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Holiday Preparations

Getting ready for the holidays at my house incorporates specific considerations that many families who do not deal with chronic illnesses do not consider as part of their preplanning task list. Since most of you readers have similar concerns, you probably know where I’m going with this but for new caregivers just starting to deal with the holiday season, here are some of the staging considerations that I do in advance to help the gathering go as well as possible.


Continue Reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/holiday-preparations/

Confessions of a Stressed-Out Caregiver

Often when I meet someone who has just become a caregiver, they ask me how I do it; “How do you handle the daily stress of working and caregiving full time while still managing a home?” I always reply, “I try to take it one day at a time and just deal with what’s happening that day.” Pearls of wisdom, right? Well, I’m here to confess, I apparently don’t deal with stress very well so I’m not sure that I should be giving anyone any advice on this subject. I’ve been caring for Lynn full time since 2009 and I can tell you, it’s starting to take its toll. Here’s my confession.


I do not take things one day at a time. I try to but I’m not very good at it.


continue reading at

https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/confessions-of-a-stressed-out-caregiver/

What Resources are Available if I’m Not Around Anymore?

Preparing for Emergencies in advance saves precious minutes that can mean the difference in life and death.

About this time last week, I was experiencing discomfort in my abdomen. As the hours progressed, the pain got worse until eventually it was so intense that I was vomiting. Unable to sit up, I was lying on the floor moaning in pain with no access to help within reach. Fortunately, Lynn heard my moaning and used his emergency response button to call for help. The dispatcher was able to summons the rescue squad and contact my daughter to come to our house to stay with Lynn until his son could arrive to take over (she has a special needs child she had to get home to before her husband left for work).
As I lay on the floor in agony, what was going through my head? I need to find a break between vomiting to put a Foley catheter in Lynn or his bladder will become too distended. I waited for my next break after vomiting and while doubled over, collected catheter supplies and inserted it before I was unable to remain upright again. At that point, I was able to focus on me.
Continue reading at: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/what-resources-are-available-if-im-not-around-anymore/

I Can’t Just Get Sick

I had a scare this week thinking that I was about to experience the joy of food poisoning. As I was giving Lynn his bath, I started feeling really nauseous. Then my stomach starting burning and feeling crampy and I started sweating—all the tell-tale signs of food poisoning when you’ve recently spent hours sampling leftover food as you clean up from the day’s festivities. As it turned out, it did not develop into the dreaded torture of food poisoning and probably was a reaction to eating too many rich food products the same day on top of eating them several days previously. However, the experience brings into focus that as a caregiver, I can’t just get sick. As I’m preparing to be sick, I have to prepare Lynn for me to be sick. Let me tell you; that just does not seem fair….
Continue reading at https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/i-cant-just-get-sick/

Standing Beside His Bed

Introduction:  I wrote the following story about a time in my life when I was waiting at Lynn’s bedside to find out if he was getting better or worse.  I submitted this story to a writing contest at work and won second place. However, I wanted to share it with you because I think many of you can relate to it.

Standing Beside His Bed

Standing beside his bed, watching the rhythm of his breathing, the irregular up and down motion of his chest, I think of where we have been and where we may be heading. Watching and waiting for that next breath. Listening to the rumbling of secretions he cannot clear on his own, it is strange being on this side of health care.  For years I was on the other side; the one checking the vital signs, assessing the patient for changes indicating improvement or decline.  For years, I was in control.  Now, I’m on the other side…waiting…watching…hoping…alone in his room; his strength when he has none.
I learned about multiple sclerosis in nursing school years ago, but the overview in the textbook in no way prepared me for the reality.  Before, his MS became so progressive, the rhythm of our lives was moving along, flowing with the usual ups and downs, sometimes riding high on a wave of happiness but often feeling the plummet as the wave crashed down again and new symptoms emerged.  Up and down like the ocean currents; in and out, requiring us to develop a new “normal” to the rhythm of our lives.

What is a normal rhythm anyway?  For us, it’s taking each day as it comes, each moment as a blessing of time God has granted us to be together and with our family. As the ebb and flow of the disease takes control of our lives, we adjust to a new normal; a new way of adapting; a new rhythm of life.

Standing here I pray for strength and mercy. I pray for wisdom for his healthcare team.  I pray that they will not see him as a diagnosis but as a person with his own needs, his own hopes and dreams.  I appreciate them letting me be part of his healthcare team; for them allowing me to be his advocate and for them listening to me … because I know him best.  I know the subtle changes; I recognize a difference in rhythm or color or sound that mean improvement or decline.
And I continue to wait and watch.

