Dementia Chronicles (part 4)

Dementia–the gift that keeps on taking. Every time I think we’ve got a few things figured out, we find out there’s so much more that we don’t know about this nastiness. The fact that no one else knows either is no comfort at all! Some of the things you expect to lose. Some of the things…well, you just never see them coming. 

It was a great weekend. We took an extra day off to roam through the mountains on the way to see our loved one and other family members. We were excited to see her new placement in a fantastic memory care unit. Advised to come after lunch since that would allow our loved one to remain on schedule for most of the day, we showed up when and as instructed.

Routines are important. (for all of us!)

We arrived and were met with great joy, got an opportunity to see the new digs, and were then led to a private sitting room off the main unit. We had a wonderful visit! The conversation lagged a bit at times as we ran into memory blocks or losses, but we quickly diverted and changed subjects when needed. Finding new ways to share information is tricky these days, but we made it work. I took pictures and they turned out looking ready for framing. Everyone looked happy and healthy.

FACT: You can’t always see dementia…even when it feels like you really ought to be able to do so. That is a deceptive gift.

As we returned to the unit, our loved one was excited to see the new storyboard lovingly created by her daughter loves to scrapbook. It is gorgeous! Filled with family photos and facts from happier times, storyboards help identify each resident’s lodging place and gives others on the unit an opportunity to get to know people in ways they can no longer share for themselves. Our loved one stood there smiling, pleased, and said she remembered some of them. It was a gift for all of us as we took our leave for the day.

We returned in time for breakfast the next morning and found that we were surprise guests again…with no memories of the day before, but it was ok because we were able to have real conversations again. Moments of lucidity are a gift that none of us take lightly anymore. We shared the photos from the day before as proof that we had indeed been there and were rewarded with smiles and shoulders shrugged with confusion about why she didn’t remember. Another photo was taken to document this visit, as well. The storyboard was a brand new surprise…again…and I breathed a prayer of thankfulness for the delight it brought and asked God to let it always be a source of joy.

My check-in call today wasn’t as joyful. It was painful as we once again went down the questioning pathways that led us to where we are. I did my best to bring comfort that God is still in charge and is in the process of providing even when our loved one finds it difficult to accept and can’t remember why this provision is even necessary. I was grateful that just talking it out and being heard seemed to help calm things down. Ending our call on as high a note as possible, I still texted the following to a friend afterward.

Had the hardest realization today… She said, “I just need something to look forward to!”–and I realized that Dementia has stolen this gift from her. When you can’t remember what happened, you also can’t recall what is supposed to happen…and it just broke my heart. 😭 What a horrible, horrible thing this stuff is!!! What she can’t recall, she fills in with error, so she feels abandoned. No memory of our visits this weekend at all today.

Some days it is as hard to be the forgotten as it is to be the one who is forgetting.

Comfort us all, Father God, as we do our best to keep honoring You and our loved ones even as we lose them, as they lose themselves, and as they eventually lose us all before they’re actually gone.

Remind us that in You nothing and no one can ever be truly lost, God.

We need to remember that. We desperately need to remember that.

Automatic timer

IMG_20180822_173452044_LLMy cat has a feeder with an automatic timer on it. I bought it for one of those times when I had to travel away from home for several days and I just never unplugged it. It keeps right on serving up the exact amount of food it is supposed to at exactly the time that I’ve determined my cat needs to eat based on what our vet knows about our cat’s health and welfare. It’s a system that works for me.

Smokey’s still not too impressed with it.

He’s more into me feeding him every single time he yells for food and seems fully convinced that I’ve somehow forgotten about his needs in this process of failing to follow his desires. He makes sure I’m aware of his opinion as he begins to voice his concerns over me allowing him to “starve” approximately 2 full hours before every regularly scheduled feeding time.

I’m like that with God sometimes.

You are too, I bet.

We get so focused on what we want and when we want it that we forget there’s a reason we’re not in charge. (Psst! It’s because we’re not GOD!)

I’ve noticed this a lot more lately–both the desire to have my prayers answered before I actually pray them and the part about me not being God.

Today, though, I saw God absolutely show out. He showed up in the middle of a mess with our loved one and He absolutely “made the rough way smooth.” Isaiah 45:2 (NASB) says, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.” 

I know He wasn’t talking to me in Isaiah, but the God who never changes showed up for our family today just like he told Isaiah that He would do for His people back then. We had a need that was time-sensitive, unexpected, and totally out of our ability to fix. If we had an automatic-timer-God, there’s absolutely no way we could have believed that our need would have made a difference in His answer or in the time of delivering the answers.

We don’t serve that kind of God, however.

We serve the unchanging God of the unexpected. He’s the One in charge of every single thing and He has the answer to every single problem you or I will ever face. While His timing may not always suit us, He is always and forever on our side, providing what we need right when we need it…and often, not a moment sooner.

So it was again today. He knew beforehand that we would have this need. He knew the answers it would require and the timing to make it all work…and He still allowed us to FEEL the need and MAKE our requests to Him! It is not the first time this has happened (not by a LONG shot!) and it will not be the last time it happens, either. This is not because He is unkind, but because He saw beyond the need at hand and knew that we ALSO needed to have our faith increased, our community of prayer partners encouraged, and so that all of us could be reminded–once again!–that while His timing isn’t automatic, He is always an on-time God.

Grace and Peace!