Life as we knew it was about to change – again. Along with our “special needs” young adult son and two school aged daughters, we began a series of challenging adjustments when Joe’s mom joined our household. Recovering from a two month hospitalization and nursing home rehabilitation stay, she unpacked her few and simple belongings along with the sad realization that her vascular dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis was causing her decline at a more rapid pace than we had yet to see so clearly.
The helpful woman we had known now needed help showering, finding her glasses, shuffling down simple steps, knowing which medications to take, and figuring out how to use the phone that she mistook as the remote control.
She wasn’t the only one who had changed. We all had to change. We had to adjust to less sleep and more responsibilities. Hearing different noises from Mom’s room would be our “call” to check on her for fear she might wander toward steps or other areas she was no longer familiar with in our home. We had to change our schedules, our outside commitments (job, ministries, time with family and friends), our daily expectations and even our attitudes. Sometimes the children had to rearrange school activities or time with friends. We all did our share of canceling things we really wanted to do because we felt the need to stay with mom. When therapists came, we would have to arrange (or rearrange) our day to be home to talk with them and learn what we had to do to help Mom.
We occasionally had to lovingly confront Mom’s self-centeredness (a part of the disease, not what she was like previously). She had become so selfish and negative, that even simple and every day conversation with her had become very challenging. We initiated the sharing of the “blessing of the day” and “how we were able to help or be kind to someone else”. This activity helped us to see the “positive” in each day, and how God was helping us through this time.
We all experienced changes, and noticed that our personal character development was as ongoing and constant as our care for Mom. We needed help to focus outside the world of care-giving and reach out to others. We had to accept criticism from others who thought things should be handled differently, causing us to take inventory of our own flaws and deficiencies when these criticisms come to us. These challenges continued to “redirect” us each day and moment to moment as we relied on the Holy Spirit to control and empower us. Frustrations lead us to the Lord as He taught us through His word, to do what we knew to be right, not just what was comfortable, easy or fun. He helped us to show unconditional love to Mom as He has shown to us. Because He gave us these challenges, we learned to be more loving in relationships, more purposeful in ministry, more creative with our use of time, and more reliant upon Him.
Mom Ferrini has been with the Lord a few years now. With one daughter married, the other on her own, and a 33 year old son with special needs still at home with us, we sense a new freedom in being able to differently consider the use of our time, talents and treasures for our family and His work. We also sense, that while we are experiencing some freedom right now, there will be a time, probably not too far around the corner, when life will challenge us and we will once again be called to make some new and different choices…and, it again we’ll learn again what continues to be “true” – that we don’t learn as much through the good and easy times, like we do – when life gets tough(er)!
©Joe and Cindi Ferrini