The doctors, nurses, therapist, and so many more come and go.  They warn me the next thirty minutes will decide; does he go on a respirator or is he stabilizing.  If he goes on the respirator, he may never come off; his lungs are just too weak. So I wait…and watch…and pray.

Do I notice a change?  Is the rhythm of his breathing less erratic, somehow less labored?

The medical team comes in and draws yet another tube of blood.  They come back smiling, “It worked. His gases have improved.  Let’s see if he continues on this path. Maybe we can avoid the ventilator after all.”

I say a prayer of thanksgiving.  My fear that this was the beginning of the end or the beginning of a lifetime on a ventilator is fading away.  The rhythm of my heartbeat slows to match the rhythm of his breathing and once again, the normal of our lives change and we move on to the rhythm of a new normal in living with this life sentence of MS.

Spring Into Action

Are you prepared to spring into action for an emergency? Just because you are a full time caregiver, doesn’t mean the world stops sending you other challenges so you can focus on the one needing your care.  Most of us have other family members—children, parents, siblings, even close friends or others who are near and dear to our hearts.  What happens when they have a crisis and they need you? It’s a good idea to have a plan in place for just such an emergency.
Last weekend, my Mom seemed to be having a stroke.  Suddenly, she could not say what she wanted to say but instead a weird combination of words came out.  She was fully alert and aware that her words were garbled but unable to get what was thought in her head to come out of her mouth. Thought there were no other symptoms of a stroke, dysphasia is a potential sign of stroke and one that should not be ignored so I needed to get her to the emergency room.

It’s important in times of crisis, to be able to sit aside as much emotion as possible so that fear and anxiety does not prohibit you from reacting.  Having originally been trained as a nurse, I had experience is becoming “clinical,” that is you start assessing major bodily functions, determine what is working and what is not and then plan quickly to take whatever necessary steps come next. Living in rural Virginia, our rescue squad is volunteer and doesn’t always have a team at the station plus the rule in an emergency is to take the patient to the nearest emergency room.  I wanted her to go where her medical records were located if possible and since there was no breathing concern and other vital signs were stable, I realized the quickest way to get her there was to take her myself.

Unfortunately, taking Lynn with us was out of the question.  I could not manage to care for him and my Mom at the same time so as I was having Dad help Mom get ready to go to the hospital, I immediately put an indwelling catheter into Lynn so that someone else in my family could stay with him.  Then I called his son, to come spend the night just in case but he lived an hour away; so I called my daughter who only lives 10 minutes away and she came right over.  She finished helping my parents get ready while I pulled together Lynn’s essentials—catheter (done), night time medications(assembled and labeled), morning medications (assembled and labeled), instructions for other comfort needs (written and placed on kitchen table.)  Checked and double-checked.  Lynn had or was about to have all he needed for me to leave immediately and stay away several hours.

My family has learned that when I call for help, it usually means I need to be relieved of Lynn’s care for an extended time. They have made a commitment to do what they can to always be there for us and having the knowledge of that commitment gives me such peace knowing that they have my back where he is concerned. I have an emergency folder prepared in case something happened to me and I can’t do the prep work for when I’m not here.  It’s good to have that available and to update it periodically since care for anyone with a long term condition can change over time.
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/spring-into-action/

Frustrations of Dealing with Limitations

Life at our house over the past month has been rather challenging.  My Mom was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer and lives about two-hundred miles away; so we have moved her and my Dad in with us while she goes through chemotherapy.  Lynn’s Mom has myasthenia gravis and suffers from extreme weakness all the time. She fell while home alone and got pretty banged up though fortunately no broken bones. His Step-Dad was diagnosed this week with lung cancer and has maybe six months to live…and it’s the holiday season.

As the primary caregiver for Lynn, not only do I deal with his physical health but his mental andemotional health as well.  All this bad news has been very difficult for him.  He is angry because he wants to help but is limited in what he can do.  For example, we had bought his Mom an emergency alarm button to wear but she was intimidated by how to set it up and therefore, it was not working when she fell. Lynn had tried to explain to her what she needed to do to start the service but she just shuts down when it comes to technical discussions. Therefore, he felt he needed to go to her house to make sure the system was functioning.  We climbed into the van and, of course, when we get there, his wheelchair couldn’t go inside. (I strongly suspected it couldn’t before we went.)  He was convinced that with the small metal ramps we have, he could get in. I could tell his need to make sure she was safe was over-riding his knowledge of logistics; so we went and I went inside to hook everything up while he waited in the van. His Mom couldn’t come out to see him so I became the liaison between them and made sure his need to see her safe was satisfied.

