The Introvert in Assisted Living

img_1894One of the things that stood out to me in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain was just how much society is set up for the extrovert, from schools to businesses. I don’t know if she mentioned assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but I found that they, too, were developed primarily with extroverts in mind.

Most activities at the facilities my mother-in-law has been in involved  trying to get everyone together in the common room for some event or performer. We’d get a calendar of events every month, filled with exercise classes, bingo, craft times, magicians, movie nights, and various groups coming to sing. I’m sure many of the residents loved a lot of those opportunities.

My mother-in-law was always content with a small circle of friends. She never drove. Her husband got groceries and ran most errands. She enjoyed going to church and helping with Awanas there until she couldn’t hear well enough to continue. A big portion of her dislike of getting together in large groups had to do with her hearing. She has worn hearing aids in all the nearly 40 years I have known her, and she told me once that in crowds, the aids magnified everything, so it was not only hard to pick out the voice of the person you were talking to, but it was unnerving that everything was so loud (they may have improved on that aspect now – I’m not sure). But even besides the hearing issues, she preferred home to just about anywhere else. They loved to go visit family or a handful of close friends, or go and get wood in the hills for their wood stove. She didn’t have many hobbies besides reading, her favorite activity when her work was done. She and her husband loved to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball games together and tinker in their garden or around the house.

One of our reasons (not the main one) for having her in assisted living rather than in our home was so that her world wouldn’t be reduced to just us. But when any of the aides asked if she’d like to come for whatever was going on down in the common room, she’d politely say no, she’d like to just stay in her room and read her book. Occasionally they could get her to if they didn’t ask, “Would you like to…” but rather just said, “It’s time for…” If they started helping her out the door for something that she seemed to be expected to do, she wouldn’t protest, though she didn’t like it (you do have to be careful of that kind of thing, though, so that you’re not running roughshod over their wishes). But once when I walked in and she was out with the others listening to a church group, she couldn’t understand what they said when they were talking, but she could get enough of the melody of old familiar hymns that she could sing along.

Once when I was trying to encourage her to participate more and telling her it would be good to get out of her room sometimes, she said, ” I DO get out of my room three times a day for meals!” Residents had to go to the common room for meals and sit at a table with two or three others (unless they were sick, and then a tray was taken to their room). And I thought, that’s true, and that’s quite a lot of social interaction compared to her life before assisted living. So I didn’t urge her that way any more.

She enjoyed coming with us to my son’s basketball games and to our home and church. We would take her out to eat with us sometimes, and I could tell she was tense and not entirely comfortable, but as long as we ordered for her (so she wouldn’t have to) and stayed close, she was fine.

Now, of course, with her decline over the years, her lack of mobility and speaking, about the only place she goes is outside occasionally in her wheelchair.

I know it was more cost effective and needed fewer workers to do things as a group rather than have one-on-one activities. There were just a few individual activities they did that worked well. A couple of the places would bring in therapy dogs and take them to individual rooms for residents to pet and interact with for a short time. She always had pets until assisted living, so I think she enjoyed that. One activity director would come to her room and paint her fingernails. I don’t think she ever painted her fingernails in her life before that, so I never knew quite what she thought about that one. But at least it was one-on-one.

My husband and I often thought that someone could make a business out of being a personal trainer in those kinds of facilities. My mother-in-law was under a physical therapist’s care at different times, but eventually their time with a patient comes to an end, and they leave them with a list of exercises. My mother-in-law never did the exercises on her own and didn’t want to go down to the group exercise classes, but she would work with the physical therapist (as she declined, she needed my husband to be there for the first few sessions so they could learn to communicate with each other. He was from Croatia, and she couldn’t understand him, so he thought she was just being uncooperative, and she didn’t really care if he came back or not. :-/ But after just a few visits with my husband there to interpret for her and urge her on, and showing the therapist how to communicate with her, they got along quite well.) We didn’t want our own visits with her to be all about exercising, so it would have been nice if there was someone on staff, or even someone who worked with different facilities, to come in and help people with their exercises.

