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Finding God's Beauty Through Alzheimer's and Dementia

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
April 28, 2021 6:00 am

Finding God's Beauty Through Alzheimer's and Dementia

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 28, 2021 6:00 am

Author Sarah Smith shares her journey through caring for her mother as she battles Alzheimer's. Her perspective is both eye-opening and encouraging for anyone who finds themselves caring for someone who was once their care-giver.

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Hope for the Caregiver
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Hope for the Caregiver
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Tired and I was ready to walk away from our marriage. Abby's husband serves in the military, which means a lot of family moves in a huge strain on their relationship through our podcast. Abby found hope for marriage. I don't believe that we would be where we are today without focus on Jim Daly. Working together we can bring hope to more marriages like Abby's gift today family was hard to see my mom decline in recent years, she lost the ability to communicate clearly, she can remember words what you just say something spontaneously and we had no idea what she was talking about. It was hard to watch her decline. This way, that's a tough journey for any family.

Maybe you or someone you know has or is right now experiencing the kind of tragedy of dementia. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly on John Fuller be talking about that topic today on earth is that John dealing with dementia has to be one of the more troubling issues that families face today because the diagnosis is often a surprise and thing that was not planned for. Even though the numbers are quite amazing.

Dementia is the general term of deterioration in memory and thinking behavioral processing and ability to perform everyday tasks for yourself. It's estimated that one in three are 33% of adults will die with some form of dementia.

And when you look at some of the other data that's more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease more than one in nine people age 65 and older has some form of Alzheimer's dementia. More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer's or other relatives. So this is an issue in this is why we have invited our guest to talk about how to and from a Christian perspective, how to look at your parents, who may be suffering in this way. And now, what's your obligation.

How do we do the caretaking at the end of life. Ironically, in the way that they provided at the beginning of our life yet and Jim we were talking before we came into the studio. You and I both know a fair number of people.

It seems you're kind of in this spot of caring for particularly an elderly parent who is mentally and physically very frail income slipping down the slope is right is a prime more than one that I know our CFO. Dan and his wife Sue, one of their parents has suffered with dementia and just watching them go through that in the stories of repeating yourself again and again and again. I think one of the great pieces of advice that Dan mentioned that I will pass on his don't fight or try to correct the question that keeps coming. Now tell me who you are. Again, you're married to my daughter just go with it and be patient with the notes I will for the 14th time it out and I thought that was really insightful. Don't fight with them about their loss of memory. Just move with it and I thought that was loving and kind.

One word hear a lot of similar heart from our guest today, Sarah Smith, who has experienced these challenges is experiencing them with her own mom and her story is difficult, but it reveals how caring for a loved one with dementia can be a really powerful opportunity to serve in a Christlike sacrificial way and Sarah's got a book called broken beauty piecing together lives shattered by early onset Alzheimer's and it's a great book.

It's a memoir and will encourage you to get a copy of it today just up by the episode notes we've got the details there or give us a call 800 a family. Sarah welcome to Focus on the Family, thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. What's it's good to have you here, but it is a difficult topic and this one that there's not many resources really.

I know that there are Alzheimer's Association others that provide information but again, from a purely Christian perspective how we should be managing this.

There are really many people talking about their experience. I so appreciate that.

Even the title your book broken beauty beauty is the nickname of your mom and speak to her nickname how she got that nickname and and yet speak about that now and when I was pregnant with our first barn and my older brother and his wife was pregnant with her first barn. My parents are trying to connect that their grandma and grandpa name and my mom came up with the word beauty and we just thought she was crazy but I thought it was so funny. We often didn't really think it would happen right answer and that she just laughed. The name beauty because she didn't want to fill old city when he fell old and feeble, and yeah she got older she wanted the kids to color something that I make her feel yeah and young again, for she came up with that name on it was really funny because when friends lay her oldest began to speak. My mom would teach her to stay beauty and friendly would repeat beauty that is challenged with the name of the time.