Now his Step-Dad is dying. His Step-Dad didn’t enter the picture until Lynn was an adult so it’s not the same impact as when his own Dad died with MS when Lynn was twenty but still, he’s known Ben for about thirty years and he is special to Lynn.  Tomorrow, we plan to load up and go to the hospital to see him to essentially say good-bye because we try to avoid hospitals as much as possible during cold and flu season to keep Lynn healthy, I’m nervous about going.  To visit face-to-face versus calling is a choice I allowed Lynn to make because, again, he needs the opportunity to satisfy his emotional needs as well as his physical.

Lynn has really become depressed with all the health challenges affecting our family.  He’s a tender hearted man and though he has great faith and knows each of them knows Jesus and will have a home in heaven, the grief he is feeling over their suffering and uncertain future is difficult for him because he has no control.  He’s trying to control his emotions and not add more to my load but I hear him getting angry and frustrated at minor things as he seeks to write on his book.  He’s sleeping a lot; he doesn’t feel well; he has no patience; and he’s making poor decisions regarding his own health (staying up till 6:00 a.m. while I take my Mom to the emergency room instead of going to bed and getting the rest he needs).  I’m trying to help him cope through humor and helping him find solutions that work for the both of us but I have to admit, my patience is at a limit, too.
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/caregiver-perspective-the-frustrations-of-dealing-with-limitations/

Character Flaws

I have a tendency to feel sorry for myself at times.  I also know that I may at times play the martyr.  What I didn’t realize is that I sometimes threat others the way I don’t like them to treat me, too.
Feeling Sorry for Myself
When others are able to go out, make plans that they can actually carry out, sit quietly and read or watch a TV show without interruption, I feel jealous.  I can hear the smallest violin in the world playing, “Poor Pitiful Me,” while I sit and think about how unfair it is that I can’t do those things. I look on with envy at those who can eat while their food is still warm or who can go to bed before 2:00 a.m. when I’m still up preparing dinner or feeding Lynn.  I want those options too and I sometimes resent not being able to be like everyone else.
Then, I look at Lynn who can’t walk, can’t feed himself, and is totally reliant on someone else to do for him. I see how sad and guilty he feels when he watches me give up plans or be unable to have fun like others.  I hear him apologize when I’m struggling to stay awake to finish my day or when he has to get me up at night.  I see how his life is so much harder than mine and I’m ashamed of how I feel though I know I’m human and my feelings are natural.
Playing the Martyr
Though I don’t consciously play the martyr, I think somewhere in my subconscious I deny myself the opportunities I mentioned above because I want to be recognized as self-sacrificing.  Could I go to bed sooner?  Maybe, if I let some things “go” or if I did not indulge in distractions like listening to books on tape or reading about my friends on Facebook.  When others offer to stay with Lynn, I’m reluctant to say yes because I don’t want to appear as if I’m neglecting him or I say no because I’m concerned since they don’t know his comfort needs, that he might be uncomfortable while I’m away.  I also feel that as I become more isolated from participating in activities that it’s more and more difficult to bring myself to socialize. I also admit that I like receiving praise for what I do.  I like the compliments and recognition that come with being the self-sacrificing spouse. Yes, I admit it; I have a “sick” personality at times.
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/character-flaws/

Giving the Gift of Receiving

“Giving the gift of receiving,” sounds like a contradiction.  How can you give a gift that you receive? I think you can and I think it can be the greatest gift you give and receive all year.  Here’s why.
As a caregiver for someone who is totally disabled with very limited abilities, my world is very structured and organized.  It has to be in order to keep Lynn healthy, to meet all his abundant needs, and in order to get all those things done that must be done by the end of each day. Because I must be so organized, changing my schedule or having someone come in to “help” me is often very disruptive.  I know they are well meaning and I know they truly want to help; I get that, but truthfully, it’s also disruptive even while helpful.  If someone is coming over to help, they typically want to do it first thing in the morning to get it out of the way so they can get on with their day.  I would want to do that as well so I understand why they ask to come over early.  However, in order to receive visitors, I have to make sure that Lynn’s three-hour morning routine is completed before they arrive. So if someone wants to come in “mid-morning” at 9:00 a.m. because he/she is an early riser, then I must get us up at 6:00 a.m. Getting up at 6 doesn’t sound bad except when you realize we can’t get to bed most nights until 2 or 3 a.m.  Therefore, before a visit, we are often getting a “nap” rather than a night’s sleep which compromises not only my well-being but Lynn’s since he battles fatigue.
Another concern for letting people give their help is potential exposure to infections.  When family members or close friends come over, they already know our “rule” for visiting–if you might be sick, don’t come!  That little sniffle might not stop a visitor from spreading holiday cheer but from our perspective, they are bringing in a weapon that threatens Lynn’s safety and welfare.  His immune system is compromised and an innocent, though irritating, cold for most people can put Lynn in bed or even the hospital for weeks. I remind anyone who asks to come over of our house rules, but occasionally they still show up with the sniffles thinking that they just won’t touch him or sneeze/cough in his direction and it will be okay, but what they forget is that the greater spread of their virus and other germs is not the cough or sneeze (though such an action carries the germ a good distance), it is the unwashed hands after such an event that touches something he or I use.  Since I provide all his care, not only do I have to limit his exposure but mine as well so that I won’t be the carrier into his environment or I won’t become sick and unable to care for him. Therefore, though I try to be kind, if someone is sick I often ask them not to stay and help.
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/giving-gift-receiving/

