Childlike Joy, Mindful Peace

Ella giggled and squirmed in her chair as she waited for Santa to call her name. Adorable with her candy cane headband and cat glasses, she clapped her hands excitedly as names were called one by one.

 

“Nathan! Is Nathan here?” Santa joyfully bellowed. Nathan jumped up and ran up to Santa. Santa gave a hearty, “Ho Ho Ho” as Nathan jumped into his lap and gave Santa a huge hug. The room was filled with appreciative laughter.

 

Every year, the Broadmoor Rotary Club celebrates Christmas with children who have special needs. Some are brought up hand in hand with their caregivers. Some visit Santa from their wheel chairs. Other, like Ella, wait impatiently for Santa to recognize them.

 

“Ella? Where is Ella?”

 

Ella jumps up, “Here I am!” the joy on her face is exquisite, her bright eyes magnified by those pretty, but hefty cat glasses.

 

Each child receives a toy especially picked out for him or her. While they smile with glee at their new present, the happiness of the gift is dwarfed by the joy the children show as Santa recognizes them by name.

 

Can you imagine the child who was chastised that morning for not doing as they were told? Or the child who was too loud, or too chatty?  What added joy they must have when Santa recognizes them despite their transgressions! This is the joy we feel at Christmas time. That, despite our worst selves, we are loved by a God who happily gives us the gift of daily life.

 

The third Sunday of Advent is a celebration of JOY, as we anticipate the birth of Christ. The first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah starts:

 

                        Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!

                        Be glad and exult with all your heart.  The Lord has

                        removed the judgment against you…The Lord is in

                        your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. (Zep 3:14-15)

 

What the children learn from Santa is what Christ wants us to know about life: we are loved regardless of whether we squirm in our chair, or shout out the answer before we are called on. Our joy comes from the recognition we are loved no matter what.

 

Last month, my dear friend Ruth suggested I read Frank Ostaseski’s book, “The Five Invitations”. Frank was an integral part of the Zen Hospice Project in Northern California. His book speaks about the lessons learned while working for hospice.  One thing he says, is that joy is found when we lower our defenses, and allow ourselves to experience the fragility of life and the inevitability of death.  The children’s presence at the Broadmoor Rotary brought out the joy of Christmas in all of us, as we dropped the mantle of adulthood, to see the world from the vulnerability of children with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, or autism. Ostaseski writes:

           

            We may imagine that the tension and holding we have used to forge the

            armor around our hearts will keep out the pain, making us invulnerable.

            Instead, our armor cuts us off from love, dulling our sensitivity, steeling us

            to our experience, and locking out the tenderness, comfort, mercy, and joy

            that we need.*

 

Seeing joy at a Santa party is relatively easy, but experiencing joy or even peace at the end of life takes mindfulness. For peace and joy not only exist in the pleasant times of life, they also can be found in times of trouble, grief, or sadness. Joy and peace are brought forth from the calm places within the heart; they are not gifts received from others, or missing from times of struggle.  Joy and peace are felt when the Spirit of Love is allowed to break through from the depths of our souls.  Ostaseski says,

 

            When we take care of someone we love and do it with great integrity

            and impeccability, when we feel that we have given ourselves fully and

            completely to our grief and didn’t hold anything back, then we will surely

            feel great sorrow. But also we will feel gratitude and the possibility of

            opening to a reservoir of joy and love that we may have never known

            before. I call this undying love.*

 

As we approach Christmas, let us feel the joy and peace that our spiritual lives bring.  If you are a caregiver, remember the words of St Paul to the Philippians:

 

            Rejoice in the Lord always. Your kindness should be known to all.

            The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer

            and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.

            Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard

            your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:4-7)

 

AKOTA Home Care wishes you childlike joy, a peaceful night of caregiving, and all the blessings of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

*Excerpt From: Frank Ostaseski. “The Five Invitations.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-five-invitations/id1146508251?mt=11

Consistent Love

October 15th was a big day for all of us at AKOTA. Jim and Leslie welcomed their first grandchild; a beautiful baby girl!  Maeve is an angel who is starting a new generation of creative and courageous Lindsay’s. Eighty years before Maeve entered the world, my mother Jane was born in San Francisco.  Over eight decades, mom has survived fire, earthquakes, three teenagers, and two amiable and loving husbands.  As I told Jim and Leslie, October 15th is the day that strong women are born.

 

In some hospitals, the birth of a new baby is greeted with the playing of Brahm’s lullaby over the hospital intercom system. Nurses in the ICU, doctors in the ER, patients in palliative care all pause and listen. Slowly, gentle smiles spread across the faces of patients on the Med/Surg Unit, and those in the Chemotherapy Infusion Clinic. It is a wonderful reminder that although life can end in a hospital, life also often begins there as well.

 

Whether at home or in the hospital, caregiving can seem like the first verses in Sunday’s Gospel reading:

 

In those days after that tribulation

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from the sky,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

(MK 13: 24-25)

 

Babies teethe, toddlers get the flu, children have nightmares, teenagers stay out past curfew. On the other end of life, illness can leave us agitated, sleepless and miserable as well. Some nights it does seem like the stars have fallen from the sky.

 

But life is mostly made up of the good stuff. Our Gospel also tells us to:

 

Learn a lesson from the fig tree.

When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,

you know that summer is near.

In the same way, when you see these things happening,

know that he is near, at the gates.

(MK 13:28-29)

 

Whether the excitement of a newborn baby, witnessing the first bloom of Spring, greeting the support of loving friends, or living through the harrowing concern for a dying loved one we know that our Creator is near, constantly and continually creating the earth, and our hearts.

 

Those of us in the caregiving world know that God’s most precious creations, our family and friends, require consistent care.  Jesse and Alyssa are learning that Maeve can be up several times at night requiring feeding, changing, cuddling, and consoling.  Parents of small children know no end to the necessary hugs and help needed to bring up well raised children. Young married people need the support of families, middle aged people need the support of spouses, friends, and adult children. In fact, all of us need consistent love and caring throughout our life times.

 

But what does consistent care look like? To answer this question, I did what many smart people do: I googled it and pulled up Wiki-how:

 

1.     Consistent people have specific and realistic plans and goals.

2.     They create lists and schedules that they stick to.

3.     They make promises only if they can keep them.

4.     They hold themselves accountable and persevere even if they make a mistake.

5.     They find time each and every day to recharge, and reflect.

 

At AKOTA Home Care, we know that families rely on us to be consistent. This is why we have Care Team Leaders who are on call 24/7 to answer your questions.  This is why we hire caregivers who stick around: Willie Mae and Cynthia have been with us for 22 years!

 

Our Gospel reading ends,

 

But of that day or hour, no one knows,

neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

(MK 13:32)

 

Jesse and Alyssa didn’t know that Maeve would arrive 10 days early, nor did my mom know I would arrive 30 days late! None of us know the day, or hour that you may need home care. When a baby is born, offers to help come quickly and last a long time.  This is often not the case at the other end of life.  Family caregivers don’t have the support of loving grandparents or eager aunts and uncles, and often find themselves feeling alone and isolated.  Please know that if you ever need someone to help you out, AKOTA is there to be the consistent shoulder on which you can lean.

 

 

*Want to be more consistent? There are a bunch more suggestions at Wikihow: 

https://www.wikihow.com/Be-Consistent

 

 

www.akotahc.com

 

Love in Action

It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.

                                    ~ Mother Teresa, Saint of Calcutta

 

“Hello? This is Debbie Christopher, and I’m calling to see if you can help me care for my mom.”

 

Those were some of the hardest words Debbie had ever uttered.  Since her dad died 6 months ago, Debbie had taken over caring for her mom, Beverly. 

 

Beverly and her husband Ed loved getting out each morning to walked their dog, Frankie. On their way, Ed would joke with the kids waiting for the school bus and Beverly would chit chat with the young mothers pushing their strollers.  Often they stopped in at Mary and George’s to have a cup of coffee and catch up on the latest news.  They always got back in time to catch Debbie’s morning phone call before they went off to volunteer at the library.

