Tips for Supporting Aging Parents

Note: This is a companion post to Spending Time with My Dad, which is on the Beautiful Life blog today. 

The river of life presents all of us with a variety of challenges and celebrations. Maneuvering through the rapids of aging is demanding for most families. This is a time fraught with changes in health, living arrangements, and control over decision-making. Today I’d like to share some tips I’m learning and still trying to put into practice as I try to support my aging parents.

Listen

It’s all to easy for me to jump to conclusions, share unwanted opinions, and try to take over. Instead, I’m trying to learn to listen – not only to the words that are spoken, but to the reasons and feelings behind those words. If I want to support my parents, I need to know where they are coming from and what their wishes are. They have enough to deal with, without added stress from me.

Trust God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

God is still the same, no matter what else may change. I can find my security in Him, no matter what I’m dealing with. God loves my parents more than I ever could. I can trust God to take care of them.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Making decisions can be difficult, but God will guide and give wisdom if we ask.

Start discussing transitions early

The first time we as children discussed moving our parents out of their home, both parents were both adamant they were staying in their home until they died. Nobody argued with them. Instead we just presented information, stated we wanted to support them, and listened. A few years later, our parents told us they were moving – a decision they made on their own.

Start family meetings

If you don’t have family meetings already, start having them. These meetings may look different for families. Some may feel more comfortable playing a game or doing some type of activity while they talk. Others will work better if everyone is seated around the living room ready to talk. We decided not to have extraneous activity, but rather to sit and talk, with one person taking minutes. Any member of the family is able to add items to the agenda. At our family meetings we have discussed everything from a major move to just getting a health update.

Have an open mind

It’s easy to act out of emotions like fear. It’s also easy to see things only from our own perspective. As caregivers, we need to learn to approach things from different perspectives, or at least be open to hearing other perspectives BEFORE we make decisions. We should always try to put ourselves into other people’s shoes, including our parent’s. As children, we may have unresolved conflicts with our parents which affect our decision making. 

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Do you have other tips to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


A Voice for the Voiceless

I’m angry. It brings out the “Mama Bear” in me when I hear stories like the one I heard yesterday (names changed).

Belinda has a son who has special needs. She did what she was told and enrolled him in a local school when he was five. He didn’t learn to read that year, or the year after, or the next . . . at eleven years of age he still could not read. Her son received some help at school. She trusted the school to do what was best…until she received a phone call from the school telling her that her son was no longer welcome in the school because “he is a sexual pervert.”

Belinda asked some questions and discovered her eleven-year-old son was given a spy game to play on an iPad belonging to the school. Her son accepted the game and played it without supervision – not for half an hour, but for a whole day. One of the first levels of the game instructed him to take pictures of people he was spying on. He did what he was told and took pictures. Lots of pictures. Of both boys and girls. Parents of the girls found out he was taking pictures of their daughters and complained. That’s when Belinda received the phone call.

Belinda was unable to resolve the situation with her local school, so she contacted a different school and asked to enrol her son. The “new” school contacted the previous school and was informed, “the child is a sexual pervert.” The “new” school refused to enrol Belinda’s son based on the information provided by the previous school. Belinda decided her only option was to homeschool her son. He had been in school for six years and could not read, so she figured she couldn’t do any worse. Then, she discovered the local school had reported her to Child & Family Services. Now she is not only juggling the challenges of parenting and homeschooling a child who has special needs, but she is also spending countless hours defending her ability to care for her son.

Why didn’t the local school provide adequate support for Belinda’s son? Why does a school choose to turn a student away because of a label, without researching the background? Why is it that a parent with a child who has special needs is often taken advantage of because he or she doesn’t understand how “the system” works?

We can do better, Alberta!


Redefining Disability Week 12: Describe the biggest challenge you face due to disability

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As a parent of individuals with special needs, the biggest challenge I face due to disability is helping my children build authentic friendships with their peers. My boys exhibit many of the characteristics of autism:

  • difficulty with eye contact
  • Lack of an understanding of personal space
  • Lack of inhibitions
  • Insatiable curiosity regarding one particular topic
  • Difficulty maintaining interest in topics they don’t know or understand
  • Difficulty reading emotion and other social cues

Let me be clear that most people treat my boys with respect and extend infinite patience in carrying on conversations with them. One of my boys is passionate about vehicles. He knows all the makes and models, reads the consumer reports, and can tell you which ones are recommended. He will stop anyone and everyone and carry on a conversation about vehicles. If people ignore him, he just gets closer and repeats his question.

