Friday, April 28, 2017

Tacos, hospitality & dementias

So why Tacos With Grace? I wanted to have grace in the name and when I went looking through the post I had written, the taco part just jumped out at me. As a family we have experienced many taco meals. They used to be big family events, first at my husband’s home and then after we were married and had children at ours. My husband’s grandmother, Mary Curd, was partly Native American, a great cook, who had her own Mexican recipes. She taught her daughter, my husband’s mother to make tacos and she taught me how to make enchiladas.  There were a lot of Louisiana relatives who gathered with my husband’s Oklahoma, New York and California family to enjoy the feast.

Yes, grandma and her family belonged to the great exodus of families who traveled to California out of the great dust storms of the plains. Finally, settled in Pacific Grove, Mary worked in the canneries of Monterey.

But this is about gatherings, feasting, enjoying hospitality alongside mild cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s.  

Large gatherings, even family gatherings, are hard for those with various dementias and mild cognitive impairment. My husband tends to sit off by himself and can be very quiet. He loves to see all of the great granddaughters—yes they are all girls. He likes to play with the children but sometimes there is just too much noise. Here are the problems:

Noise: (Most people with these disorders have trouble with noise. When I am putting dishes away in the kitchen Brad is always asking me if I broke something.)

Confusion with so many people: (comprehension is hard and with many people talking comprehension is impossible.)

Confusion with a table full of food: (Brad has trouble with sequences—he will just stand there looking unable to make food choices or even understand that he should pick up a plate first. I usually guide him or do it for him.)

Too long a time is tiring: If the gathering is at our house, I suggest that when everything is too much Brad just go in the bedroom and read or lie down. If we are somewhere else with a lot of people I try not to stay too long.

Hospitality is a Christian gift and blessing but it must be approached differently for people with brain disorders. My sense of care for the other has now to be mostly focused on Brad. One of the great ways hospitality happens in our family is when a son and his wife comes and takes us out to eat and brings a movie to watch. Or a daughter brings food and her family and we eat together. Or old friends, just a couple, invite us for dinner, so only four of us eat together and share conversation. Or maybe just one family member or friend comes and sits, drinks coffee, and talks.

We are called to be kind and full of love like our Lord. This is sometimes hard because it feels like isolation when ministry goes from many to one—but God cares for the one as much as the many. Psalms 136: 23 “Who remembered us in our low estate, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” He remembers us even when we are forgetting many events and people. He loves us through Christ our Lord.
The video below is for all of those suffering:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

There are those days and times when reality comes unglued.

by Viola Larson

There are those days and times when reality comes unglued. The shattered reality then gets scattered all over my sense of security. We are watching, at home, a movie, sitting side by side. He keeps looking behind him for something. “What is it I say?” “I am looking for you, I want to sit by you he says.” I am stunned but it doesn’t happen again. Not yet.

We put the groceries away in the back of the car and, as he always has, he takes the cart to put it away.  I wait and then I see him return with the cart, open the back of the car and start to reach for the groceries. I ask him what he is doing and he says he is putting the groceries away.

We are having tacos for dinner. He actually makes the salad, while I cook the tacos and grate the cheese. And then he dumps his very hot, hot sauce all over the salad instead of putting it into his taco. I yell, “Stop” grab a large serving spoon and remove the top part of the salad with the hot sauce and put it on a separate plate.

It isn’t, as some think, just memory loss. It is confusion, loss in many ways. This is mild cognitive impairment which we were told may get better, stay the same or progress into some type of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, a disease his father died with—probably his grandfather also. The grandfather’s death certificate says died of insanity. When we obtained it, almost thirty years ago, we had no idea what that meant.

My husband’s younger sister has now been diagnosed with early dementia.   

But here is something good. He loves to read. He loves to visit and will start a conversation with strangers, well, just because they smiled at him. He does, after all, look like Mark Twain. Just a week ago a lady stopped us in the grocery store. She asked me, “Has anyone ever told you your husband looks like Mark Twain?” Both my husband and I laughed. Strangers have walked up to him on the street to tell him they know who he is.

And he looks for an opening, to tell the stranger, about Jesus.

Brad is so sweet now—will yes—sometimes when I can’t understand him, or he can’t understand me, he gets loud. (And I have gotten loud, thinking he can’t hear me when actually he isn’t comprehending what I am saying.) But this is my time for learning patience. I am not a patient person and I too often forget that something is wrong. I have spent too many years enjoying the fun (yes, fun) of sparring with him over intellectual ideas. Our two ideal games, scrabble and cribbage, we can no longer play.

God is giving me his grace and insistently pulling away, here and there, my very rough edges. And he is teaching me to trust in ways and places I have-not experienced before.  Everything, is now my responsibility and so I am learning to hand it all back to the Lord I have walked with for so many years. Without the Lord Jesus Christ, ... But now, instead, while there is grief there is a great deal of joy, even fun. Yes, again, fun.

I will use this blog to write about our journey through this awful disease. Many do not understand it or think of it as only memory loss. Too many caregivers have been deserted by both friends and family (Not me!). I want to share what this journey means from a Christian point of view. It is an exploration for me as well as others.
Here is a book I recommend: Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer's Disease by Dr. Benjamin Mast