Need to Hire a Caregiver? Things to Consider

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

From the multitude of “caregivers” I dealt with in taking care of Mama, I’ve come to define a caregiver as one who cares. That may seem obvious, but just because someone bills themself as a caregiver does not make them a caregiver. If that person doesn’t care or doesn’t give care, that person is not a “caregiver.” That person is a sitter.

Sitters sit. I learned that the hard way and share this hoping you won’t make the same mistake. In Mama’s case they were there to pull a paycheck, so they just sat and watched TV, or looked for something of value to steal, and when asked to help-out, chose to walk out instead.

If you’ve reached the point when you must hire a caregiver, consider these qualifications:

  • They must care.
  • They must love caring for people.
  • They must have loads of patience.
  • They must love serving others.

Finding a caring caregiver is worth the effort. First, ask for recommendations from within your own trusted extended family, circle of friends, and especially among your church family. Some may be willing to take turns on a limited basis.

When I had exhausted all those options, I ran an ad in the classifieds for Christian caregivers and found the most loving lady even though she had never had a job. For three years, she ran Mama’s household the same way she ran her own. When she turned in her notice, that’s when our troubles began.

Ask God to put your discerning spirit on high alert for red flags when contacting agencies and independent “caregivers.” The words they speak, and the attitude of their delivery will tell you all you need to know. Be sure to ask…

  • What makes you a good caregiver?
  • Do you have references?
  • What will they tell me when I call them?”
  • Do you mind if I run a background check?

If they become indignant, let them go. If your questions are welcomed, you might have a keeper.

Remember, when you are putting your loved one in the hands of someone you don’t know, you must be cautious, discerning good and evil.

Difficult Discussions and Decisions

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:14)

When the parent/child relationship gets reversed, it’s time for some difficult discussions and decisions. And, it’s better to have them sooner rather than later when you or your loved one needs care. But, whenever those conversations occur, be sure to include your loved ones in the process as much as possible and as much as they are able.

I remember when someone talked over or around my mother, she became agitated and told them, “I may be blind, but I’m not stupid.” Like Mama, many older people are still fiercely independent and want to make their own decisions.

So, how did I handle the situation? When someone talked over Mama, I simply directed the conversation away from me and back to Mama. Then, the direction of the conversation was up to her, and Mama felt like she still had a modicum of control over her life. She could choose to answer or turn the conversation over to me.   

Key questions to ask:

Where do you want to live when you can no longer take care of yourself? That discussion will naturally lead to what finances are available. The money available to us came from selling Daddy’s car and his two small CD’s. When those ran out, my sister started paying the bills with the understanding that she would be repaid from the sale of Mama’s home. Initially, many parents like my mother want to stay in their own home; but when they can no longer take care of themselves, they would rather go to a nursing home than live with and be a burden to their children.

Do you have a living will? Talk to your parents about making a living will, a legal document that clearly states their wishes regarding medical treatments and decisions. That will lead to discussions about No Code and Do Not Resuscitate. No Code means not doing anything to prolong life, and when the patient passes, they will not be revived. DNR, do not resuscitate, means measures will be taken to prolong life but there will be no attempts to resuscitate them when they die.

Who has power of attorney? Power of Attorney grants authority for an appointed person they trust to act on their behalf when they are no longer able. This can get sticky when the main caregiver is not the one with the power to make decisions. For instance, I was the main caregiver for Mama, but my older sister had power of attorney.

The task of caregiving is easier when these questions are carefully thought out with a plan in place when the parent/child relationship is upended.

Prop Me Up

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Many times, I’ve heard a friend of mine pray, “Lord, prop me up on my leaning side.”

Propping us up is one of God’s specialties. He is faithful to those who choose to lean on Him and to answer His call. Look at the ways God propped me up and repeatedly created win-win situations for Mama and me.  

  • He prepared me for this journey with an education, work and life experiences, faith in Him, and the heart of an intercessor.
  • He let Daddy die in peace knowing that his wife, my mother, would be well cared for.
  • He gave me a friend who provided wise counsel throughout this journey.
  • He created a multitude of win-win situations. For instance:
    • Sandy, our first caregiver, needed us as much as we needed her.
    • The assisted living facility was new and needed other residents as much as we needed a place for Mama at that time.
    • Granny, who became our part-time caregiver, still needed her mama as much as my mama needed her, and both had the same first name: “Sadie.”
    • The nursing home provided friends for Mama when both needed good conversation.
    • And for me personally, God deepened my faith in Him, smoothed our path all along the way, and gave me great joy as He used me to restore Mama’s sense of well-being.