One lady who used to visit my mother-in-law used to read and discuss with her parts of the Reader’s Digest, her favorite magazine. Nowadays, visitors often read a part of the Bible to her, valuable since she can’t read for herself any more (it’s important to remember if you are reading to someone with hearing problems that you stand or sit where they can see you clearly and speak loudly). Other one-on-one activities that we’ve done and others could do are taking her outside (one facility had a lovely screened in porch) for a change of venue, looking through pictures or photo albums with her (people love to talk about their families), or show her things on the computer. Sometimes when we had her over for a meal, my husband would show her some of the family members’ Facebook pages, or use Google Earth to see some of the places where they used to live. We talked some about her life before I knew her (I discovered she had been the editor of her high school newspaper!), but I wish I had done that more and then written it down. I also wish I had come up with some bit of interesting news or information to share with her. Often our conversations would start out with, “Well, what’s new?” And I’d reply, “Well, not much.” When you visit someone almost every day there is really not much new every visit. I did share family and church news and sometimes current events, but I wish on those days when I didn’t have anything new to share that I had taken the time to look up or come up with something she’d find interesting. I also wish I had put some of her old photos in a scrapbook with her, not just for the activity, but to hear more about the people in them.

Although my mother-in-law would not have had the dexterity or interest in these, some might enjoy games or puzzles (although she did enjoy Scrabble sometimes at our home. We had to take it very slowly and she’d argue with us about words like “qi” and “xi.” 🙂 ). Some might even enjoy some of the group activities if they have a companion they know to go with them, at least the first few times.

The biggest help, though, both in any facility or in our home now, is just visiting with her personally. At different times over the years different individuals from our church would take it upon themselves to just go see her. Sometimes different groups within the church or community would make something for residents and bring it to their rooms, and that was nice, but really, the main help was just a short time of personal conversation and interaction.

When I was in college, one of the ministry groups I participated in for a couple of years was a “foster grandparent” program. There were other groups from college who would do Sunday morning and week night services at a nursing home, but our group would ask for names of residents who didn’t get as many visitors, and we would each choose two and then spend Friday nights visiting those two, just to talk and get to know them. I still have fond memories of “my ladies.”

Of course, staff members do not have time to do all of these things, and some are best done by family. But for those like the activities director who only painted fingernails, ministry groups, and individual visitors, these are a few ideas of things to do with one older person rather than a group activity.

Social interaction is important to every person, but introverts prize it on a smaller and more infrequent scale, with one or two people and quieter activities. That may be a little more time- and labor-intensive than group activities, but it can be highly valuable for both sides.

For more in the Adventure in Eldercare series, click the graphic below.

Eldercare

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays)

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Laudable Linkage

Before I get to another installment of my bimonthly roundup of recent noteworthy reads on the Web, I wanted to mention Write31Days. The idea is to choose a topic that you can blog about for the 31 days of October. I’ve participated the last few years with 31 Days of Missionary Stories, 31 Days of Inspirational Biographies, and 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot. I’m still undecided about this year – and October 1 is only a week away! It is a lot of work, and I’m a little afraid of over-burdening readers with so many posts. But I enjoyed and benefited from it before and received positive feedback. So I am still praying about it. One topic foremost in my mind was one I was actually thinking about compiling into a book, and I thought doing it for Write31Days might be a good precursor for that. Then I thought – why would anyone buy a book if the info. is here already. 🙂 So I am still thinking and praying. At any rate, I wanted to let you all know about it in case you might want to participate as well. This year’s Write31Days page gives you the guidelines, a list of categories, links back to previous topics, etc.

On to this week’s links:

Is the Bible Foundation to Christianity? (Short answer: Yes! But here are good reasons why.)

Understanding your Bible—The Big Picture View.

What God Does With Your Sin.

Find a Friend to Wound You.

The Beginner’s Guide to Conflict Resolution.

A Secret to Parenting that No One Tells You: The Strength is in the Struggle.