I know that she came up with an my father-in-law's name. It was totally different than what he wanted to bet on my mom with C was committed to get that educating yes that's a fine talk about her personality type person. She was mom was so much fun she had a lot of energy to the Posner life for people and live to house staying then throw parties and entertained in love and attention on herself and it certainly live to an raise people up and encourage them yeah and she loved to dance. She was a Ranger at Keller Ranger at see the big dancer and when we had our children and as they became toddlers and she is teaching him how to dance, do hi Caxton headstand and see so much fun and so much life really as you outlined in the book when you begin to notice a change.

I mean, this is what so difficult and what I believe and observe. You know, being friends with Dan and Sue.

It's almost like you're not sure like your mind is playing a trick on you, did she just say what I think she just said or did she not say what she should've said, speak to that early moment when something was just a little off. You know when we would go home for the holidays we noticed that she was a little more edgy. Mom was a perfectionist.

He liked things to be in order and things to be on time and organized that we notice that the smallest things that set her off. So with her personality began to change and she was just on got frustrated easily little more anxious. I know when I was home when I first noticed a sign you know I have physical sign. She had tingling in her fests in her hand and she kept writing at and she told me that her arm had been almond and tingling and we are trying to tie Christmas is on some guests and I asked her if she had seen a doctor that my mom chose not to see Dr. sound like a tough cookie. That's right so very tough. She unfortunately did not trust doctors at the time she lost her immediate family and did like hospitals and doctors and so she tried to control things on her own. Your father has his grandpa name pops out of beauty. You be thinking about that got me thinking about it, but I do want. I want to bring his perspective into this a little more so because it sounded like from the tingling arm moment in your concerns and is that a neurological symptom of something bigger. That was all running through your mind right and there was again quite a bit of time the past. What was your dad doing did he eventually talk beauty into getting to the doctor and have that all transpire.

Dad did eventually talk to my mom into getting to Dr. he had scheduled an appointment in Boston hospital they are with a neurologist that she canceled last minute just said there's no way she was going to go so it was a whole another. I believe it is a year, maybe longer than he actually got her to go to a doctor in Houston. Dad try so hard to get her to go, but he also lived with wine.

Hugh was very strong about how she felt her feelings and again going back to seven personality and she could really convince you that she was okay and listen days were good.

Go by weeks ago by where she seemed to function completely normal, especially the early stages of the time you're going. What did I just see that what I think that was with my dad. He he would see things that any kind blow it off and she convince him she's okay and before you know it you're living in it and your you become little more blind to what's going on and then you get in this I believe my dad started protecting her and even realizing how much he was protecting her or speaking for her filling in the blanks and so she does get to the doctor.

The diagnosis is done. How did your dad inform you about that. Well, unfortunately, he told me that he could not reveal the diagnosis. He said that he wanted to honor and respect her wishes and she did not want any of us to now. I think they needed time to process the diagnosis and also to talk about how they were going to handle it.

They also knew that we had our own young family and my dad is just so sweet. He did not want to burden us with having use of a terminal diagnosis so I think he is also protecting us children from feeling heavy and burdened with this disease, which is really sweet that unfolded. However, in iron well but over time he became the caregiver he was on providing that trying to do it all boy, that's a generational thing to I could see that every night you know it's admirable but you know, one of the I think one of the unfortunate things with those that are older than us. They did keep a lot inside, that World War II generation that attitude of the non-Jews can get toughened and others may be some virtue and that but I think in this moment. One of things you so clearly talk about in broken beauty is the need for vulnerability. You know the need to be open so that help can be provided, but describe your dad's journey once it started to deteriorate.

My dad really was breaking down and I saw an aging, and I was living in Dallas at the time when she was diagnosed. They were in Houston for several years before he finally knew started Dallas closer to family. My mom still had a sister and a brother that was alive and then they passed away.