Our God is so faithful to all who choose to lean on Him. If you or a loved one are farther along on the road to glory, I hope you choose to lean on Him. He promised to straighten out your path.

To see what it looks like to lean on the Lord, read The Road to Glory: Walking Mama Home now available on Amazon.

My New Year’s Resolution

As we close the books on another year, it’s time to reflect on what we could have done better. I won’t pry into yours if you won’t pry into mine; but our not-prying is a direct lead-in to my new favorite verse and resolution for the new year. Perhaps you’ll join me in this.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands. (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

I love that! So, let’s dig a little deeper into the why of it…its benefits.

Benefits of a quiet life.

A quiet life is precious to God.

A gentle and quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:4)

A quiet life is where we find strength.

The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

A quiet life is where the Lord leads us.

He leads me beside quiet waters. (Psalm 23:2)

Benefits of minding my own business.

I will love life, see good days, and one day live on God’s holy mountain.

Lord, who may dwell in Your sacred tent? Who may live on Your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others. (Psalm 15:1-3)

For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. (1 Peter 3:10)

Benefits of working with my hands.

Wealth, reward, and enjoyable work are the product of working hands.

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4)

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12:14)

My chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands. (Isaiah 65:22)

There is also a bonus for leading a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands. Our daily life may win the respect of outsiders, and we won’t be dependent on anybody.

Join me in this resolution?

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands. So that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Here’s to a happier new year!

Emmanuel

Emmanuel

When the set time had fully come, God sent His Son. (Galatians 4:4)

What does it mean, “when the time had fully come?”

Chris Tiegreen explains it this way. “In [God’s] plan, a nation was cultivated, a law was given, human nature was exposed, prophets spoke, and creation waited. Then the Savior came. We were prepared for salvation, and we now celebrate the fullness of time.”

Of the Savior, Matthew 1:23 says, They will call Him Emmanuel which means, “God with us.”

Bob McGee put His name to song:

Emmanuel, Emmanuel, His name is called Emmanuel;

God with us, revealed in us; His name is called Emmanuel.

In thankfulness for the wonder of it all.

Merry Christmas

Take Heart

In this world you will have trials. But take heart. I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Notice Jesus said “trials.” That means more than one. So, one week after the lightning strike, I was back in a good place with power restored and work being done to repair my house, when I had to face another trial. This time I began to question the command to “Count it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Count it pure joy. Really? How do I do that?

Once again, Rusty and I were returning from our noon day walk when a large German Shepherd dog started following us home. A neighbor, who was walking his small dogs toward us, saw the German Shepherd following us and turned around to head in the opposite direction.

When we got close to our property line, Rusty stopped to face the German Shepherd. When I tried to hold him back, a tussle ensued, and I got yanked off my feet. My neighbor heard me yell as I hit the pavement and came to my rescue.

With my left arm split wide open, my neighbor, who just happened to be a physician, helped me to my feet, walked me home, cleaned and pulled the sides of the wound back together with butterfly clips to hold it until I could get to Advanced Wound Care. You see, God always sends His best to be there to help us when we fall. That’s just the way God works. He knows ahead of time what’s going to happen, and He always has the right people in place to help us in our time of need.

Because we live in a fallen world, trials stalk us much like the German Shepherd stalked us. But take heart. God will help us overcome our trials and troubles. And that’s the only reason we can count our trials pure joy.

When Faith Waits…

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Rusty, my boxer mix, and I were heading home from our midday walk when I thought, Lord, You have me in a really good place right now. I feel good; I have wonderful neighbors; and I’m even playing really good golf right now. Thank You, Lord. Life is good.

Then I thought, but life is full of ups and downs, good and bad, and after the sunshine into each life a little rain must fall. I know something is coming. I just don’t know what.

The next evening at dusk, not a little rain, but a huge storm came through. With the sound of a sonic boom, lightning hit my house. Electrical outlets flew out of the wall five feet from where Rusty and I sat and ripped through the house and both garages blowing up almost everything that was plugged in.

