Long Distance Caregiving – Pray

Throughout this series about the LDC, I often alluded to the importance of prayer. Praying_Hands

My personal intercessory team lifts me up in prayer before every trip to Oklahoma.

My siblings know people in their churches, their cell groups and their networks who pray for them.

Certainly, we all pray for Mom. I pray that she won’t have to suffer a long time with Alzheimers and yes—I know what that means. I know that I’m asking God to take her home where she can be with Jesus, with Dad and with her parents.

What’s the point of pretending? Mom is a strong believer. Her faith is intact even if her brain is scrambled. I pray that God will release her to go home.

Every night and sometimes during the daytime hours, I pray for my sister. I’ve seen how her health has been affected. Stress wreaks havoc on our bodies, so I pray for my sister to find relief from the pain, to sleep well and to find the joy of living.

I pray for my brother as he juggles work on the farm along with his other job, his family and the dynamics all of that brings. I pray for him special grace because he works hard, and I ask God to bless him day after day.

Then I pray for me, that I will live with grace, even as the long distance caregiver. I ask God to keep me from trying to find comfort in things of this world or an over-abundance of chocolate.

I pray that as we live through this experience, I’ll be able to write books and blog posts such as this one, to encourage my group on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/15XgKN4), to speak at churches and other groups about how to find hope when life unravels.

Because in the end, Alzheimer’s does not win. What really counts is how we deal with our family dynamics and how we stay close to each other—even when we live far apart.

What matters is how we share what we have learned. Because that is why we are here. To love God, to make a difference and to leave well.

Part of that leaving well is a legacy of wisdom and experience for those who come behind us. To let them know that even within the journey of Alzheimers, prayer is still the best thing we can do.

Long Distance Caregiving – Regular Contact

As our loved ones journey through Alzheimers and/or dementia, it’s important that we keep in regular contact with the rest of the family.

hands heartEven though we live hundreds of miles away, we still have a significant role to play.

I call my sister each week and my brother about every other week. My sister is primary caregiver, and my brother lives in the same town—so both of them are available to check on Mom and spend quality time with her.

By contacting each of them, I receive a regular update about Mom’s journey through Alzheimers and the care she receives.

We talk about different things: sports, the weather and how it will affect this year’s wheat crop, the nieces and nephews and their activities. I give reports on my son and his school, his work.

Then we talk about Mom. “How’s she doing this week? Does she seem more content with her new living situation? Any changes? Any problems?”

Asking questions and hearing the answers helps me feel a bit more connected to what is happening in this process. Plus, it gives me ideas for how to pray—not only for Mom but also for my siblings.

Sometimes I hear the frustration in their voices. Sometimes I catch a bit of the anger and the grief that we all feel because our mom has Alzheimers. Sometimes I just want to hug my siblings through the cell phone towers and let them know how much I care for them, how much I miss them.

Another way I stay in contact is to send Mom a card each week. She keeps all her cards. She likes the ones with little animals or funny pictures.

So I go to the Dollar Store and pick out several of the colorful cards for children. Inside I write what has happened to me and my son that week, and I always sign it “Love you.”

Although Mom doesn’t say those words in return and she no longer writes her own newsy letters to me, I want her to know that this long distance caregiver loves her and wishes I could be near.

Ultimately, the LDC in me has to depend on God and his promise in Psalm 54:4, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”

He sustains my siblings who are right in the middle of the situation. He sustains my mom throughout each 36-hour day, and he sustains me—the long distance caregiver.

What about you? How has God sustained you in this long distance caregiving journey?

Long Distance Caregiving

A friend recently encouraged me to define my role as a long-distance caregiver. How would a defined role help me deal with my guilt and anxiety whenever I drive away from Mom?

hands heartBut the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Define my role and maybe even give myself a job description to confront this nasty Alzheimers diagnosis that consumes our family.

Certainly, those who care full-time for Alzheimers and/or dementia patients have the greatest stress. It is rightly described as the 36-hour day.

Yet each person in the family is affected in some way by this horrific disease that takes away our loved ones piece by fractured piece.

As the LDC in my family, I live 250 miles away from Mom. The rest of my family lives in the same area, our wonderful and cozy home town of Enid, Oklahoma.

For years, I have driven I-35 South on major holidays and whenever I could pull away from ministry here in Kansas. Now that Mom lives in assisted living, I still try to observe holidays and any other important family events. But I can’t be there all the time. Thus, the necessity of my title – the LDC.

What then is my job description? How can I best encourage my siblings and support them from such a distance? How can I help Mom or is that beyond possibility?

I believe my job description includes five topics, so I plan to focus on each of these in the coming weeks. The topics include: Keep in Regular Contact, Research for New Helps, Observe the Changes, Listen to the Caregivers and Pray.

Together, we’ll look at each topic and then discuss it. I’m interested to hear from other LDCs out there. How do you deal with being the long-distance caregiver? Let’s do this together and encourage each other in the process.

For in the end, our role is to enjoy our loved ones as long as possible and not kill ourselves in the process. We know that caregiving is stressful, but if we do it right – we can be a blessing to each other and make it through this unraveling journey.

Let me hear from you. We’re in this together.