Planning for the Future with Our Children

Sometimes I forget the impact our life has on the rest of our family. Today, that impact is more evident as I wait for our three children and their spouses to come over to “talk about the future.”   I have been having just such a conversation with my brothers and parents but hadn’t really thought much about needing to have that conversation with my own children.  However, they have requested an opportunity to discuss the “what ifs” that can occur either as a result of my disability or my death.
As a result of secondary progressive MS, Lynn can no longer provide any self-care.  He relies on me for everything from feeding to assistance with going to the bathroom.  It’s a lot of work but we have a routine that works for us pretty well. However, what if I suddenly could not provide that care? What would happen to Lynn?  And what if the “what if” was not my death but my disability and not only would total care be needed for Lynn but also for me?  The obvious answer to that is that our children would have to figure out what to do with us.  Therefore, I understand and appreciate their desire to have this conversation with us today.
All three of our children are in their late twenties, early thirties. Two of them have just been married two years or less and the other one has been married longer but has a young child with special needs.  All are in those early years of learning to make it on their own and struggling to do so in today’s economy.  I also know that each of them would do anything for us.  They are very good about helping out and they want the very best for us, but realistically, if something happened to me so that I could no longer care for Lynn, there would certainly be an impact on them as well as me.
Financially
With any illness or injury there are mounting bills to pay.  If we were both dead and had outstanding debt that was not paid by life insurance, the bills would go to our heirs. That doesn’t seem fair but if I’m not mistaken, that’s how it is. Therefore, to protect my family, I have bought supplemental life insurance that should be enough between what my company provides and the additional I carry, to pay my last expenses and provide the ability to care for Lynn.  I can keep this insurance as long as I’m employed but I’m also 57 years old now so I may only have that option for another 10 years, if that long.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to afford to carry that as independent coverage afterwards though; so financially, I think they will be okay.
Providing Care
Money is one thing but who is going to be responsible for taking us in?  None of them have houses that would allow Lynn to move in along with all his equipment and supplies.  Therefore, they would either have to move into our house or move Lynn into an assistive living arrangement (or more likely a long term care facility).  I know that none of them want to do that but sometimes there is no choice in the matter.  I have some Long Term Care for me to help pay for a place for me to go but Lynn was in the process of being diagnosed with MS when that option became available with my company so he was turned down for coverage.  Would they be able to afford a long term care option or would someone have to quit their job to stay home to care for him? And, if that happened, could they afford for one of them not to work?
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/planning-future-children/