Adults understand this type of behaviour and carry on a conversation. Peers expect to have a conversation that may include a discussion about vehicles, but will also include many other topics. When this doesn’t happen, peers tend to respond in one of two ways: avoidance or interaction based on pity. Some peers will answer one or two questions and then move on. Others will continue to reach out, but the relationship is more of an older brother or sister dealing with a younger sibling.

I’m not sure my sons recognize what they are missing. Is that a good thing? Yes, in that the sting of rejection is not felt by them. No, in that there is no motivation to change, except to comply with an adult who is telling them they should or shouldn’t do something. My boys are more than happy to lose themselves in a book or play on their iPads instead of conversing with peers. We all tend to stick to situations where we feel safe, and they are no different. The difference is that most people have a larger repertoire of skills to call on when dealing with social situations, especially difficult ones.

As a parent, there are many times I don’t know how to deal with this issue of helping my boys build authentic peer relationships. We’ve tried speech therapy, small group therapy, taking our boys to places they will be able to interact with peers, and modelling expected interactions. Sometimes we push our boys into situations they would not choose on their own. Other times we allow them to make the choices. I’m thankful for the people who make the time to interact with our boys, but I do grieve for them and hope that some day they will have a friendship based on more than choice and respect.

What is the biggest challenge you face in dealing with disability?


 

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In 2014, Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.


Redefining Disability Week 2: How do you view the concept of disability?

 

 

Redefining Disability2

To be honest, the word disability irks me. I find it irritating that we use this word with its negative connotations to talk about fellow human beings who just happen to think, act, or look different than some of the rest of us.

As a parent of five beautiful children who all have some qualities which differ from the general population, I pursued diagnosis of “disability” to obtain access to the services my children need to be successful. I know other parents who have firmly rejected any sort of diagnosis. I don’t blame them. Sometimes the stigma attached to the label isn’t worth the dollars you are able to access with the label.

Why is it that we focus on the negative qualities of these individuals? Why can’t we focus on the benefits, the special abilities they have? Both of my daughters are extremely creative and artistic. Perhaps they wouldn’t have these qualities if they didn’t also have the other qualities that cause so much struggle and consternation some days. One of my sons is a gifted storyteller. Another son knows more about vehicles than 90 percent of adults. Memorizing facts is another gift.

Why is it that the general population is allowed to hide their weaknesses by focusing on their strengths, but the people who already struggle are forced to focus on their weaknesses, sometimes to the detriment of their passions and strengths?

I look forward to your comments and suggestions 🙂


One of the benefits I enjoy most about writing and blogging is meeting other people who share my passions. One of my blog hop participants is Rose B. Fischer. Last year she started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays will be answering one of her questions.

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Adoption Blog Tour: My fears, hopes and dreams for our children

Adoptive Parents

Adoption is a challenging journey. (You can read our family legacy story here.) An adoptive family experiences many joys and sorrows. Here are some things I celebrate as an adoptive parent:

  • The day we brought each of our children home
  • Hearing, “I love you!”
  • Holding adoption orders in my hand and knowing these are legally our children
  • Hearing, “Your daughter has your eyes.”
  • Watching our twins, who were never supposed to walk, talk, or feed themselves, run with carefree abandon and gulp down ever increasing amounts of food.
  • Hearing, “You’re the best cook in the whole world!”
  • Coming home and being met at the door with hugs, smiles, and “You’re home!”
  • Walking into a room and seeing all of my children reading by themselves.
  • Hearing, “Your son knows his Bible well.”

Like any parent, I also have fears, hopes, and dreams for my children.

I Fear:

  • Our children floundering with their identity.
  • Not having the answers or ability to meet our children’s unique needs.
  • People being distracted or distressed by our children’s special needs and refusing to take the time to get to know who they really are as people.
  • The future, wondering if our children have the skills and ability to be independent.
  • People taking advantage of our children.
  • What will happen to our children when we are no longer able to care for them?