In the pouring down rain, three of my neighbors came to see if I was all right. They knew lightning had hit close by because it shook the earth as far as two miles away. They checked every room and both garages for fire and the smell of smoke and offered their homes for us to spend the night. The electric company came and turned off all power to the house but replaced my street-light for safety. When I was assured that nothing was smoldering or on fire, I opted to stay in the house.

While friends asked, “Why did this happen,” I knew that “God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20). He knew that He would get the glory from this seeming disaster.

The next morning, my insurance agent spent four hours examining the house, inside and out, plus everything in the yard. His software program pinpointed where the lightning struck: two tall trees in the back yard and the back left corner of my house.

Lightning blew out the floodlight, soffit, and its corner then ran down the downspout and destroyed the foundational bricks. It destroyed my HVAC system, a row of vinyl siding and the foundational wooden frame underneath and ran along the top of my fence and blew up each fence post in its way. It also dismantled the meter on the side of the house and all cables running to the house from the transformer, tore a hole in the second garage roof, and shattered my fly rod.

Remember the wonderful neighbors I mentioned? They brought their generator the following morning and filled it with gas every morning and evening for the four days we were without power. They took the contents of my freezers to theirs so I wouldn’t lose anything. They brought me food and helped in the search for an electrician. And they sat on the porch with me and asked how I could stay so calm when finding an electrician seemed impossible because they were all busy working at the booming Twin Creeks Village.

My response was simple. “God’s got this. He allowed it to happen, and He will fix it. I’m just waiting on the Lord.”

Meanwhile, all of us called the electricians we knew, and we followed every lead. I talked to four on the phone the first day and none had time to come.

Late on the second day, two came to assess the damage. One looked at the power panel and said, “You’re in a mess. It will take a minimum of five days to do all the electrical repair work and probably a month to rewire your house, and I can’t get to it any time soon.” The other one said, “If it were my house, I’d rip out all the sheet rock and rewire the whole house, but I retired and let my license expire.”

Still, we waited. I needed an electrician before we could tell what worked and what didn’t and before the HVAC, TV and Internet people could be called. Meanwhile, Rusty and I camped out in the house with flashlights and battery-powered lanterns.

From my neighbor’s generator, we ran one power cord to my fridge, one of the few things that was still functional, and moved the extra power cord from the microwave to the toaster; but my coffee maker had to be replaced.

On the third day…the restorer of all power appeared at my door and knocked. Oh yes, I invited him in. He was not only an electrician, but a Christian contractor who could oversee all the needed the repairs. That saved me from having to hire individual contractors for each area of work. And he brought his buddy along, a NASA engineer, to consult on the project. They worked till 7:30 that night assessing the damage with their high-tech diagnostic tools and returned at 7:30 the next morning to repair, rewire, and replace all plugs, outlets, and power panel. When God provides, He sends the best.

With electricity restored, my computer guru discovered my desktop’s power supply melted along with the processor and motherboard, but miraculously he retrieved and backed up all data. A month later I’m up and running again with a new desktop.

While most HVAC systems were on backorder and floating on barges in some California harbor, mine was replaced the following week. Comcast rewired the house, replaced the router boxes, and programmed two new TVs.

Brick masons repaired the foundation; roofers replaced the damaged garage roof; the soffit and flood light are replaced; and a new motor for the garage door was installed by specialists who also synced the remotes to my car. The only things left to be replaced or repaired are the downspouts, gutters, and fenceposts.

And once again, life is good, and God has me in a good place.

Lesson Learned: When faith waits, God sends His best.

Surprise!

At some point in our lives most of us will be called upon to care for a loved one. If you are called to be a caregiver, here are three surprises I faced that you might discover along the way, too.

