Saturday, August 27, 2011

Catching Up

Five days after my last post, my aunt D passed away.  She was a breast cancer survivor, but succumbed to colon cancer.  It would  be interesting to know if the cancer in her colon was metastatic breast cancer that settled in her colon, or if it was a true colon cancer.  I didn't realize that cancer could metastasize that way until a friend was told that the tumor in his liver was lung cancer, not liver cancer.

M, meanwhile, is doing well.  Her cancer was staged at 2, and she's waiting for results of yet another test, this one to determine if (statistically) she is, after all, a candidate for some sort of targeted chemotherapy.

I spent the day at an Aging-In-Place seminar.  It was interesting and enlightening.  Thank you, B, for the invitation and the company.  It was a good day on many levels.

At the Aging-in-Place: Choices presentation, I realized that my experiences are common.  Families that can form a care-giving community fare better than primary caregivers who have no strong support group behind or alongside them.  The very elderly are very resistant to change, and don't really want help.  Family caregivers need to change the language they use to make changes more palatable.  We need to evaluate our needs carefully -- do we need a companion who had do anything that doesn't involve physically touching the client, someone who can help with bathing and dressing, someone to manage meds, or someone to give injections or provide wound care?  Do we need someone in the morning, or someone in the afternoon and evening?  Do we need routine assistance on a regular schedule, or do we need respite care?  Do we need someone to come to our home, or  do we need to move our residence?

The second session we attended looked at the characteristics of normal aging.  Interestingly, our spacial perception and ability to judge distances is about the first skill that begins to fade.  Explains why, as seniors, we have to take a whole new range of precautions when we drive an automobile.  Reading is the last skill to fade. That's nice for those of us who are readers -- as long as we can still see well enough to read!  Our bones shrink -- including our jawbones.  Our kidney function fades, as do our taste bunds and our ability to feel thirsty.  No wonder seniors dehydrate to quickly!

The session titled "Tips for Caregivers" was really a sales pitch for a privately operated social services agency.  The useful piece that they did offer was a test to measure your stress level as a caregiver.  My own stress level?  Real.  Moderate.  Far from no stress, but not yet approaching burnout.  Again, it was clear that my stressors are far from unusual, and that I have friends who have greater problems than do I.

Meanwhile, I'm watching the continuing MSN broadcasts on Hurricane Irene.  Prayers are winging toward my friends along the eastern seaboard.  I know it is unlikely they will be spending time on the computer reading this entry or emails and letting the rest of us know how they are doing, but some time in the next few days they will learn that I was/am concerned for their welfare.

Give thanks for all the caregivers in your neighborhood, in the US and in the world.
Pray for all those impacted by Hurricane Irene.
Don't forget to pray for your own needs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Give thanks ....

Two friends have had surgery this summer because of practically non-existent circulation into their legs and feet.

I've written about R before.  He is 80, had surgery in early summer involving a variety of magical things that medicine can go these days to correct circulation blockages in the extremities.  Now he is learning to live with a built-in defibrillator.  He has other heart issues, but he is living independently in his own home with regular visits from the Visiting Nurse, the Physical Therapist and the Occupational Therapist.

Another friend, G, had a similar surgery on Monday.  He is 20 years younger than R.  He has had other surgeries over the last 12 or so years for circulatory issues.  This time he waited just a bit too long.  In addition to the steps taken to improve his circulation, he lost seven toes and probably 20% of one foot.  His recovery will be long and hard.  His wife says they can take only one day at a time, and are thankful for each day.

On the other hand, there is M.  After a mammogram in late July, followed almost immediately by an MRI and biopsy, she had a lumpectomy last week.  Her cancer was confined to a single tumor which had not spread even to the walls of the lymph node where it was growing.  Cancer has not been detected anywhere else in her body, even with all the fancy diagnostic tools now available.  Her cancer is of a type that normally responds well to hormone therapy, a treatment technique that was so new when Ray was in treatment that you almost never heard or read about it.  M is already back at work.  Except for hormones and some "insurance" radiation therapy, her treatment is done.

And D, an elderly aunt who is in the end stage of colon cancer.  This photo shows D with my father in Nov 2007.  D's granddaughter writes that her life expectancy is now weeks, perhaps days.  Long-dead family and friends have been visiting her in her dreams for the last decade or so, something she finds supportive.   D is too weak to sit up to read, too weak even to hold a letter.  She has turned to prayer for peace of mind.  

Four people, four very different outcomes for four life-threatening conditions.   Send them positive energy in whatever form you use.

Give thanks for at least one person who makes a difference in your life.

Don't forget to pray ....

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fighting Homelessness, 250 Meals at a Time

My church partners with an organization called the Institute for Human Services, commonly known as IHS.  If you know it was started by an Episcopal priest, and know a little of Christian symbols, you will recognize the significance of the name.

On the first Friday of each month, a few of our faithful gather to produce enough Shepherd's Pie to serve 200-250 people.  It's always the same menu.  It's a tradition.  Holy Nativity makes Shepherd's Pie.

Paul and his wife Jane are the current cheerleaders for this project.

Paul, who looks terribly competent in this kitchen, says he doesn't cook at home.  He can only cook for 200.

Virginia makes cole slaw.   

Margie makes Ambrosia, with some help from Denise to manage the collander.  

This month, we had some help from four Punahou students earning community service hours.  Denise mentors them, we appreciate their help, and they have fun as they make a difference.  This is what community service is all about.

Jasmine and Maya sliced bananas to add to the ambrosia.  

Devin and Jasmine started by mixing up gallons of dehydrated potatoes.
Then they moved to mixing the meat.

Once the meat is cooked, everyone helps layers of vegetables, mashed potato, and cheese.  

In just over an hour, the finished trays head out the door and are on their way to IHS shelters.  

Give thanks for those who give their time.
Don't forget to pray!