 

Now that Ed was gone, Beverly no longer volunteered at the library. She lost her desire to walk Frankie, and so she didn’t see the young mothers at the bus stop anymore.  And with Halloween coming around again, Debbie noticed her mom hadn't put out the pumpkins they bought together last week. In fact, Mom hadn’t even touched the rotisserie chicken in the fridge. 

 

Debbie knew that Mary and George tried to stop by, but they often found the door closed and the house dark. More than once they called Debbie out of work to check on her mom. With her own family to care for, Debbie thought it might be a good idea for Beverly to move into her home, but Beverly wouldn’t hear of it. She was determined to stay at home with the memories of her husband around her.

 

At her wits end, Debbie made that call to AKOTA.  After our nurse made a home visit, we sent Amie to care for Beverly.  Amie found Beverly wandering the halls of her home, wringing her hands and unable to settle down.  Tearful, and shockingly thin, Amie walked with Beverly, picking up a little as they went. Gently talking with her, Amie coaxed Beverly to take Frankie outside for a little stroll, followed by a home cooked meal.  Beverly ate a little bit, and Amie was able to get her settled down for a nap.  When she woke, Amie told Beverly that she would see her tomorrow.

 

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE” Beverly moaned, as she dissolved into sobs. “I just can’t stand another night alone!” 

 

Amie’s heart broke. I will not leave you alone, Miss Beverly. Let me call your daughter.”

 

Debbie agreed that Amie should stay the night with her mom, and called us to arrange the change. Amie cancelled her plans for the weekend, so she could stay with Beverly until her Monday morning doctor’s appointment.  During that weekend, Beverly and Amie cleaned together, opening the windows to bring fresh air in Beverly’s home.

 

With more and more Seniors electing to stay at home, a big concern for gerontologists is depression triggered by loneliness and isolation.

Depression in older folks is often under diagnosed as families often think  depression symptoms are a part of getting older.  The truth is that the majority of Seniors who are active in the community are not depressed. But Seniors who are struggling with major life changes: sickness, loss of a loved one, or a move to a new location may find themselves needing a little help.  Beverly was one of those people.

 

With her doctor’s help, Beverly and Debbie came up with a treatment plan to get Beverly going again. Amie drove Beverly to the bereavement group at her church, and they worked side by side volunteering at the library like Beverly and Ed used to do.  As she felt better and better, Amie showed Beverly how to use the Senior Bus to get around so she could get to the library and church on her own. She even introduced Beverly to the local Senior Center and she started playing Bridge again. 

 

For a month or so, Amie cooked dinner and spent each night at Beverly’s house. But soon, Beverly began to feel more comfortable home alone, and Amie only needed to come a few times a week to check in.  With Amie’s patient, compassionate care, Beverly grew stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

At AKOTA Home Care our goal is to love and serve our clients as Jesus taught us.  One of the pillars of our company is Mark 10:45:

 

For the Son of Man did not come to be served

but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

 

We educate our Care Team to love and serve all who call us for help and we empower them with the tools to bring the fullness of life to our clients. 

 

Where would any of us be without a heart geared toward service?

 

www.akotahc.com

September Enthusiasm

“MOM!!!!!!” Joey shouted. “Mom MoM MOM MOM!!!  Guess WHAT!!”

 

“Oh my goodness, Joey, what is it! You are so excited!”

 

OH, MOM! I was chosen for safety patrol! I get to be in charge of ALL the kids on the bus. AND I get to go to safety camp!”

 

“Hey GRANDPA!!!” Joey shouted as he ran into the den.

 

“GUESS WHAT!!”

 

“I just heard, Joey!” Laughed Grandpa.

