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Entries in Elderly (3)

Tuesday
Nov142017

Holiday Hope for Aging Parents

Including aging parents in our holiday plans can take some extra thought, but as Cynthia Ruchti shows us in this Holiday UPGRADE, it's so worth the time and effort!

"Aging parents—and caring for them—can upgrade the holidays for us," Cynthia says. "And it’s about time."

I (Dawn) like that. I like any time we can upgrade the holidays. We do it with decorations and events, but what about the people in our lives? How do we give a meaningful dose of holiday hope to our aging parents?

Cynthia continues . . .

In many families, Grandma and Grandpa once provided the setting for all the holiday memory-making.

Theirs was the groaning dining room table with a feast and decorations that revealed days’ worth of cooking, baking, preparation.

Theirs was the backyard hill for sledding and snow forts.

The presents under the Christmas tree might have crowded against each other with the grandparents’ generosity and homemade gifts.

But now, a hospital bed might occupy the spot a glittering tree once claimed.

The living room of the grandparents’ home is “decorated” with the trappings of ill health and aging—walkers, commodes, lift chairs. The sounds of Christmas music in the background competes with the sound of the oxygen machine.

Or Grandma and Grandpa are in reasonably good health, but living in a small apartment or an assisted living home.

We can change the setting for holiday gatherings. Christmas at Aunt Cheryl’s this year. Or Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Grandma and Grandpa’s eldest child.

But how do we keep our grip on cherished traditions, include rather than exclude the aging, and find new ways to “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12 KJV) when the holidays include tasks of caregiving for aging parents?

And how will doing so upgrade our holiday experiences?

I love how God included the elderly in the original Christmas story.

Luke 1 starts not with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, but with Zechariah, an aged priest, who by God’s grace had a son despite his wife’s lifelong barrenness. That son—John—prepared the way for the coming Messiah.

Bookending the story of the birth of Christ are other characters of many yearsSimeon, who blessed the eight-day-old infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna, a prophet described as “very old.” She’d been married only seven years, and at the time of Jesus’s birth was an 84-year-old-widow.

Anna was among the first to Tweet the news about the birth of the Messiah.

(She “tweeted” with whole sentences, though, telling everyone she knew, everyone who had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that He had been born, according to Luke 2:38.)

Zechariah, Simeon, Anna—their ages added to the encompassing picture of the Christmas story.

And so can the elderly in our families, even if their needs require special accommodations during the holidays.

  • Encourage Grandpa or Grandma to pray over the holiday meal, if that’s long been a tradition in your home and they are still able to communicate.
  • If you host the holiday gathering at some place other than their residence, consider bringing something familiar to anchor them in the new scene—a favorite afghan, their heirloom nativity set, Grandma’s good china or silverware.
  • Use double-sided name tents at each place setting to boost Grandma’s or Grandpa’s memory about the names of their loved ones.
  • Unless it’s physically impossible, include them in safe but meaningful ways in the food preparation. Some aging parents/grandparents grow restless and uncomfortable around the holidays because it’s a reminder of traditions in which they can no longer participate. Even if someone else needs to yield the knife, can Grandma arrange the vegetables on the crudité platter? If Grandpa once carved the turkey but can no longer manage the task, can he be given the honor of making the first slice?
  • Reserve time for aging parents to tell their stories.
  • Show consideration for their tolerance for noise and commotion. Plan quiet activities in addition to what was once delightful chaos for them.
  • Consider, too, their nutritional restrictions. Rather than making them bypass their favorite foods, find ways to accommodate an extra bowl of salt-free gravy or seedless blackberry jam for their dinner roll.
  • If aging parents or grandparents are confined by health needs to a nursing home facility, give the gift of your extended presence sometime during the holidays. Unhurried. Reminding them, and the staff, that they are treasured, dearly loved. If they live far away from the family festivities, bring video messages from their children and grandchildren, so they know they were thought of, remembered, cherished.
  • Even if you send Thanksgiving or Christmas greetings only by email and Facebook, take the time to send cards to the aging.

God did not tell us to honor our father and mother when it’s convenient.

