each).
  • Variegated liriope (with the purple flower spikes) was a great addition to our newest island bed (until the rabbits found them!)
  • Around the flagstone patio, the hydrangeas, Japanese maple, dwarf mugo pine, and Golden Thread cypress have matured to form a nice screen between us and the neighbors.
  • We got a nice showing from the (clumping) bamboo through continuous soil enhancements and 7 years of waiting.
  • The hydrangea vine that now covers a great deal of the trellis by the front door bloomed for the 2nd Spring in a row after waiting 6 years.
  • Elle continue to love drinking out of the bird bath almost as much as the birdies.
  • The anise hyssop re-seeded itself at the base of the trellis on the left of the patio instead of the right this year.
  • Walker’s Low Catmint is the most profuse blooming perennial I have ever seen.
  • Painting the planters black that adorn the bird bath was a good idea, helping to keep the focus on the annuals planted within them.
  • I got to make a lovely Fall wreath from our hydrangea blooms (picture to follow).
  • Dahlias never disappoint; I’m glad I planted all 3 of them in the front yard this year.
  • We are grateful for our first, ever-bearing harvest of blackberries since establishing the raised bed 4 years ago.

Footnotes for improvements next year:

  • Put hardware cloth (wire fencing) in front of the mulch pile to keep out critters from dining on new additions.
  • Move the wisteria by the left trellis and the cannas from between the trellises to sunnier areas.
  • Install a new and permanent mylar deterrent above the bluebird house to scare off intruders.  Ours blew off!
  • Coach our plant sitters a little more carefully when we are away to keep the cucumbers from perishing.
  • Thin out the native plant bed to help keep ahead of the lemon balm re-seeding and Catmint spreading.
  • Re-work the new strawberry bed area to save time trimming around everything.
  • Oh and about 15 other projects!  Is a gardener’s work ever really done?

Thank you Lord for your bounty and beauty, the grace and strength to keep things going as best as I could, the blessings of sharing our harvest with others, and for a lovely view out my window on the days you know I needed it most.  You are so good to me!  JJ