 

“Congratulations! You will be a great safety patrol, your school is lucky to have you! When I was in school, the big fun was to be chosen to clap the chalkboard erasers outside! We would get out of class a few minutes early, go outside and bang the erasers together creating a big cloud of chalk. Sometimes we would chase each other around the school yard and try to get the chalk dust on each other’s backs!” Grandpa wistfully chuckled. “So much fun back then.” Grandpa hugged Joey and said, “I’m so glad I live here so I can enjoy all these new experiences with you!”

 

 

Don’t you just love the enthusiasm of September?  January may have New Year’s Day, but September has a special place in all our hearts. Remember your excitement when you found out your best friend was in your homeroom class? Or that Mom bought a new box of crayons for  your backpack? I remember the silly dilemma over a Partridge Family lunch box?  Maybe the cool kids would have a Brady Bunch lunch box…Which to choose? 

 

Ah, the wonders of September, when the temperatures cool (well, maybe not this year) and new school day routines are established. Right now, my Facebook page is full of shiny eyed kids holding up signs: “Look who’s in 3rd Grade!” or “I started Kindergarten Today!”

 

Enthusiasm

 

Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success.

When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole

soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality Be active, be

energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

                                                ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Indeed, to do anything well, we must show a committed vitality for our pursuit.  At AKOTA our hiring process is designed to find enthusiastic caregivers.  We want caregivers who can think with joyful creativity for their work.  We hire caregivers who are prompt, courteous, and engaging.  Professional caregiving is not a job, it is a vocation: the ability to convey joy, empathy, and compassion should be equal to professional competence.

 

In a way, this is just like our faith. When I was at seminary, I said to my professor, “I know Christians are called to perform good works. But I know many non Christians who also do good works. What is the difference?” My wise professor said, “Anyone can do good. But those who are not motivated by a higher power will soon tire of their good work, and burn out. Active faith helps you engage the world, even in the toughest circumstances, and maintain your enthusiasm far longer than those without faith.” 

 

The Apostle Paul said something similar a few millennia ago:

 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,

if someone says he has faith but does not have works?

Can that faith save him?

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear

and has no food for the day,

and one of you says to them,

"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, "

but you do not give them the necessities of the body,

what good is it?

So also faith of itself,

if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,

"You have faith and I have works."

Demonstrate your faith to me without works,

and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

(2 JAS 2:14-18)

 

Faith provides the enthusiasm for works. Let us all cheer for the caregivers who combine their faith and works to provide the best possible care for their clients.

 

To learn more, contact us at www.akotahc.com

 

 

College Bound

Sophie brushed a loose bit of hair aside, as she called upstairs, “Max, do you have your dorm supply list?”  Max reluctantly came downstairs with a pleading look on his face, “Do we have to do this today? Josh and the guys are getting together for our last night together at the pool!”

 

Sophie exhaled slowly. “Max, we have to do this sooner, rather than later, or the stores will run out and we will be left scrambling. I know you don’t like shopping, but don’t you want a say in what your dorm room looks like?” “Yeah, Mom” Max smirked, “you probably will buy me a My Little Pony comforter.” They both laughed, as they got in the car and drove to Bed, Bath and Beyond to join the others preparing for college dorm life.

 

Getting ready for life changes like college means more than putting away the swim suits and beach towels. It means preparation for new freedoms, new responsibilities, and…well…new everything.  As exciting as it is, it can also be overwhelming as both parents, and children prepare for a new stage of life.

 

Later that night, as Sophie re-read the Preparing for College brochure, she reminisced about their visit home this summer.  Her mom, Anne, was so excited for their visit, and stocked the fridge with all of Max’s guilty pleasures. They went to the lake, and enjoyed mother/daughter morning walks in the pine scented trails behind her childhood home.  She remembered her mother commenting on how good she felt, and how blessed she was to still be able to hike the mountains at her age.

 

“Remember Betty?” Anne asked. “She fell last month while hiking this same trail. Joe and Emma aren’t so sure she can live on her own anymore and are looking at nursing homes.” Her emphasis on the term nursing home dripped with disdain.   “I hate to think of Betty not living next door to me, and it scares me even more to think that she, or I would have to go to a place like that!”