She had no immediate family left and when her brother passed away. She truly crashed and the deterioration in her brain. My dad strongly believes is what really progressed this disease to a whole new level when he was going 30. Call me and just said friends were treating them differently. They don't know how to help. Don't know what to say. That's part of the reason they also did not want telling. She's very involved with her church. She's going to get a Bible study, but dad began filling out her questions and her Bible study but in that official diagnosis was early onset Alzheimer's and she was told when he was 67, but that was because you cannot get her to Dr. for at least three or four years and diagnosis is 65 or younger as early onset and they could tell by the CT scans and how long she had it much earlier on, you have some powerful stories one that's cute one that's a little more, maybe hurtful, and it does show the power of the relationship and when it deteriorates. How you manage us emotionally. One is your mom I think begin to accuse you of never spending time with her because she could remember short-term memory it and has a big problem for the caregiver. The left once we spent so much time together when submitted Dallas we were done carpal lines and going to Starbucks and blanched shopping together. I was an hours with her and it was so wonderful for me because I also knew that was getting my dad Rasmussen he could get out me to go hit some golf balls and just take a break. So for me it was such a gift and blessing to be with her and I wanted to savor my time with her she would not remember after I would drop her off from a three or four hour day that we had just spent the whole day together right and there was a time when dad had to get her out. She can sit still and they would drive around and I was walking on my sidewalk and they were driving by my house and she rolled the window down and to inherent my dad was getting me to select like I am so sorry Jesus shaking his head and she had this this look over her face that I just I knew it was not her. It was the disease I knew it was not my mom and she just said were moving back to Houston were going home to be here anymore. You never see me you never call me. I don't even know why were here right and you know you mentioned early.

It was one of those moments I where I was struggling with. I was just with you.

We just can't. You're trying to be logical with someone who has no logic and they can't understand the process time there short-term memories gone and it was extremely well that's that's part of the issues have how do you manage that and I want to bring in the faith component obviously is a believer in Christ. How do you begin to settle your own heart. One of the things that I've observed about her friends and not been suing the case with others that we know that are going through this is that it's easy to become frustrated. You know like your dad if I could say that, you know, shaking his head and slightly embarrassed as you described it. That's exactly the point.

We can also good edgy you know that mom, I just told you that and it's so fruitless because it's not that's not what's going on there. It's not that she's intentionally trying to irritate you and how how did your faith help you cope with. I think several levels. One this is life given in the image of God, and that's my responsibility as her daughter to now care for her.

That's massive and very countercultural. By the way, because I think a lot of times it's what's talk mom way you know maybe we'll see her Christmas so this is a massive question I'm asking is one part one is that just how your faith informed your attitude toward her. So start there that will continue. So I spent a lot of time with the Lord. I was up every morning at 530 in the morning and doing devotionals and praying, especially after that moment when she wanted to move home and I realized that she just has no idea how much time we spent together.

I fell on my knees and I cried out to God and I just realized the Lord is waiting for me to cry out to him. He wants to heal my broken heart. He wants to help me through this trial and the suffering and I came across the verse Romans 12 to which step with me.

This was a big first in my journeys. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, said that by testing you may discern the will of God.

What's good acceptable and perfect.

It takes a lot of discipline to renew your mind and I think there were weeks that every hour I was praying. Romans 12 to and over time the Lord began to trance for my heart and my mind and I wasn't being conformed to fear and frustration and anger, and I was able to discern how to respond you. We teach our kids to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and when you're going through this, you're quick to speak and respond and you really do need the power of the Holy Spirit and his Fritz to help you be slow to speak, quick to listen and to be able to pour out his love and see your loved one through his lens and spending time with Guy just changed my spiritual walk in my spiritual life. It sounded like it matured you in the face when I think of the I read that through the trauma and of course you don't want anybody around you to suffer so you can be more deeply spiritual was not the point at all. But it is Romans 828 which is all things work for good right of those who love the Lord are called by his name. So if you can look at it through that lens of Lord what you want to teach me in this moment, I do want to touch on something so critical because people but perhaps are on the brink of going into this journey and other was to go.

I don't know if this really applies to will again one in 3/65 are going to have some form of dementia.

So it's it's a high probability that you're going to experience it. Your dad's protection of your family.

That initial desire he had in the courses vulnerability so I can do it on my own anymore. There were some wisdom in that because you in that position of having young kids and having a declining parent you're being pulled in both directions. Of course you have your husband fed who's you know he's trying to be supportive.

I'm sure speak to the marital stress that can come from that in and as a woman, particularly just as women give so much that family.

How did you not manage or how did you manage or learn to manage all the people pulling on you is really hard and a check snap thinking about it, you wear a lot of hats. I mentioned that my back to you. You're taking care of your children, your supporting your husband you want to be there for your parents. You've got sports carpels to drive in. You went to pour into friendships.

