18 July 2008

Role Reversals

I had an adventure with my sister today. We spent the day doing some normal sisterly things. We shopped. We had lunch in a restaurant. We laughed and made fun of ourselves while we tried on hats. It was good to spend time with her. It always is. It also contained an element that could have been awkward. My sister's father has dementia and on our list of places to go was a care facility for folks like her dad.

It's an odd situation to have a sister whose father is not your father and not your step-father either. It's sort of like having family once removed. My little sister was placed for adoption when she was born and we were reunited about 14 years ago. I am glad we get to be sisters now but I am sad that she has this situation to go through. There is no good outcome when someone you love has Alzheimer's or dementia. The best you can do is manage grief and limit hazards.

My sister inherited the "do the right thing" and the "analysis paralysis" gene. We both did. She has been trying to monitor her father's health and safety from several states away and is now having her dad come stay with her. She knows it may not be for long and she knows that it is going to be difficult. She has contacted every professional organization in the state that has information and resources regarding the care and management for folks who are in the throes of these diseases. She has done everything in her power to give her dad the best care while staying in his own home surrounded by his own things. She has sacrificed her own routines and comfort to take care of her daddy. She worries about the strain that will be placed on her marriage. She worries that her dad will become aggravated or aggressive, a normal behavior for men with dementia, and will have to call for help. She worries that her motives for caring for him are selfish and/or self-serving. She wonders if she is doing the right thing. All very normal things to be concerned about when you find yourself in a role reversal with your parents.

Sis has been a hospice volunteer for years. For a brief moment she was teary as we talked on the drive home and said she is in the place of having to live her convictions about people dying and that it was much easier to help others through the process than to be in an indeterminate hospice situation with her dad.

This is also the time that I need to have the faith to live out my convictions. My sister needs support. She will need my prayer, my listening ear, my love, my hugs, my laugh, my tears and my faith. She will need me to do the stand up thing and not be repelled by the smell of impending death and adult diapers that need to be changed. She needs me to find the time to engage her dad in conversation or to take her out to lunch when her dad is being provided for by other care-givers. She needs me to love her in practical ways. She needs me to be her sister.

I am so proud of her. I am so thankful that God reunited us. I pray that God will bring glory to Himself by using me as His instrument in her life. It's times like this I realize it is incumbent on me to pray and seek the Lord- not for my own good- but for the good of those in my life. These are times when my faith in Christ needs to find traction in difficult and impossible circumstances.

Lamentations 3:21-25, 31-32
21 This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD'S lovingkindnesss indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. 23 {They} are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. 24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
31 For the Lord will not reject forever, 32 For if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness. (NAS)

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