 

“Mom, I am so sorry about Betty, but maybe this is an opportunity for us to research what choices are available before something like that happens to you! I hear there are all kinds of options now, and they’re not all that bad! Maybe if we spend a little time researching, we can also help Betty and her family make the best decision for her as well.  Perhaps, with some extra help at home she can come back to the neighborhood, but we’ll never know until we do some digging!”

 

“That’s a grand idea, Soph! When did you get to be so wise?”

 

“Well mom,” smiled Sophie, as she nudged her mom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

 

 

 

 

Preparation

 

We don’t always get the option to prepare for the future. Life isn’t always as clear cut as Max’s entry into University: preschool, elementary school, middle school and high school is a fairly predictable journey in their neighborhood.  But preparing to age, and preparing to care for our parents often comes unexpectedly leaving us scrambling for options that are available, but not always our first choice. Proverbs 9 echoes Sophie’s wise admonishment of Max, and encouragement of Anne:

 

                        “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns;

                        she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread

                        her table…Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the

                        way of understanding.” (Pr 9-1-2, 6)

 

During their stay at the lake, Sophie did some Internet sleuthing to find solutions her mother might find appealing.  There was a new Assisted Living facility being built near their home. “Hey Mom” Sophie called, “What about this place?”

 

“Why I could never leave this neighborhood, all my friends live here, and church is right down the street!  By the way…have you seen the price tag on that place?”  Sophie shook her head. “Well, Mom…doesn’t cost anything to check it out. But, if you want to stay near the lake, what about having a caregiver come in to check in from time to time?”

 

“Well, I’m not ready for that either, but that appeals to me more.”

 

“Let me look around a bit, and see if I can find a company we can call when the time is right.”

 

“And make sure you call Betty’s family and tell them too!” Anne said.

 

Preparing to Care

 

Not only did Sophie look at options for her Mom, she looked up ideas to help her care for her mom at this new stage of life. Just as colleges send out, Preparing for Dorm Life booklets, AARP has published a wonderful resource, Prepare to Care. If you would like a copy, contact us through our website:

 

www.akotahc.com

 

 

Whether you are preparing for college, preparing for Senior living options, or preparing for both at the same time (Bless you!) please know that AKOTA is happy to share the wisdom of our 25 years caring for Seniors in their homes. We look forward to talking to you sooner….before you need us later.

You are Invited...

You are Invited...

 

You Are Invited…

 

When Grace opened her front door she was greeted with a steamy wave of heat. “Oh Boy”, she thought, “I’ll be damp as my dish towel by the time I get to that mailbox!” As she braved the heat, Grace collected the usual barrage of circulars, realtor postcards, and insurance statements.  One calligraphic envelope fell to her feet:

Walking by Faith

I met Grace at the hospital on a beautiful spring day. She was looking out the window of her Oncology unit room; wisps of hair peaking out of a colorful paisley scarf. Her eyes were brightly frosted with tears as she looked out over the roses and wisteria blooming from the garden below.  A nurse was putting on a new wristband to go with Grace’s hospital ID bracelet.

 

“What’s with the new jewelry?” I asked.

        

“Oh”, she said quietly, “that is my Do Not Resuscitate order. I have decided to stop chemo, and let nature take its course.”

        

I paused and said, “Wow. That took a lot of courage.”

 

Grace replied, “I read once that courage is about doing what is right, even if you are afraid to do it. It is the courage to act, rather than react.  Cancer and chemo have been a long, hard road, and the treatment for me will never be curative.  Today,  I decided to live the rest of my life with the courage to let go, and say goodbye.”

 

I had brought her the first gardenia bloom from the garden.  She held it to her nose, inhaling deeply. “My favorite scent,” she sighed. “You know, it is nearly impossible to replicate the scent of a gardenia? Only the Creator knows the formula.”

 

Courage

 

We often think of courage as physical courage: the courage to climb the tallest mountain, or enter a burning building. While these indeed take strength in the face of fear, courage more commonly is strength in the face of pain or grief.