5 Practical Guidelines for Reading the Old Testament Laws. This is probably the hardest section of the Bible to read – maybe after the genealogies – but these help put them in perspective.

Some Things That Have Helped Me in My Struggle With Anxiety.

Feed My Sheep. I wish I had thought more like this when my mother-in-law was in assisted living and a nursing home.

Christians, Cribs, and Co-Sleeping. I’m linking to this not for the discussion about where babies should sleep, but for how she applies truths here to others areas of parenting and faith and practice. There are fundamentals and then there are secondary issues, and on the latter we need to give each other grace to be different.

Beautiful Books and A Beautiful Book List.

And a couple of videos to give you a smile: an adorable three year old and her dad singing “At Last I See the Light” from Tangled.

And this:

Happy Saturday!

Bible Verses for Caregivers

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One of the first things I learned about caring for my mother-in-law was that I could not do it in my own strength. There are some Bible verses that I go to again and again. I thought I’d jot them down here both for my own remembrance and also for other caregivers. Of course, none of the lists is exhaustive, and I will probably add to them as I discover more.

The need to care for aging parents:

  • Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  Exodus 20:12
  • And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:9-13, ESV
  • But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8, ESV
  • If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 1 Timothy 5:16
  • Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12
  • As I have said before, this doesn’t mean that every Christian must care for elderly loved ones in their own homes, but they must see that they are well cared for.

The need to care for widows:

  • Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

Serving:

  • Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded…If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. John 13:3-5, 14-15
  • Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28
  • For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:35-36, 40
  • Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26b-28
  • Now we exhort you, brethren…comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all. I Thessalonians 5:14
  • Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew. 10:42
  • To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews. 13:16
  • God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews. 6:10
  • With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. Ephesians 6:7
  • Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. I Timothy 5:10
  • Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Love:

  • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  John 13:34
  • This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13
  • And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:5
  • For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
  • And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. 2 Corinthians 12:15
  • With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
  • In speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:12, NASB
  • And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. Ephesians 5:2
  • May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
     2 Thessalonians 3:5, ESV
  • May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12
  • Ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.  1 Thessalonians 4:9
  • Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. 1 Peter 1:22
  • Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous. 1 Peter 3:8
  • Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8
  • If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, ESV
  • Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:7-12
  • And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 1 John 4:16

Encouragement:

  • Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 15:58
  • We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Romans 5:3b-5
  • And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9
  • God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews. 6:10

Source of Strength:

  • He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 41:29-31
  • Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10
  • As thy days, so shall thy strength be. Deuteronomy 33:25
  • The joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b
  • But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. Psalm 28:7
  • I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13
  • Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. John 15:4-5
  • He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
  • Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not. 2 Corinthians 4:1
  • And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
  • But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19
  • Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness. Colossians 1:11
  • But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
  • And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I probably should have a section about selfishness, because that is what I wrestle with the most. But a lot of verses under Service and Love deal with that.

Linda has a different list here. Our lists overlap a bit, but her situation is different in that her mother has Alzheimer’s and can be verbally abusive sometimes, and some of her verses deal with handling that.

I hope these are as helpful to you as they are to me. Do you have particular verses that help you in loving and ministering to others?

For more about caregiving, see:

Eldercare

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Woman to Woman, Testimony Tuesdays, Tell His Story, Works For Me Wednesday, Thought-provoking Thursday)

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Laudable Linkage

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to share interesting links found in my reading. Probably everyone was too busy to read just as I was too busy to gather them. 🙂 Now that we’re back in a regular routine, here is some good reading for your perusal if you have time:

This time of year, there’s a lot written about spending time in the Bible – starting or renewing the habit. These are all good:

Strategizing “Time in the Word” for a New Year. Jen describes the differences between reading plans, Bible studies, and topical studies and when you might want to choose one over the other.

Plan to Abide in God’s Word.

Why to Study the Bible.

7 Ways to Approach Your Bible in 2016.

Ten Check-up Questions For the New Year.

Serpents, Seeds, and a Savior. Rich thoughts from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth on Genesis 2-3 from the perspective of a newlywed.