Or when their needs don’t interfere with our plans.

Or only when they … and we … are young.

What does your family do to honor elderly members during the holidays? In what ways have you discovered that “it’s about time”?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. Her recent book—As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change—addresses many challenging and tender aspects of caring for aging parents or grandparents. http://www.cynthiaruchti.com, http://www.hemmedinhope.com

Thursday
Jul132017

Love Is in the Air Between Us

Cynthia Ruchti's novels and nonfiction works often encourage people to reflect on life, love and change. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she helps us focus on loving our aging parents.

"Why did I wait so long," Cynthia says, "to figure out my mother-in-law’s love language?"

Oh wow. Do I (Dawn) relate to that! It took me years to discover how to relate to my dear mom-in-love. But once I understood, that relationship blossomed.

Cynthia continues . . .

Her message on our answering machine was simple but poignant: “Where are these people? Why can’t I ever reach them?”

My mother-in-law’s voice shook with emotion.

I didn’t hear her message until I returned from a long, tiring, but rewarding week-long conference. My husband had been home but hadn’t reached the phone before our answering machine kicked in. He’d quickly assured her he was there, right where she expected him to be.

But I couldn’t shake the quaver in her voice when I listened to the message after I returned home. It represented so much more than disappointment.

Her words symbolized a gap between our lives, between our methods of marking time—enough/not enough—and my understanding of her deepest need.

Although she’s almost 1,500 miles away from us, she lives on the same property as my sister-in-law, so we’re confident Mom has what she needs physically. Someone is watching out for her best interests.

But that closeness to her daughter sometimes lulls us into thinking her needs are met.

One of her felt needs is the assurance we care. To her, if we’re not present to answer the phone, we don’t care. Or we’re too busy for her.

Maybe the fact that travel is part of my job is harder on her now that she can’t physically travel, too.

Her love language must be quality time.

And neither my husband nor I considered how to honor that when loving her from a distance.

We’re not alone. Many live too far away from their aging parents to be involved in day-to-day care or to show up for often for a quality time visit.

When distance is an issue, how can we bridge the gap? How can we upgrade the way we love our aging parents?

  1. Initiate the calls. Don’t wait to be called.
  2. Call more frequently than you imagine necessary.
  3. Listen leisurely, whether the stories are stale or fresh.
  4. Collect tidbits of information your aging parent might find interesting.
  5. Call on days that are important to your parent, but also call just because.

As I wrote the recent release—As My Parents Age—I remained immersed in the subject of caring for aging parents, even though my father and mother died in 1993 and 2010, respectively. And respectfully.

I Peter 4:8 (AMP) lingered in my mind while I wrote, and returns to redirect me often:

“Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].”

As I reviewed my list of UPGRADE suggestions, I was impressed with its connection to loving our God, who is both here (through the Spirit) and distant (not seeing Him face-to-face until well into the future).

Can I—can we—demonstrate our love in similar ways?

  1. Initiate communication with God. Don't wait for Him to have to tap us on the shoulder to remind us about our relationship.
  2. Pray more frequently than we imagine necessary. It will keep us in step with His directives and pace.
  3. Listen leisurely in prayer, but to old stories and to new.
  4. Watch for reasons to praise Him, to express gratitude, to celebrate with Him.
  5. Remember Him uniquely on His "special days," but connect with Him just because. It's a sign of a healthy relationship.

Whether it’s your parent or God who needs an “I love you and I’m thinking about you” call, when will you follow-through?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through more than 20 novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women or writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. You can learn more about her and her books here, including her recent release, As My Parents Age.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stephiejo at Pixabay.

Thursday
Oct022014

Wind Up, Don't Wimp Out!

Yesterday (October 1st) was Dawn Wilson's birthday. While she won't give you her age, she'll let you in on the conversation that went on in her brain in this Attitude UPGRADE.

"You're over the hill," Satan whispered. "Beyond your productive years.”

The mirror didn't lie about the "over the hill" part. Laugh lines, wiry chin hairs, age spots—ugh.

