Pastor Steve Littlefield of Simonton Community Church and I have known each other for 25 years. He was my youth pastor in high school and has been my senior pastor ever since. I consider him one of the wisest and most influential people in our community. As a pastor, Steve has more experience with aging and dying and grief than most. I was fortunate to have him by my side through both of my parents’ battles with cancer. From waiting room conversations to quiet end-of-life chats with my family in our home, Steve has always offered consistent words of wisdom. When my dad died, Steve gave me some of the best (and most memorable) advice I’ve ever heard. He said “Remember, people will say dumb things. They’ll say dumb things because they don’t know what else to say, and that’s okay. Don’t worry about it. They mean well.” He was absolutely right. Steve knows people, and I am honored to introduce you to him and his wealth of knowledge and excited to share our conversation on aging parents.
Laura Bracher and I worked together for two years at my previous job. Our cubicles were in close proximity, so we saw each other daily and chatted often. One morning, not long after I started my job, Laura flew in like a tornado- later than normal and a bit frazzled. It was then I learned Laura was deep in the throes of caring for her parents, one of whom has severe dementia. Three years later, she is still caring for her parents while juggling two teenage kiddos and a full-time job. A few months ago, Laura unexpectedly lost her husband after his brief battle with cancer. To say Laura has been through a lot is an understatement. She is beyond tough, keeps a positive attitude and a friendly demeanor, and I am honored she agreed to speak with me about her role as a caregiver.
The Art of Patience and Compassion: 3 Mistakes I Keep Making and 5 Ways I Continue to Try to Master Them
With everyone still mostly cooped up due to the pandemic, I’m seeing more and more people frustrated from feeling trapped indoors. In fact, right here in my own home, after almost a year of staying home, I find myself truly longing to escape to a solo retreat somewhere. It’s not that I don’t love my roommate (who also happens to be my mother). It’s just- the truth is, living with and caring for family members, especially elderly loved ones, requires an enormous amount of patience and compassion, and sharing spaces all day these days just seems to exacerbate this situation.
One of my 25 tips for dealing with aging parents is to read the super-short book "Gone From My Sight". The book, which is really more of a booklet, is literally 13 easy-to-read pages. The subject within, however, is not an easy one. This book is about the realities of death and what to expect from our loved ones during their last few months and through their final hours.
During this week between Christmas and the new year, I always feel the wave of exhaustion that was masked by adrenaline over the course of the past few weeks. I’m often overwhelmed as I face the new year, knowing the work and life challenges that lay ahead, and I just want to crawl back in bed and wait for Santa. Why does facing a new year often seem so daunting?
Dolly Parton always helps complete my holidays. It’s not really Christmas if you don’t tear up to “Hard Candy Christmas” at least once, is it? My mom and I recently watched her Christmas on the Square movie. Towards the end of the movie, an angel-in-training softly states, “Grief is love with nowhere to go.” I looked at Mom, and she looked at me. Having both gone through our share of grief, why hadn’t we thought of this before? I know grief is love, but I’ve never thought about how this typically wonderful emotion causes so much pain simply because it’s trapped inside our hearts.
If I could hug you in person, I would. Instead, I’m sending virtual hugs to all of you. This time of year is already exhausting, but for so many of you, your holiday world looks different this year. Or, maybe it looks like it did last year, only it’s harder now.
Medical appointments can be intimidating for anyone. Some seniors, however, have a bit more doctor appointment anxiety than the rest of us. This makes sense. Reaction times slow a bit with age, medical centers and complexes can be difficult to navigate and a tad overwhelming, and some life-changing news can be dished out in these meetings. However, you can help reduce some anxiety for your loved ones by simply being better prepared for these appointments.
Even though it’s been years since my father passed away, I am still frustrated by the fact that I do not have access to his wealth of knowledge and random trivial facts. The man just seemed to know something about everything. I’m even more concerned with the thought of losing my mom and all her collective wisdom. What would I do if my mom died unexpectedly tomorrow? What support systems would I use to help with those tough life questions- the ones only older people and over-sized cartoon owls seem to be able to answer?
Let’s face it. 2020 has been a hot mess. So, while we may be thrilled to finally see some festive lights on the tree, those lights may also be a bitter reminder of the financial, social, and physical toll this year has taken on us. As we scurry to find easy and inexpensive ways to bring joy back into our homes, I’d like to ask you to remember your elders- whether they be family, friends, neighbors, or strangers.
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