Gluttony: Gospel Reflections for Foodies and Comfort Eaters. Very helpful way of looking at it.

Caring For Aging Parents.

Why Women Should Study Church History.

The Middle Years: There’s Good News, Too!

5 Ways You Are Ruining Your Child’s Life.

How to Make Reading Resolutions.

A couple about writing:

11 Ways to Write Better.

How to Outline a Novel (Even If You’re Not an Outliner)

Finally, for a smile or two -my son showed me this first video of a raccoon trying to wash cotton candy. It took him a few tries to figure it out. 🙂

http://imgur.com/zH0Tvcn

And last of all, Susanne posted this yesterday:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Caregivers’ Devotions To Go

caregivers devotionsI got Caregiver Devotions To Go by Gigi Devine Murfitt from a Kindle sale a few years ago, and it has been sadly languishing on my Kindle app since then. I just recently rediscovered it and thought it was the perfect time to read it.

Gigi writes from the perspective of a daughter who helped her “widowed and disabled mother as she cared for her ten children” and then later cared for her mom when she was older, and then as a mother of a son with special needs. In some cases her definition of a caregiver broadens to include teachers, firefighters, etc. She shares here 30+ short (a little over 2 pages each on my device) devotional thoughts on various aspects of caregiving. Each one includes a Scripture verse, several paragraphs, a prayer, and activity ideas.

The devotionals cover a variety of topics, from acceptance to finding strength to showing love to our need and the provision for forgiveness when we fail. One of my favorites was when a friend wrote a letter to Gigi’s son after he was born with arms only 3 inches long, saying that he was as fearfully and wonderfully made as anyone else and that she was looking forward to see how God worked in and through him. Another was when her sister, after finding her mother in “a five pound, urine soaked diaper” at her nursing home more than once, even after speaking to the nurses about it, asked if she could visit with the staff. She thought she was just going to have a meeting with the nurses and aides who cared for her mom specifically, but she found when she arrived that she was the guest speaker for a staff meeting of about 60 people. She talked about what residents gave up to live in the nursing home – homes, pets, most possessions, autonomy, etc., and emphasized their need for compassion, pointing out that “for many of them, the caregivers were the only contact they had on a daily basis. A touch, a smile, a gentle response, an ‘I care about you’ attitude could make a bleak day brighter.” She asked them to treat the residents as they would want their own family members taken care of. When my mother-in-law was in various facilities, I often wished I could address her caregivers, but I never thought to ask. My husband did speak to the person in charge more than once, but I would have loved to gently urge everyone to remember that these are people they are dealing with, not just tasks, and to treat them as they themselves would want to be treated in the same situation. Now I find myself needing to be reminded of the same truths.

Though not every entry applied to my situation, and though I would differ with the author on a couple of issues, overall I benefited much from this book, and I think any caregiver would as well.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads online discovered in the last few weeks:

Voices That Haunt Us, ways to respond.

The Opposite of the Proverbs 31 Woman.

But Why Does She Get Babies?

Behold Your Mother. Quotes: “Care of parents, particularly in the latter years, is difficult, grueling, and offers little tangible reward. The elderly seem like speed bumps on the road to relevance. But if we really believe each human life was made in the image of God, if we really believe that every human has intrinsic worth, regardless of utility, we’d do better at embodying this ethic when it comes to equipping our people to care for their elderly parents.” “This is why care for the elderly is not simply “the right thing to do” but a vivid portrait of the gospel story. The Holy Spirit in us renews our self-centered motivations, reminding us that Christ cared for our spiritual disability while we were spiritually dead and “yet sinners.”

Ten Things To Do Differently *Before* You Lose Your Temper.

Bleep! Why Christians Shouldn’t Cuss.

5 Bad Substitutes For Discipline.

Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You to Chill Out.