  • The biggest surprise to me was the disconnect between the world’s view of caregiving and God’s view. From the world’s view, many people, even healthcare professionals, told me that I didn’t need to visit Mama in the nursing home every day. They even said, “Nobody does that.” But they do. So, you keep on visiting your loved one. Visit every day and pop in at different times other than your usual time. If the staff knows you’re coming, your loved one will look well cared for. But if you visit at random times, you’ll get the real story. When you find your loved one in a mess or in an uncomfortable position, be sure to call in the Charge Nurse and CNAs to see how you found them. Tell them you expect better care and hold them accountable. Of course, if they are doing a great job in caring for your loved one, be sure to thank them for that, too.
  • I think you might be surprised to know that the mandate to care for our aging parents came from God. He expects us to take care our aging parents and our grandparents as well, because they took care of us at the beginning of our lives when we couldn’t take care of ourselves. (1 Timothy 5:4)
  • But for me personally, it might surprise you to know that caregiving provided me with a season of tremendous Spiritual growth as I followed God’s lead, doing what He led me to do and setting myself aside for the benefit of my mother. If you lean on God and His wisdom during this difficult time in your life as a caregiver, you will grow in your relationship with God, too.

Because we live in a fallen world and must meet head-on the trouble Jesus promised we would have, remember: Jesus is the Way. He’s the Only One Who can lead us through that maze of eldercare with grace. He showed me how to set myself aside for the benefit of my mother, to put her needs before my own, and how to smooth the path before us, and lead Mama safely through the maze of eldercare. He’ll do the same for you if you ask.

For other surprises that may await you on the road to glory, be sure to read The Road to Glory: Walking Mama Home available on Amazon.

Called to Do Good Works

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

God had planned all along for me to take care of Mama. And in His good and perfect timing, He revealed His plan when my daddy, on his deathbed, told me it was time. I would have to take care of mama.

First Timothy 5:4 tells us it is pleasing to God if we take care of our parents and grandparents because they took care of us when we were growing up.

Now when your earthly daddy and your Heavenly Father are on the same page and tell you it’s time to do what we called you to do, you do it! You except the calling because it pleases them.

But what if you don’t accept the calling? What if you run from it instead? Well, remember Jonah? He ran from God, got thrown overboard, swallowed by a whale and then decided to follow God’s calling. Now, chances are you probably won’t get swallowed by a whale, but there are other consequences you will suffer for your disobedience. You see, you can run from God, but you cannot hide from Him. He knows where you are and what it will take to bring you back to His calling for you.

In general, the work we are called to do is to love and care for others as Jesus did. What does that look like in a nursing home setting?

We can take a minute to talk to the lonely voices calling out, “Take me now, Lord. When are you going to take me?” We can take the hand and walk with those walking aimlessly up and down the halls. We can glance into each room as we walk by and report any problems we see.

It’s our job to “Live a life worthy of the calling we received…to be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1).

Ask God what He prepared in advance for you to do, then do it. You’ll experience the peace that passes all understanding as you follow God’s will for your life.

To see what it looks like to accept God’s calling and follow His will in the many situations Mama and I encountered on the last leg of her journey, read The Road to Glory: Walking Mama Home. It’s available on Amazon.

Perils and Pearls

PERILS

As believers, we are all on the road to glory: a road that is littered with perils.

Jesus called the perils we face troubles or trials when He promised, “In this world you will have troubles. But take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Perils, troubles, trials, whatever you want to call them, are the devil’s playground. In Mama’s case they included some bad “caregivers” who just sat and watched TV, who were just pulling a paycheck or looking for something of value to steal; and those who, when asked to help out, chose to walk out instead.

Perils, troubles, and trials also come in the form of good people, sometimes professional people, who are simply having a bad day or not having a full understanding of the situation and all it entails. For instance, they didn’t know how to deal with Mama’s blindness. As a result, Mama lost 16 pounds in assisted living when no one fed her or put her breakfast or lunch within her reach or told her where it was; and in the nursing home, she became dehydrated because no one handed her a glass of water or told her where it was knowing that eight 8 ounce glasses of liquid is a daily living requirement.

PEARLS

Thankfully, the road to glory is also sprinkled with pearls of God’s wisdom, mercy, and grace. Pearls are spiritual truths that are available to those who ask for them.

Our all-knowing God knew all that we would face, and in His wisdom, He was the only One Who could guide us safely through the maze of eldercare.

God illustrated His mercy toward me so that when I made mistakes or didn’t think to ask for His help, the results were more humorous than disastrous.

And He extended His grace to me, His unmerited and undeserved favor, when He covered me with His calm assurance that in His strength appropriated to me, I would be able to handle whatever came our way because He was always present.

To see how God led the way in the many battles we faced, click the link below for your copy of The Road to Glory: Walking Mama Home.