I Hope:

  • Our children will find security and significance in a personal relationship with God.
  • Our children will lead lives that are privately happy and publicly useful.
  • Our children will know that we love them no matter what.
  • Our children will persevere through the difficulties they face.
  • Our children will have the support and encouragement they need.
  • Others will treat our children with respect.

I Dream:

  • That our children will be able to set goals that are meaningful to them and achieve them.
  • That others will be able to look beyond our children’s special needs and see the special gifts they bring to the world.
  • That our children will be able to have healthy relationships with their birth families.
  • That our community and the larger world will make a place for our children where they are accepted, nurtured, and productive.
  • That there will always be a safe place for our children.

Adoptive and foster parents need support and encouragement. I’m thankful for:

  • Extended family members who love and accept our children
  • Teachers who go the extra mile to include our children
  • Specialists who listen and give helpful advice
  • A church family who celebrates our children’s unique gifts and abilities
  • Friends who pray for me and listen when I just need to vent

What are your fears, hopes, and dreams for your children? Are they similar to or different than mine?

NOTE: For the month of December, I’m giving away a FREE copy of a Christmas short story – Hope for Jimmy, to everyone who follows my blog. (Fill in the form below)

Ruth L. Snyder and her husband, Kendall, have five adopted children ages six to seventeen. Besides looking after her family, Ruth enjoys teaching Music for Young Children and writing. She currently serves as the editor for In the Loop, a quarterly newsletter for foster, adoptive, and kinship families in northeastern Alberta, Canada. (Read more of their adoption journey: Our Family Legacy Story.)

Adoption Blog Tour

 

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Fading Photographs: National Alzheimer’s Awareness and Family Caregiver’s Month Blog Tour

My dad was diagnosed with dementia about five years ago. Since my dad’s father had dementia, I understood some of the grief families experience. However, just because I mentally grasp what’s happening doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with the grief.

104-year-old Batswana woman. Photo taken by Rex Beam
104-year-old Batswana woman. Photo taken by Rex Beam
Making millet into flour. Photo by Rex Beam.
Making millet into flour. Photo by Rex Beam.

I have many happy memories of times with my dad. Ever since I can remember, he and I have had a close relationship. He was the one I ran to for comfort when my little-girl heart was breaking. We spent hours together in the darkroom, one of his favorite haunts since he was an avid photographer. Dad showed me the exact combination of chemicals required to develop each picture. I watched as each piece of photographic paper was immersed into  chemicals and different shades of black and white magically formed to create a unique image.  One time, he even used the bathtub to develop an enlargement of a beautiful African sunset. My dad worked as a printer, but photography made him come alive.

I spent my early years in South Africa and Botswana, where my parents served as missionaries. As I remember, my dad made sure to keep his camera close at hand, capturing  and documenting our activities. Our family had the privilege of participating in many adventures most people in North America know nothing about — touring diamond mines and watching huge truckloads of dirt and rocks being transformed into handfuls of precious stones, observing craftsmen transform chunks of mahogany wood into candlesticks and other beautiful curios, spending holidays camping in game reserves, seeing African animals in their natural habitats, and gazing in awe at the magnificent thundering Victoria Falls. My dad still has a small treasure trove of black and white photographs he captured one at a time on rolls of Kodak film.

When my dad was first diagnosed, I didn’t see much evidence of the dementia. He forgot things occasionally and seemed confused a little more often than usual. However, he still played tennis, enjoyed going for walks, sang in his church choir, served on the church board, and actively participated in groups. He also enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and playing games with them. He continued to capture memories in picture form, but he had graduated to a digital camera and his own photo printer.

As months passed, I started noticing changes — withdrawal from conversations and a lack of interest in activities he used to enjoy, like choir and Bible study. Some changes were so gradual that I didn’t even notice until many months had passed. A year ago my mom asked me to come and help pack so that my parents could move into a senior’s facility. The changes in my dad became clear to me as I spent several days with my parents. Dad sat in his favorite rocking chair and watched as my mom and I worked around him. He seemed detached from the situation, almost like he was watching from a distance instead of being directly involved in the move. He did what he was asked to do, but he didn’t take the initiative to do anything he wasn’t asked to do. In the evenings, he sat and watched TV, refusing to play board games with my mom and me. Mom said, “Dad no longer uses his computer. He still takes pictures, but he doesn’t remember how to download them.”