So many things are trying to steal your time and I really with my dad. We grew so close. During this time and for sad to observe a father daughter relationship. He said to me that he just loved watching our relationship because we had two daughters of our own and for hen it was teaching him and giving him wisdom on how to have a loving relationship with his own two daughters.

He was so supportive of me taking care of my parents. The stress it was very difficult. You know, sad. Thankfully, had a job or he does not travel and that I needed him to to do a lot of things and it was very very stressful in the beginning but I have to say his love for the Lord and at trial that we went through early on in our marriage already prepared us for this and sad is 12 years sober.

He was an alcoholic and in the early years of our marriage. We learned a lot about alcoholism and guide equipped us to all of our counseling how to carry each other's burdens, and I remember our counselor saying to me, Sarah.

Are you willing to carry this burden for sad because one day he's gonna need to carry a burden for you and Scott and I reminded each other at that and he said to me.

I'm here to help carry a burden for you and well it was very stressful for me because I had so much guilt for not being emotionally and mentally. There for our children in it for what I felt would be hundred percent there. Sad Wes and he took that for me it is a beautiful picture of how family should function. And I think that's the appointment. When I look at so grateful of your reliance on Scripture you know you can go in so many emotional directions there and I think you've done a beautiful job, describing your journey, and at such a insight on how we should respond to the moment and I I want to make sure we get in how you are working with a ministry know how you're doing this to help the elderly describe well through this journey. When mom was in memory care and the first time I was able to go visit her and it was a long process had to wait about six weeks, but as I sat there in and looked at her and saw a quick decline. She had been on medication they had to use a topical gel to keep her calm was a very difficult placement. As I began to go visit her. I looked around and could see other residents there who love seeing new face can and the first time we brought our daughters there and analyzed our children. The residents loved being around these kids and they were so excited and for to watch our children show up fearful and not sure if they should hug someone or touch them when they don't know what to do to watch them overcome and go through this breakthrough of now I am going to live on this person is sick. This elderly person. It was such a blessing and an eye-opener for me that there is a ministry opportunity and at the time our girls were in a private school or an yeah they do a grandparents day, and for Thanksgiving and they memorize Scripture hands and they sing and perform for Thanksgiving and I had asked some of the moms if there daughters would be interested in coming and it was kind of a rehearsal for them that it was an opportunity to love on the residence and that began this awesome gift of seeing how the residents would react to children singing and people showing up. You mentioned earlier that you know there there are a lot of people that are there who don't have family or they don't have visitors and it's really heartbreaking and you see that they need. They need someone need someone to love on them even if they can't remember. It feels and up with joy in their heart that can last the rest of the day. They may not even know why. So syrup I just applaud you for your openness and the book broken beauty is filled with those stories that are helpful to everyone so much application. There you don't provide a list and I'm grateful for that. You just saying here's what it's like. This is how our family dealt with the continued deal with it and I am sure there can be thousands of people that connect with this letter experiencing some level of this and it's the right resource for people to good and maybe you have a friend or maybe your church needs a resource like this so that people have access to whatever the reason, get in touch with us and if you can be a part of the ministry. Make a gift of any amount will send it to you as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry and Sarah, let me again say thank you for expressing it and talking about it.

The pain of the triumph, but really just the simple steps that you got it walk. You gotta go through it in the way God is prepared your heart. Maybe not in an instant. But over the time and that's a beautiful thing. I can feel that you've come out a much stronger person in Christ, the new word a few years ago. Yes, partaking in the patient to Jesus. What is life changing to also thank you again think you and if this topic is been tender for you because you're in a caregiving role or you have a family member struggling with dementia to contact us here at Focus on the Family we have caring Christian counselors that be honored to talk with you and pray with you and give you a pass for you also have series book broken beauty piecing together lives shattered by early-onset Alzheimer's, as per your copy when you call 800 K 800-232-6459 or stop by the episode notes to learn more and see the links this reminder that Focus on the Family is here to bring real hope to real families in crisis and we need ongoing financial help from friends like you.

So please if you can generously so we can continue together to support and strengthen families as we don't on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back.

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