Sometimes it is the courage to soldier on, sometimes it is the courage to call it quits, but always it takes courage to enter into the struggle of what to do next when someone you love is dying.

 

Courage is strength in the face of struggle, but it is also the humility to allow tears to fall, the vulnerability to let others know about painful life decisions, and to accept help from those most available to provide it.

 

In 2 Corinthians St. Paul writes that we are all called to be courageous in the face of uncertainty, and walk by faith, not by sight (2Cor5:7).  We know that if we follow our own ego — that part of us that says we are always right and know best — we block out the helpful support that the Spirit sends our way.

 

As difficult as it was for Grace and her health care team, she was preparing to go home to hospice care, and eventual death. Her faith enabled her to be courageous enough to leave the body and go home to the Lordas we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. (2Cor 5:8-9)

 

Whether called to persevere in illness, or called to let treatment go, we have the humble courage to believe that Christ is with us in the midst of these difficult struggles.

 

Everyday, AKOTA works with people who have the courage to make hard choices, and the humility to accept help in the midst of their suffering. The nature of our work means that we often augment the services of hospice, providing compassionate, experienced caregivers who provide extra support to our clients and their families. Our caregivers are intuitively humble and compassionate, encouraging our client’s in their struggles, and using their creative talents, to build trust with the families they serve.

 

If you are currently a family caregiver, humble courage gives you the strength to ask for help.  In our society, this is one of the most difficult things to do. Asking for help takes courage…and just a little bit of walking by faith, not sight.

 

www.akotahc.com

Trusting Summer

When our kids were young, they spent each summer day outside. Our neighborhood was full of kids, and the nearby community swimming pool was the epicenter of summer activities. As soon as Memorial Day hit, the kids rode their bikes down to the pool to swim, dive, and trade Pokemon cards. The older kids would order pizza, and the entire summer was overseen by lifeguards just a little bit older than the kids themselves. This was idyllic childhood freedom. How in the world did we allow it?

 

Just one word: Trust.

 

If you look it up, Trust is confident expectation.

 

We had confidence the neighborhood to keep our kids safe. We had an expectation that the drivers to venture out slowly. And we had a confident expectation that the teenage lifeguards would watch our precious children.

 

Trust is a willingness to take risks. We parents were willing to risk that the neighborhood parents would watch out for all the kids. That the cars would drive safely. The lifeguards would be more interested in our children’s safety than they were in the cute guy/girl in the chaise longue by the deep end. But why were we willing to be vulnerable to these risks? James Davis, a professor of strategic management at Utah State University says:

 

Trust relies on three qualities:

 

         1. Ability: Does this person have the skills to perform as we expect them to perform? Did the lifeguards go through a training program? Do they look the part (red bathing suit, floatation device on their laps, an intense stare at little kids in the water?)

 

         2.Benevolence: Do they care about my kids? Our life guards came from the very neighborhood they served. We knew these kids growing up, and we knew their parents. We knew they loved our kids, because our neighborhood had a history of mutual benevolence.

 

         3. Integrity: Having a set of values that you live by and others agree with. Again, because we knew our lifeguards, and knew their families, we could trust their integrity. We knew their values, we saw them live their values, and so we could trust them.*

 

While the story of Pentecost does not involve a summer swimming pool, it is a story of trust coming into fulfillment. Imagine the disciples locked behind closed doors, too frightened to venture out for fear of reprisal.  Jesus appears to them, and appeals to their sense of trust: Did the Risen Christ have the abilities He promised? His resurrection, and post resurrection appearances assured them. Did He show benevolence? His ‘Peace be with You’ assures them again.  Does He have integrity? Well, his teachings speak for themselves. But with all of this, are the disciples really ready to risk exposure to a dark and deadly world?

 

Not until Jesus shares His Spirit with them.

 

It is the Spirit of Christ that binds the disciples into a courageous community. It is the Spirit that encourages them to go beyond what they know and venture into the great unknown trusting that what they say, and who they represent is true.