I said, “I can transfer the images from the memory card to a computer.” I was shocked by how many images were fuzzy. Inside I wept. My dad is just a shell of the person I once knew.

The next day I helped my mom sort through items my parents brought back from Africa years ago. Dad was in his rocking chair, seemingly oblivious to the goings on. As I sorted, I came across several large black plastic envelopes, which I knew contained my dad’s pictures. I picked up one envelope and slid the pictures out. Memories came flooding back. As I flipped through the pictures, I became aware that my dad was standing beside me. Soon he started talking to me and reminiscing about events depicted in the images I held in my hands. The pictures were like a doorway to the dad I knew before dementia robbed him from me. We both enjoyed our trip into the past. I watched in wonder as the hazy look I had grudgingly accepted as normal disappeared from my dad’s eyes. We talked about our trips to game reserves and his eyes danced with delight. I smiled as I remembered the way he used to demand we all sit absolutely still in our Volkswagen van while the shutter on his camera clicked. It seemed a pittance to pay for the treasured pictures, which now reunited us for a few short hours.

Carving a candlestick. Photo taken by Rex Beam
Carving a candlestick. Photo taken by Rex Beam

I know there will be difficult days ahead. At present, Dad’s eyes still light up when I walk into the room. I know some day this will no longer be true. My dad’s decline has reminded me that I need to treasure each day, each moment. I have also been challenged to count my blessings, to savor the good memories I have, to connect with Dad on his good days, and love him no matter what. Dad may not sing in a choir any more, but he told me this summer he’s looking forward to singing in Heaven. We share a hope no person or illness can rob us of — spending eternity together with Jesus Christ in Heaven where there will be no more tears.

 

Caregiver's month

Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregivers Month Blog Tour

President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million (Alzheimer’s Association, 2014). The Author Community of Helping Hands Press is getting involved this month, and hopes to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Staring Nov. 3rd, with Anne Baxter Campbell’s blog post and Sue Badeau’s appearance on blogtalk radio, and finishing on Nov. 25th with Mark Venturini’s blog post, many of the authors in the Helping Hands Press Community will be sharing their personal stories.

Who are the authors, their blogs and what days?

Check them out! Here is the list:


5 Minute Friday: Leave

Alzheimer’s/Caregivers Blog Tour, & 5 Minute Friday

Caregiver's month

President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s; today, the number of people with the disease has soared to nearly 5.4 million (Alzheimer’s Association, 2014). The Author Community of Helping Hands Press is getting involved in November, and hopes to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Starting Nov. 3rd, with Anne Baxter Campbell’s blog post and Sue Badeau’s appearance on blogtalk radio, and finishing on Nov. 25th with Mark Venturini’s blog post, many of the authors in the Helping Hands Press Community will be sharing their personal stories.

Take time to tour the blogs and increase your awareness.

Here is the list:

Nov.3rd-Anne Baxter Campbell- http://pewperspective.blogspot.com/

Nov.4th –Doris Gaines Rapp- http://dorisgainesrapp.blogspot.com/

Nov.5th-Marcia Lee Laycock- http://marcialeelaycock.com/thespur/

Nov. 6th –Ruth L. Snyder- http://ruthlsnyder.com/

Nov. 7th –Sheila Seiler Lagrand- http://sheilalagrand.com/

Nov. 8th –Giovanni Gelati- http://gelatisscoop.blogspot.com/

Nov. 10th –Cindy Noonan- http://www.cindynoonan.com/

Nov. 11th-Sue Badeau- http://suebadeau.webs.com/apps/blog/

Nov. 12th-Peggy Blann Phifer- http://www.whispersinpurple.com/

Nov. 13th-Sandy Sieber- http://pahistorybooks.blogspot.com/

Nov. 13th– Joy Ross Davis- http://joyrossdavis.com/blog/

Nov.14th –Karen Gass- http://www.cottonspice.net/

Nov. 17th –Patti J. Smith- http://gridirongrannyfootballfanatic.blogspot.com/

Nov. 18th-Tracy Krauss- http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com/

