(Second In A Series)

GET OUT OF MY BED.  What did you say?  I DON’T KNOW YOU.  GET OUT OF MY BED.  This was how Sarah greeted me one evening as I was about to get into bed for the night.  Her Alzheimer’s had advanced to a new level.  I did not want to agitate Sarah any more than she already was so that night I slept in a lounge chair we had in our bedroom because I knew I needed to stay close to Sarah.  Well, I tried to sleep, but first I knew I needed to get down on my knees and pray knowing God would show me His plan.

God directed me first to The Book of Job.  It is possible that no person in the Bible endured more trials than Job, but we should remember him for his patience and his Faith in The Lord.  God is patient, but little did I know how my patience would mature through our journey.  I somehow knew that patience would not be enough to help Sarah.  More prayers.

Finally God led me to Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”  (NIV)  Through His Word, The Lord provided all that I would need to take care of Sarah.  Patience would play a big part in her care, but The Holy Spirit filled me with His Fruit and showed me so much more.

There are many lessons I have learned on this journey and I would like to pass them on to other caregivers.  Many of them have evolved over time as I have matured.  You may have other lessons that worked better for you.  You should pass them on to other caregivers so we may benefit from your experiences.

  1.  This journey is “NOT ABOUT YOU”.  It is about the Alzheimer’s patient who has no control over their disease.  Sarah is totally dependent on me as your loved one is totally dependent on you.  This is a huge responsibility just as it was when you took care of your child or grandchild and they were dependent on you.  So, you need to commit fully to this journey.  You need to let go of your ego, arrogance and humble yourself because believe me–you will be humbled.

James 4:6 “But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  (NIV)

     2.  COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE.  Always tell your loved one what you are going to do before you do it.  I always tell Sarah I am going to put on her socks BEFORE I even touch her feet.  She cannot anticipate what I am going to do.  Surprise gives rise to anxiety.  This applies to anything you are going to do.  If you are going to adjust their pillow or cover them with a blanket, etc. —tell them BEFORE you do it.

     3.  GENTLENESS, GENTLENESS, GENTLENESS.  Always be Gentle.  Do not be aggressive or in a hurry to accomplish your task.  Yes, you sometimes want to hurry things along because you have a million things to do.  But, if you are aggressive your loved one will react in the same way and become aggressive with you.  NEVER, NEVER NEVER be abusive by hitting or slapping or raising your voice.  Yes, raising your voice or screaming at someone who is defenseless is abuse.  This will only lead to like behavior.  Again, this is abuse.  Walk away, take a deep breath and start over.  I think everyone wants to multi-task now and that does not work with someone with Alzheimer’s.  You need to focus on one task and focus only on your loved one.

Proverbs 15:1  ” A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  (NIV) 

     4.  ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE.  Routine is paramount.  I greet Sarah each morning in the same way by saying, “Good morning beautiful Sarah”.  She may react negatively some mornings, but I still keep to the routine.  I may change the words to try and distract her, but I am always POSITIVE in my greeting. It is all worth it when she responds with her beautiful smile.

I try to have meals at approximately the same time each day.  Now, Sarah tells me she is hungry as I am preparing our meals.  If you want to finish something you are working on and it will interfere with meal times, stop ahead of time, and get back to your routine.  Remember, it is not about YOU.

I try to get Sarah ready for the day the same way each morning.  First I bathe her, then she gets dressed then I brush her teeth.  Again, I go through a certain routine and she responds to me.  Following the communication step above,  I always tell her what I am going to do before I do it.  No surprises.

     5.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.   Do everything in the Spirit Of Love.

Remember The Golden Rule:

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

How would you like to be treated if you were suffering with Alzheimer’s?  Think about it.  You would want to be treated with LOVE.  Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not easy.  Not easy at all.  But, for me it all came down to attitude.  I always have to remember that my wife is, “STILL SARAH.”

Anytime I needed strengthened I went back to the Bible so my soul would be nourished with His Word.

Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  (NIV)

Sarah knows me more now than she did when she shouted out, “Get Out Of MY Bed” many years ago.  But, the reason is for a future article.  Stay tuned.


Our Journey Together

Sarah was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over a decade ago.  The tears rolled down my cheeks as we were listening to the doctor explain the results of his testing.  I heard very little of what he said after hearing the word Alzheimer’s.  It was not a surprise.  But, before the tears were dry on my face I knew in my heart that this journey would be one we would embrace together.

God had brought us together many years ago for His Purpose.  Over the years He has challenged us, but through prayer and obedience to His Will He has provided the answers and the strength we needed to overcome many obstacles.  This one would prove to be the biggest challenge we ever encountered, but with His Grace we faced it head on.  Little did I know what a challenge it would be.  The key I knew would be prayer and following His Will.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

I have been considering doing a blog for many months.  I know it will help me express myself, but more importantly I hope it will encourage and maybe help other caregivers.  I do not know how often I will write as it depends on the daily responsibilities I have.  I called it “Sarah’s Alzheimer’s Diary” , but it will be retrospective as so much time has passed since her diagnosis.

Initially, I know many situations can be overwhelming.  They were to me.  I hope many of the “trials” I experienced and overcame can help other caregivers.  The blog will not be focused only on the “disease” and care of my wife, but also on the many funny and happy situations we have experienced.

My main focus will be to stay true to the title of this blog which is “Still Sarah”.  Alzheimer’s may have MASKED many of Sarah’s characteristics, attributes or her personality at times, but SHE IS STILL SARAH to me.  Now, the tears of sorrow are coupled more with tears of JOY.  PRAISE GOD.