It's TOWANDATUDE TUESDAY. Many of us are facing the challenges that come with aging parents. I've spoken with several friends that have had to put their parents in nursing homes and the heartbreak of what that entailed. One of my dear friends of many years is caring for her Mother at home. This Tuesday I share her story with you.
Meet Candy Elmore who is caring for her Mother Chris who has Alzheimer's disease. Candy is sixty years old, and has been married to her husband Gary for fifteen years. Between them they share six children and thirteen grandchildren. Candy and Gary moved from Texas to Kodiak Alaska in 2007 to pastor a church there. When she is there, Candy has a part time job as a preschool teacher.
Candy's mom Christine (Chris) was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 2008. Candy's daughter and her husband had been living with and caring for her for two years. In 2011 as the disease progressed, Chris needed full time care. Candy and Gary had made a promise to Candy's Dad when he was alive, that they would always take care of Chris. So the couple made the decision that Candy would take a leave of absence from her job and go to Florida (where she was originally from) to stay with her Mother, and Gary would stay on in Alaska. They would have to work out the details along the way. Two years have passed, with trial and error, heartache and many blessings.
"Research has shown that 'FAMILIARITY REPLACES MEMORY' in Alzheimer's patients, so we want to keep Mom living in her own home as long as possible. It's hard to watch your parents health failing." Chris is still pretty active, although she is now losing her eye sight. The Mother and daughter duo have shared some amazing road trips to visit Chris's Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren in other states, who wouldn't have gotten to spend time with her and know her otherwise. An example of this happened last year, when Candy's daughter in law became ill and needed an extended stay in the hospital. Candy and Chris drove to North Carolina to care for the children. This incident helped Candy to see a bigger picture in all this. "If I was home in Kodiak, that trip never would've happened, it would've been impossible." Instead, beautiful memories were made for the children, of a special time they spent with their grandmother and great grandmother.
I asked Candy about how she keeps her spirits up in the midst of what would seem like a crisis for most of us. "I have found for Gary and I, that planning ahead, knowing that we have a date coming up when we will see each other is best. When I first came to Florida to care for Mom, I left things open ended. That wasn't good for me, I struggled with feelings of being displaced from my life with Gary in Kodiak." She says that it took six month's to accept her "new normal". Now, Candy and Gary try to have trips planned to see each other, so there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Candy says that it's important for the "caregiver to make some 'time out' for themselves, many caregivers get burned out." Also, to "try and maintain your interests and hobbies". Candy loves photography and digital scrap booking, preserving memories for her loved ones. When she is home in Alaska, she enjoys hiking.
Candy told me of a book that she read when she first began caring for her Mother full time that helped her a lot, ONE THOUSAND GIFTS by Ann Voskamp, "dare to live fully right where you are". She says that the book helped her to put everything into perspective.
One of Candy's favorite quotes is by Mother Theresa, "God does not command that we do great things, only little things with great love." I see my friend walking that out in her life every day with so much love and TOWANDATUDE. Loving her family and friends and making memories while she makes the most of a difficult situation.
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