Nov.19th –Melanie M. Jeschke- http://melaniejeschke.blogspot.com/

Nov. 20th-Richard L. Allen – http://www.christianwritergroup.com

Nov.21st– Andrea J. Graham- http://www.christsglory.com/

5 Minute Friday

5 Minute Friday: Leave

Leave is a word that has negative connotations for me. I spent the early years of my life as a missionary kid – my parents were missionaries in southern Africa until I was 11. To be a missionary family, you LEAVE many things and people you love to serve God. I came to hate the word, “Goodbye,” because that meant that we were LEAVING again. Leaving friends, leaving familiar places, leaving things I enjoyed.

Now that I’m older, I realize that leaving doesn’t have to be negative. Sometimes we NEED to LEAVE things behind – bad habits, sin, choices that aren’t the best. When we are willing to leave these things behind, it frees us to be the person we should be.

I’m grateful for God’s patience. (And now it’s time for me to leave this exercise, because the timer’s ringing!)

5 Minute Friday is a weekly challenge for bloggers to write for (you guessed it) 5 minutes on a given word. No editing. No deleting (it’s HARD!). If you would like to join me and other amazing 5 minute free writing friends, please visit Kate’s blog and linkup!


New Release: Uplifting Devotionals for Parents

Uplifting Devotionals for Parents Cover

I’m happy to announce that Uplifting Devotionals for Parents is now available as an e-book. Have you ever wanted to resign from parenting? The responsibility is overwhelming some days. Thankfully, we don’t have to parent in our own strength. God walks with us each day, strengthening us, guiding us, and giving us wisdom – if we ask. As you’ll see in these readings, I’m still learning. My prayer is that God will use these devotionals to provide encouragement, help, and joy in your parenting journey.

Here are a few snippets:

  • Some of life’s greatest lessons are taught not by what happens but by how I respond in messy situations.Nurturing walk with God
  • People who parent children with special needs perform a delicate dance each day, taking into account the individual needs of each child while also making sure necessary tasks are accomplished.
  • I need to nurture my own walk with God in order to effectively teach my children to do the same.
  • When we accept God’s free gift of salvation, He provides His presence every day, an eternal home in heaven, perfect love, incredible hope, an advocate, an inheritance out of this world, and an amazing family.
  • When life is tough and parenting is a struggle, we need to choose to love anyway.
  • My top priority as a parent is teaching my children about God and preparing the soil of their hearts to have a personal relationship with Him.
  • Christmas is not about chocolate, or presents, or trees, or anything else. It’s about the King, Jesus Christ.

If you would like free graphics of the above quotes to enjoy personally or share on social media, please send me an email with “Devotional graphics” in the subject line.

Purchase in Canada: Amazon.ca

Purchase in the U.S.A.: Amazon.com

Uplifting Devotional Cover

If you prefer paperback, these devotionals will be included in a devotional bundle written by fellow Canadian authors: Murray Pura, Tracy Krauss, Marcia Lee Laycock, Janice L. Dick, and me. This book is scheduled to be released in the near future.

5 Minute Friday Post – Dare

“Dare to be a Daniel”

“Dare to be different”

“Dare to stand up for what you believe”

“I dare you.”

“How dare you?”

Dare involves some sort of challenge. Risk. Change. Uncertainty.

But with the possibility of fame, big or small. A chance to stand out. To be a leader.

Some dares are public. Like walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, pushing a wheelbarrow. Or taking a dare from people who call themselves friends, but really just want to get you in trouble. Or taking a stand for what you believe, even if you know it’s not popular. Like Daniel, who decided he was going to follow God and not eat the fancy food the king was serving. Daniel, who was basically a slave, a captive in a foreign land. Dared. Will I?

5 Minute Friday is a weekly challenge for bloggers to write for (you guessed it) 5 minutes on a given word. No editing. No deleting (it’s HARD!). If you would like to join me and other amazing 5 minute free writing friends, please visit Kate’s blog and linkup!