 

Trust demands risk, just as faith demands risk.

 

So often we see people who need help, who are hunkering down in their small rooms, or circling the wagons only trusting family and close friends with the difficulties of illness, injury and disability.  Just like the disciples, it is sometimes excruciating to open the doors and allow our community of caregivers to help.  How can you trust a complete unknown with the care of your parent, or your beloved spouse?

 

At AKOTA, we follow Christ’s answer at Pentecost: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. When we arrive, I have faith that you will find we have the ability, the benevolence and the integrity you can trust.

 

The disciples opened the door to risk, and were rewarded with the Spirit.

What do you risk when you open your door to a caregiver for your loved one?

 

 

*This blog relies heavily on the work of Prof. James Davis of Utah State University. To check out Prof. Davis’ TEDtalk go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9FBK4eprmA

I Told You Not to Tell Me That!

If you are about my age, you may remember the CBS TV Show “Get Smart”.  The series ran in the late 60s and combined the spy genre themes of James Bond with the comedic brilliance of Mel Brooks.

 

When Secret Agent Maxwell Smart didn’t want to hear about something the conversation went something like this:

 

Maxwell Smart: “Don’t tell me that bucket of water is about to fall on my head…”

Secret Agent 99: “Max…(SPLASH!!)”

Maxwell Smart: “I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT!”

 

Max didn't want to hear about a mistake or terrible thing that happened. I don’t know about you, but I have wanted to use this refrain over and over again this month:

 

“Did I tell you that Sam had a stroke?”

“Did I tell you that Dana fell and hit her head?”

“…..Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease”

“….has stage 4 cancer…”

 

All I want to do is shout,  “I TOLD YOU NOT TO TELL ME THAT!” 

 

It isn’t by accident that Maxwell Smart works for an agency called CONTROL.  We like to feel we are in control of our lives and that bad things will never happen to good people. We like to believe that a stroke, a fall, or a disease will not interfere with life as we have planned it. But just like Get Smart, the daily episodes of our lives are exposed to our evil nemesis CHAOS. And when CHAOS hits, so does a varying set of emotions:

 

Shock.

Anger.

Fear.

Regret.

Sadness.

Dread.

 

And just like in Get Smart, a few doses of:

 

Humor.

Trust.

Gratitude.

Hope, and a new sense of resilience.

 

 

Today’s Acts of the Apostles reading (Acts 9: 26-31) could read like an episode of Get Smart.  Saul, who will soon be known as Paul, enters Jerusalem and is met with fear from the disciples. Jesus appeared to this guy in Damascus? What a shock!  Who is this guy? I can only imagine, in their misunderstanding, that there was a bit of man-handling as Barnabas brought him to the Apostles secret hiding place.  Was he a spy for the Romans or the High Priests, or did Jesus true appear to Saul?  As they begin to trust his story, there must have been a bit of regret, a few wise-cracks, and joyful gratitude in recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in the moment.

 

When trouble strikes, it shakes our sense of control. Part of the comic genius of Get Smart was that even though Max works for CONTROL, he often brings CHAOS with him. What we often don’t realize is that control has to be disturbed by chaos in order for the episodes of our lives to take on deeper meanings. All major life events: births of babies, weddings and breakups, new jobs and retirement, sickness, and death bring chaos into our sense of control.  Saul brought chaos, fear and dread when he brought new revelation to the Apostles. Through open listening, the chaos was dispelled by trust, and I’m sure a dose of humor and gratitude.

 

Just like Maxwell Smart, are you working for CONTROL? And in your efforts, are you finding brokenness and opportunity in CHAOS?  If you are working to make meaning out of the chaos, or just need a little help finding control, give us a call. We are here to help.