Yet, although I was a bit depressed after Satan's assault, the truth is, I'd caught my spiritual enemy in a lie. "Only God knows how many years I have left," I quickly countered.  

And I counseled my heart: Stop acting like you have one foot in the grave!

I exited my pathetic pity party and planned my next adventure. I emailed my friend Judy about planning a conference together—something we'd talked about for a long time.

"Let's get this thing rolling," I said. This was no time to wimp out!

Yes, aging can bring a number of problems: forgetfulness, disillusionment, lack of motivation, negativity, stagnation, poor health and other issues.

But I am still alive.

I can decide to celebrate each day and not get stuck in regrets. I have hundreds, maybe thousands of fruit-bearing choices to make before God calls me home (Psalm 92:14).

I remember a cancer patient's advice to her loved ones: “Speak to the part of me that is still alive.” It's great counsel for anyone going through a crisis, but also for the senior set.

I realized I needed fresh ground rules—strong “finishing well” commitments. So I thought and prayed, and made these decisions:

1. I will keep "forever" firmly in view.

As a teenager, eternity seemed "a lifetime away;” but now I’m embracing and preparing for it.

Facing forever will affect how I live right now. I can learn to worship better, overcome hindering habits, and practice being holy, because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

Action Point: Study how to be more like Jesus, because we’ll live with Him forever (John 11:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

2. I will seek God daily for His plans and deeper fellowship.

As a young wife and mom, it was often tough to have a consistent time alone with God; but today, with fewer distractions, I have more time to study and pursue intimacy with Him.

We’re never too old to learn new lessons from God.

Action Point: Don't get set in your ways. Cultivate a soft, teachable heart (Psalm 25:4-5).

3. I will dream big dreams and plan adventures with God.

On the far side of 50, I want to spend time on things that matter to the Lord. I want to take risks for the Kingdom, not play it safe in my comfort zone.  

There may be times I need to pause, and maybe take some extra rest breaks. I may need more time to pause, reflect and modify my ministry to fit my season of life. But I don't want to wimp out!  

I want to stay creative and intensely involved ... be a woman of influence ... and burn out for God!

Action Point: Study the lives of Noah, Moses, Daniel, Anna and Elizabeth to see how God called and used people mightily in their elder years. Emulate contemporary seniors who are still on fire for God.

4. I will invest in people, not things.

These are years to simplify, not to accumulate—to release my grasp on possessions with an eye to stewardship. Who can I encourage? Who can I help? (In many cases, lives are at stake!)

I can’t take my stuff into heaven, but I can store up things there that matter (Matthew 6:19-21). I can pour time and resources into people by sharing the Gospel, teaching truth, assisting those who are hurting and using my creativity to meet others’ needs.

Action Point: Give possessions and funds to relatives and believers who will use them wisely. (Note: Just because there is a specific need, it doesn't mean that particular need is where God wants you to give. Pray first!) Consider ministries too. Someone may be desperate for things gathering dust in your home.

5. I will make choices to leave a spiritual legacy.

I want to make a difference long after I've gone to heaven. You probably do too.

Action Points:

  • Make sure your family knows you love them... and often, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
  • If you’re not living a godly life, ask God to give you a fresh awareness of His presence and a desire to obey Him. The world needs to see Jesus in you!
  • Scrapbook photos, adding snippets from your “life message” (Psalm 78:4).
  • Create a will with spiritual impact: Who gets your Bible? Your stewardship funds? What do you want to say to loved ones after you’re gone?

There are a lot of “I will” statements here. The truth is, no matter our age, we cannot accomplish anything of lasting value without the help of the indwelling Spirit of God. Ask for wisdom and rely on His strength (James 1:5; Galatians 5:16a). 

I want to do all things for God's glory, in God's way, and by God's power. Don't you?

God doesn’t quit on us; we must not quit on Him. So don’t wimp out. Instead, wind up for the glory of God!

Which of these "I will" statements, acted on, would most revolutionize your life right now? 

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). She co-authored the devotional LOL with God with Pam Farrel and is a contributor to It's a God Thing.  Dawn and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net