Love Letters. HT to The Story Warren. Quote: “Today all around me I see a stark, utilitarian focus in writing in this age of technology: all must be said to purpose—briefly and efficiently; effortless interaction seems the primary goal as though thoughts are like footballs that simply need punting. Writing is regarded as a chore. Often, so is reading. Extra words, like Mozart’s famous “too many notes,” are regarded as distractions, time-consuming, even burdens on the reader. “Why does Melville ply us with his dense prose so packed with allusions? That is so boring,” I hear my students complain. “Why does Tolstoy carry on endlessly chasing one description after the other? Why can’t he just cut to the chase?” “Why does Tolkien play at length with interwoven plot lines in his wordy fantasies? Why can’t he get to the point?” Why? For one thing, I think it is because ‘the point’ is not the only thing that matters.”

And finally, something fellow book lovers will empathize with:

Waiting for sequel

Happy Saturday! 🙂

Adventures in Elder Care: Decisions

Eldercare

A few years ago I happened upon a couple of blogs dealing with being a caregiver for elderly parents, and they were a help to me even before we got to that point. Those blogs are no longer active, and for some time now I have been thinking of writing some of the experiences and things we learned along the way with my mother-in-law in the hopes that they may be a help to someone else.  I had hoped to contain everything I wanted to say in one post, but it got to be way too long even before I finished, so I thought I’d better divide it up into sections.

Scripturally and morally we’re obligated to care for our parents when they can no longer care for themselves. In Matthew 15:3-6, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,’ he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (This is from the NASB, which I think gives the clearest meaning to this passage.) God did not honor their gifts supposedly to Him at the expense of neglect of their parents. In instructing the church concerning the care of elderly widows, Paul writes in I Timothy 5:4: “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God,” again from the NASB. Both it and the ESV say “children or grandchildren”; the KJV says “children or nephews.” But the idea is that our first responsibility and ministry is to our family. The “sandwich generation” is not a new phenomenon: people have always needed to care for their parents and grandparents in some way. Besides the “obligation” of such care, we should be glad to “return the favor” of caring for those who cared for us for so many years.

Most people really don’t think seriously about what to do with a parent who can no longer live alone until they get to that place. Admittedly you can’t really make a decision until the time comes, because it will depend on the family’s life circumstances and just what condition your loved one is in. But it is good to do some research and have some discussions before you have to make a decision in a crisis.

I would say to anyone nearing retirement age that, as much as we don’t want to think about losing our independence, we have to face the fact that that day will come to all of us. It’s good to look ahead, prepare advance directives, talk to your children about your wishes and financial state, etc. We could even start reducing the amount of “stuff” we have squirreled away in attics or sheds before we get to the place where we don’t have the energy to deal with it so our kids won’t be faced with that chore.

It often seems as if other people see that an older person is having trouble living alone before that person realizes it, but I would make every provision for them to remain in their own home as long as possible. Most people wouldn’t relish the change from private home to a dorm or hospital type setting where anyone can come into your room at any time unless they are extremely gregarious, and many would feel burdensome moving in with their adult children. Some folks I’ve known have hired some household help to come in a couple of times a week; I’ve known some who rented out a room to a college student whose responsibilities around the house offset their rent (some degree of housecleaning, taking care of the lawn, perhaps some cooking, etc.)

The main reason for moving a parent out of their own home would be safety issues: the danger of falling, of forgetting to take medicine or taking too much because they’ve forgotten they already took it, etc. Even still, necessary changes need to be discussed and urged upon the parent without running roughshod over their wishes and feelings. It’s usually better to plant the seed that we need to start thinking about the future long before the need actually arises.

In my mother-in-law’s case, she wasn’t taking any medicine that we needed to be concerned about. We were all concerned about her living alone after her husband passed away. She lived 2,000 miles away from us but had a daughter and grandkids nearby. When my husband visited a couple of times, he noticed the housekeeping was declining and the dog had the run of the place (probably for companionship. They’d always had dogs, but they had never been allowed on furniture or to have free reign in the house, but now every piece of furniture was covered in thick dog hair.) He flew up to ID to accompany her to our home in SC and back for a visit to our house since we didn’t think she could travel alone, and while there he took her on a tour of an assisted living facility “just to see what it’s like.” She said it was nice, but she wasn’t ready for anything like that yet. Just about the time we felt like we needed to gently insist that she needed to consider moving, her daughter became available to move in with her. That gave everyone a reprieve from having to make any changes for a time. I don’t believe her daughter was ready, mentally and emotionally, for her to move to a facility yet, either. They did well together for a time, but then my mother-in-law began having some falls, and one time could not get herself up until her daughter got home from work. Additionally, her daughter began having some back trouble and could no longer help her with things like getting out of the bathtub. They both finally came to the conclusion that the time had come for a major change.

