For us, it starts the night before. Gary must get shaved, the wheelchair has to be loaded into the car (by someone strong, since it's a heavy one), and I must think through the morning schedule. Getting Gary into the car can be challenging. (50% of the time he will not understand about stepping into the car and it can take 5-10 minutes getting him "folded in" to the passenger seat.) So, today our son-in-law, Ryan came to help get Gary into the car.
We have a 20 minute drive which Gary thoroughly enjoys and once at church, we are greeted at the car by helpers who help us by getting Gary out of the car, assembling the wheelchair and getting us settled inside.
A light but healthy breakfast is served and boy does it taste good, because I didn't have to fix it! It's one less thing to do during a busy morning. The coffee is SO GOOD! Some of the ladies and family members provide the breakfast. The centerpiece always has an encouraging verse or quote to remind all of us that we are in the good hands of God.
Once we've had some munchies we divide into our Loved Ones and Caregivers groups.
The Loved Ones Group roughly follows this schedule.
- 9:00am-9:30am > Breakfast & Fellowship
- 9:30am-10:00am > Movie (usually about God's creation)
- 10:00am-10:30am > Go for a walk around campus
- 10:30am-11:00am > A time of
worship led by different folks, either with piano, or guitar (They emphasize the older hymns since these are deeper in the long term memories.)
We have very loving helpers who watch over my husband and the other gentleman, during the meetings.
They often bring their kids along who love to help out by getting another
bagel or strawberries for someone. They are learning to serve others. Even though there are 15-20 caregivers/family who come there are only 2 loved ones who attend. We are hoping for more to join them.
Some Loved Ones sit in with the Caregiver group, so it's completely up to them, but for Gary, I didn't want the comments/conversation to be troubling to him, and he benefits greatly from a simpler program geared to his understanding and abilities.
Rick McLean, our pastor of special ministries, directs our Caregiver meeting. Recently, he has been teaching a series on Biblical JOY. What it is, what it isn't, what steals it, and how to maintain it in the midst of suffering. Today he talked about
Romans 15:13. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
What a comfort that God intends for ALL Joy and Peace to be ours if we believe Him!
Next, there is a time to meet any new people and hear their "story." Most of these folks are rather new to the dementia experience and it's impact on a family, and so they can be discouraged, frightened, and sad. Those of us who have been on the "road" for a while, have a chance to encourage them. There can be quite a bit of dialog back and forth as we try to give practical and Spiritual encouragement to them. Often there's phone numbers or emails exchanged for later.
The rest of us give updates on our loved ones, and share prayer requests. Again, we are given such good advice and courage to move ahead. It comes from the wisdom of experience, and the truth of God's word brought to bear on any situation. This morning someone shared how amazing that a nephew had moved to town and was helping her with her father. This was unexpected and is really helping the family dynamic. Another woman shared how her brother with Alz, is continuing to drive even without a license. Many were able to counsel her with both practical ideas, and the encouragement to keep a gentle spirit as she tries to help. I KNOW that God is listening to all of them as they pray for me and I am so happy to pray for them too. The meeting is finished up with prayer for the group by Pastor Rick. Occasionally we have had special events, such as a Hospice representative explaining Advanced Directives, or an artist, illustrating a Bible verse for our Loved Ones. We also send out a monthly newsletter with great Alzheimer's resources and testimonies.
Gary is getting to the point where it's hard to decide if I should keep bringing him. Once it becomes uncomfortable for him, or too much work for me, I will have a caregiver come to the house so I can keep going. For now, I'm so glad that he was pretty alert this morning, had a good breakfast, was able to watch the movie, go for a walk, and hear music which is telling of the greatness of his Savior. I'm so happy that I got to go too.
These dear friends, whom I am bonded to, in our mutual difficulties, understand in a special way.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in ALL our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
God comforts me. Through others. Through His word. Through providence. That gives me the ability to comfort others. Others in ANY affliction. You don't HAVE to have the SAME trial to encourage someone. We live in a fallen world that is careening out of control. There is sin, sickness and death everywhere. As hard as people try to escape discomfort, it's a reality. How kind of God to encourage me. Did you know that comfort means encourage (to give courage)? We don't rant and rave about our situation. We do cry sometimes as we share how hard things are, but in our little group, we are all about giving and receiving courage.