 

www.akotahc.com

It Takes A Village

“I must have lifted too much weight at the gym!” Bob complained to my mom. Bob was my mother’s 84-year-old husband. Every morning at 5:30am he would go to the gym, joke around with the guys, and lift weights. A bout with metastatic colon cancer had zapped a lot of his energy, but he still made it to the gym every day and walked the foothills of Southern California at least once a day.  But the pain in his shoulder persisted, and so he went to his doctor.  Turns out, the pain in his shoulder was not a pulled muscle, but untreatable bone cancer.

The two months between Bob’s diagnosis and death were filled with visits and ministrations from a diverse community of family and friends.  With both a degree in nursing and theology, I came from Virginia to California to help Mom care for Bob. My brother Paul, a financial planner from Connecticut called me before I left, “Should I go out too” he asked? “No”, I said, “I am better at the medical stuff and you are better at the financial stuff. Wait a bit, and then come help mom sort that out. Besides, you make mom laugh, and she will need that!” Part of caring for a loved one is knowing who wants to help, and what talents they bring to the table.  To learn more about how to organize your family and friends to help, see the Atlas of Caregiving website: https://atlasofcaregiving.com/put-your-family-caregiving-on-the-map/

Collaborative Care

March Slingshot Photo.jpg

A little more than a month after Bob’s diagnosis, Mom’s oldest sister died. “How am I going to make it to her funeral with Bob so sick?” Mom fretted. This was all just too much. Bob insisted that she go, but how could she leave him overnight and go on a 7-hour drive away?  Although Bob’s son promised to care for him, Mom knew he would need more support. She called a local California home care company and hired a caregiver to help while she was away.  Bob’s son was also supported by Craig, a friend of Bob’s from the gym. While Mom was gone, Craig took Bob for a ride in his slingshot motorcycle (see the picture!) Bob had a great time getting out in the fresh air even though it took a lot of effort to get him in and out of that motorcycle!

 What our family was doing is an example of Collaborative Care. We know that most families want to care for their loved one themselves. And we know that most people want to be cared for in their own home. Yet, providing the 24/7 care that your loved one needs can tax even the most dedicated families. AKOTA can help you fill in the blanks, either giving you a much-needed break a few hours a week or providing round the clock care should you need to leave town, as Mom did.

It’s About Showing Up

This blog makes it sound like Bob’s care was idyllic, but truth be told, some days were bleak and Mom and I felt lonely and isolated.  In today’s Gospel story (John 11:1-45), Mary and Martha feel frustrated and disappointed when it seems Jesus’ support was lacking.  Where was their friend, the one with the special grace to heal, when their brother was so sick?   If you are a caregiver, I am sure you can relate to the times you have called the doctor and had to endlessly wait for the office to respond.  So often caregivers ask for help, and that help either never shows, or dries up as caregiving becomes more and more intense. 

Can you imagine the frustration Mary, Martha and the entire village feels when Jesus shows up too late to save Lazarus? Indeed, the villagers say, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”  We know that, Jesus wept, but wasn’t that a little too late?  Where was he when those closest to him were in need? So many families experience this frustration of support coming too little and too late. Of course, we know the end of the Gospel story: Jesus’ last recorded miracle was raising Lazarus from the dead.  The story teaches us that Jesus’ time is not necessarily our time, and while we may feel abandoned, this does not mean we actually are. Mary and Martha were forthright in their disappointment, and this honesty is a sign of a healthy relationship with Christ. And just as it is never too late to reach out to Jesus in our pain and suffering, it is never too late to reach out to our loved ones as well. Sometimes that reaching out is the first step to forgiveness and reconciliation. It wasn’t too late for Jesus to show up, and it’s not too late for you!

We are Here to Help

Bob and Mom experienced the blessing of collaborative care: they had a wonderful neighborhood who supported them in their suffering, family who rallied around them, a church community to pray with them, and professional Home Care services to fill in the blanks. All this compassion could not prevent Bob from dying, but support from a community of professionals and friends made the journey one of grace.

If you are caregiving, you need not feel alone and isolated.  You need the kind of support Mom and Bob found. AKOTA Home Care is here to be a vibrant, compassionate member of your personal care team. Give us a call if you just need a break, or require consistent, quality care for your loved one.