The next step, of course, is trying to figure out what that change should be. My husband and I discussed the possibilities many times as did my husband and his oldest brother long before this day actually arrived.

There are several things to consider when deciding whether to move a parent into your home or an assisted living facility:

1. Housing situation. Not everyone has the space to include a new adult addition, or the house might not be conducive to someone with physical problems.

2. Availability of other family members. It’s easier to bring a parent into your home if you have some kind of support system than it is to do so alone.

3. Finances.

4. Mental ability. If the elderly parent has Alzheimer’s or mental confusion, someone would need to stay with them all the time, and even a family with a stay-at-home member might not be able to manage that between errands, school obligations if there are school-aged children in the house, etc. I know some handle this by hiring someone to stay with the elderly parent a certain amount of time each week.

5. Level of care needed. There might be some situations in which the older person needs physical or medical care that can’t be given at home.

6. Relationships. Some older people will always see their adult child as a child, and won’t follow instructions about medical care (e.g., medicines), food, etc., but they would take such instruction from medical personnel in an assisted living situation.

7. Personalities. We might be loathe to admit this and we might think that every family relationship should amicable, but in real life that is just not the case. Some relationships prosper with a little bit of space for each party.

8. Safety. Particularly Alzheimer’s or some forms of dementia in advanced stages may cause some patients to physically strike their caregivers when frustrated or angry even if the patient would never have done that in earlier years.

9. Socialization. Assisted living could provide the mental stimulation of interacting with others and participating in the activities there, and it might encourage folks to know there are others who are going through the same things she is.

10. Independence. If a person is not capable of being alone, mentally or physically, for short periods of time, it would be hard to bring them into the family home unless someone else in the family can be home all the time, or the elderly person is able physically to go with the family to their activities. It might seem odd to list this as a factor when a person going into assisted living seems to be giving up their independence. But in such a facility they actually do get to make some of their own decisions and schedules to a degree and have their own living space. Some would feel that if they lived with their children they would be an imposition (even if the family is glad to have them), and they are more comfortable being on their own as much as they can be.

In our case, the biggest factor was that our home was not conducive to my mother-in-law’s needs. We had a split level at the time, and she could not handle the stairs safely. The other major factor was that we still had kids at home, one of whom was not driving yet, so our lifestyle involved a lot of taking kids to school, practice, and activities as well as errand-running where we couldn’t leave Mom at home alone. A friend who takes care of her mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s takes her with along with her to her granddaughter’s outings and school activities, etc, and she does fine, but my husband’s mother wasn’t physically capable of that and probably would not have been interested in that, either. She was very much a homebody, and even when her own kids were home, she didn’t go to many of their activities. Socialization was a smaller factor: I almost hate to even use that word because I know it is leveled as an unfair charge against home-schoolers has been a lack of socialization, and most of them get plenty of social interaction and don’t really need to be put into a classroom of people the same age to get it. But we  knew if my mother-in-law lived with us, we would be her whole world — she wouldn’t feel the need to or have the desire to interact with others besides surface greetings at church. Too, some of my own physical issues made me unsure I could help with hers: in fact, when she visited, I inadvertently hurt her shoulder trying to help her out of the tub.

My husband had been researching the nearby assisted living facilities and found one with more of a homey rather than an institutional feel just a few minutes away from us. In the next post in this series (probably next week) I’ll discuss some of our experiences with assisted living and nursing homes.

Disclaimer: This series is not meant as professional or medical advice. It is merely based on personal experiences and offered as information and encouragement.