God has blessed my life in numerous ways in the nearly 80 years that He has given me, but one of the greatest blessings was given to me this year.
For nearly 2 months, I had the privilege of caring for a lady who had the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s.
I have had to deal with several people who were very close to me, who had the disease. One was my own mother, and I’ll always feel regrets for my inability to understand much about what was going on at that time.
Then, there was a very dear gentleman who meant so much to my husband and I, that we called him, pop, and his wife mom.
The next person was a dear friend of my husbands. They played pool together, and we went to church with them.
He went through a severe trauma in his life, and began doing things that were a little strange. My husband thought he was confused, due to the trauma. At the time, I suggested that perhaps it was the early stages of Alzheimer’s, because I had visited with him and knew that his mother had passed away at a fairly young age, and had Alzheimer’s. He was a man of around 60 years of age, and my husband could not believe anyone would have the disease at that age, so I accepted that he was probably right. Most of the time, he seemed like himself, I allowed the intuition that I had, go by the wayside.
We introduced him to a single, good friend of ours, and they hit it off from the start, and were married a year later.
Before the first 5 years of marriage had passed, his mind was increasingly worse, and he soon needed hospitalization, and then to a nursing home. He was such a sweet guy, and this was a big blow to all.
This is a long story if I was to go into it, but suffice it to say that after the worst stages had passed; he was able to be home, with some outside care. His wife is such a loving person, and has taken this all in her stride, fighting hard for the best care possible for him. It has been 6 years since this became a truth to us all. He no longer can talk very much, but seems quite contented. Ill people respond to love, and he has had that from the beginning. During his illness, I learned a lot more about the disease.
The next person in my life was my dear sister. I loved her dearly, and her death took its toll on me, but I knew better how to cope.
And now, I’ll tell you about my sweet Lorraine. She had spent several winters in Arizona as we do. I had met her couple of years ago, and really liked her then. She had such a jovial, sweet personality, and looked at the bright side of everything. I did pick up on a few things about her that seemed a bit different than the average person; but after all, she was from Canada, and had a totally different background than I had had.
Well, this year, before they arrived for the winter, a friend informed me that she definitely had Alzheimer’s, and her husband was looking for someone to keep her 2 or 3 days a week, so that he could have a break now and then. I was immediately interested. I knew that I could love her, and how much good response there was to being loved.
When they arrived, I went there to welcome them and I was quite shocked at the changes, but the sweet joyful attitude was still there. She was a joy to be around.
At that point, the desire to help with her was very strong, as I knew that so few people would really understand her and what she was going through. I felt that I had had enough experience to be able to make life just a little bit better for her for a period of time, at least. I desired so much to share the love that God had placed in my heart.
God, who says in His Word, that He will give us the desires of our heart if we truly trust in Him, did just that. I was so blessed by her presence in my home, and I loved her more than I had dreamed. After all, she was not normal, but oh my, she still was a very wise lady if she had the ability to share.
I determined that she was my total project on the days that I was privileged to have her. I would prepare all I could for the noon meal before she came, so that I could give her full attention. We had coffee and “girl talk” each day when she arrived. Of course, our “girl talk” didn’t make sense to anyone but us. She would tell me I was a good person, and I would tell her that she was so wonderful too. She would start to tell me something which made perfectly good sense, and drift off into sentences which had no connection to what she was saying. I’d just tell her I was so glad to hear that, and give her a big hug.
These little “talks “continued until I put the lunch on the table. She always told me how good everything was. When I set the table, she would always say, “that’s right, you do things just right.” I would thank her and give her a little hug. She was so pleased that I fixed her coffee with sugar and a coffee creamer that she loved. Oh, what a special, perfect, lady she is.
After lunch, I often filled the dishwasher, and we went into another room where I have an organ, which I am not real adept at playing; but Lorraine did not mind. She loved to dance when I would play.
When my timing got off, she would tell me how good I played, and stand and clap to the proper timing of the music, to get me back on beat, or directed me just like a choir director.
A lot of things made no sense, but if I couldn’t help but to giggle sometimes, she giggled right with me, and we had so much fun.
About 2:00 we would sit in the “love seat” recliner. I would gently rub her neck and back, and then put up her feet and give her 10 minute foot rub, and then sit down beside her. She would reach out for my hand, and I’d turn on the T.V. softly, and she usually napped. As long as I sat still, she would sleep off and on for an hour or so, and then we’d watch the T.V. until about 3:30, when we’d have coffee again. By then my husband would be home from playing pool, and would join us. She enjoyed his being with us also.
Her husband came around 4:00, and we’d have another cup of coffee and a cookie with him, and just visit a lot before they went home. A part of me went home with her, but her husband loved her so much, and she loved him too, and I knew she enjoyed being with him.
Oh yes, a few times we’d upset our schedule, and take a walk around our trailer park. Lorraine was so appreciative of the sky, the sun, flowers, and everything around her. She often baffled those we met by pointing to the sky and saying, “The sky is so beautiful” “Look how blue it is.” They would agree, but, of course, she would repeat it many times, and bring a puzzled look to the face of the passer-by. I would just say, “Well, Lorraine, shall we keep going? And away we would go, and enjoy each thing we passed.
It was a sad day when her husband got very ill, and Lorraine herself had a very bad cold (on the verge of pneumonia.) They were both hospitalized, and the family thought it best that they go back to Canada when they were released from the hospital and able to travel, which ended a couple of the happiest months of my life. We keep in contact, but, of course the many miles between us, prevent the opportunity of visiting her, and she is now residing in an Alzheimer’s unit in Saskatchewan, Canada. I pray for her each day that she will receive the love that keeps her vibrant and alive. She will be a blessing for others there, if they will allow her to be.
I write this most of all, for those who may face this terrible disease in person, or will be caring for someone who they are close to. It is a very hard thing to understand, but underneath all of the confusing things, there lies that person who was always so special, and they can still be very special in a different way. Give them patience and love, and yes, get some respite time that you can face some days of normal life, or your health will break also, as the care is as time consuming, as if you had a small baby in your home, but this too will have its rewards. Big changes are very confusing and difficult for the patient. Try to keep life as normal as possible.
This is not an illness of short duration. There may come a time when it is no longer possible to keep them home without special in-home care since you are not equipped like the special places that exist now, but make the most of the time you have. You will never regret it.
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