Managing Caregiver Chaos

For some reason, I have found that when I have a period of peace, quiet, and routine that I can expect a similar period of chaos to arrive in the near future.  Usually the chaos that comes is more than a little disruptive and what makes it chaos is that it comes from multiple directions all at once. For instance, my life is pretty busy with taking care of Lynn and working full time.  However, in the past month, my parents have moved in because my 82 year old Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and needed help when she started chemotherapy;  my mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital for excessive bleeding after a colonoscopy; my father-in-law fell and is in the hospital to rule out any broken bones; my son-in-law was in a wreck and totaled his truck (fortunately no injury); one of my four employees resigned; we received notice of a routine government audit at work that is very time consuming (and of course fell under the duties of the person who resigned two weeks before the notice came in so now it falls to me to figure out what to do); another of my employees may be facing medical problems; Lynn’s assistant who stays with him when I have to go into work can’t help because her husband has been in the ICU and last but not least, it’s Thanksgiving with Christmas right behind.  Talk about chaos!!!
How do I deal with all this chaos?
As a caregiver, one of my “bags of tricks” is the ability to adapt and be flexible; plus I never throw anything away that might be used to “fix” something later.  With that principle in mind, I have a medical supply area and an equipment area of my house to help me address any mishaps to Lynn or to my family members.  Knowing that chemo has multiple side effects many of which result in extreme fatigue and weakness, I’ve set up Mom and Dad’s room with all my discarded support equipment from Lynn’s early days with MS that were geared toward preventing falls and conserving energy.  Also, rather than being her caregiver, I direct Mom’s care and let Dad do the actual hands-on as much as possible.  That practice frees up my time for Lynn and allows Dad to continue to care for Mom.
Most of Lynn’s Mom and Step-Father concerns are taken care of by his sister; however, one of our main concerns for them is if they fall and can’t get help.  His Step-Dad is legally blind now and his Mom has a neurological condition that results in very limited strength so if he falls, she can’t help and if she falls, he would have difficulty determining how to help her as well.  Therefore, we have bought them emergency alert buttons to wear so they will have access to help when no one is around.  By knowing they can get help, Lynn is not as anxious about their welfare or as frustrated in not being able to check on them.  If he’s less anxious, then his demands on me are less as well.
With work heating up and becoming more demanding, I’ll need to go into the office more often.  Therefore, I’m working on identifying other resources to stay with Lynn while I’m away.  Having Mom and Dad here is an unexpected help in that regard in that my brother and his wife are able to come help with Mom and Dad and have offered to stay with Lynn occasionally, as well, if I need to go into the office and Lynn’s assistant is still not available.
My best strategy for dealing with chaos though is “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  I do just enough cooking and cleaning to meet essential needs.  I don’t push myself to attend events that aren’t essential or take on projects that deplete my energy level.  I am giving myself permission to stop work at a decent hour and using paid leave to make up work hours so I can get sufficient sleep to have the energy needed to keep going every day.
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/managing-caregiver-chaos/
 

Thankful for MS?

In as much as we have recently experienced the Thanksgiving season, I was thinking about the impact Multiple Sclerosis has had on our lives and trying to think of reasons why I could be thankful for MS.  What comes to mind first, of course, are all the challenges but if I really focus I can think of several rewards I have received related to this condition. Here are a few.
Our Relationship
Coping with the challenges of MS has made Lynn and me closer.  Before MS, we were two married, independent partners. We each functioned well alone so there were many aspects of our lives that were not shared.  Due to his dependence on me for just about everything, we are truly one now. We share thoughts and fears, good times and bad as a team rather than as two people with their own agendas. It has made us recognize our own unique needs and struggles and we have more respect and admiration for each other as we recognize how each of us sacrifices for the good of the other.
For the People I have Met
In many cases, there is an instant bond when I meet another person who has MS or is a caregiver for someone with MS.  Instantly, I know the challenges faced and perseverance required every day just to get by if they are dealing with this complex condition. Though that understanding, there is a connection that does not exist with those who have not had to face those same experiences. I now have friends I’ve met through blogging that I expect never to meet in person but who share with me their concerns and offer support for mine.  I’ve also met many health professionals who have been awesome and who have offered so much assistance and encouragement to both of us. I am thankful for each of them and the efforts they have made on our behalf.
Continue reading this article at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/thankful/
 

What Happens When It's My Turn?

Having turned fifty-seven this week;
Hope of retirement in eight years seems bleak.
Thinking of losing my income somehow;
Is much too scary to think of just now.
To think of not having two jobs but just one
Is a dream a long time in my future to come.
For if I step down from my duties to care
Who would assume the role that I bear?
Who would be there to scratch his frequent itch?
Or to set up the peddler when his leg starts to twitch?
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/happens-turn/

Thankful to Be a Caregiver

Being a caregiver is difficult.  It’s a lot of hard work; it’s emotionally trying; it’s downright exhausting…but it is also very rewarding.  I try each day to come up with at least one thing that I have done or used or seen or thought about that I am thankful for and I highlight that on my Facebook timeline.  I admit there are times when it is difficult to find something but when I am struggling to come up with a topic, it also makes me realize just how much I have and how truly blessed I am. Today, I want to share with you why I’m thankful that I’m a caregiver.

  1. I am able to give back

Lynn has done so much for me since we have been married.  He is my #1 cheerleader. When he was able, he kept our house and cars in working order but that was just a task.  He was also the best chef that has ever cooked for me (I really miss that because I don’t like to cook). But more than anything, he was there to share with me in good times and bad times; in fun times and stressful. He gave totally and completely to me and now I can give back—not that I didn’t before, but now it is with focus.

  1. I am able to have some control of this situation

One of the most difficult emotions for me is feeling out of control.  I cope better when I feel like I have some control over what is happening. By being his caregiver, I have the ability to control how well he is cared for; I know what he needs, when he needs it, and he likes it done.  I can decide how to manage situations in the best interest of us both. I don’t have to call someone else and hope they are actually paying attention and really telling me the truth.  I don’t have to worry that he has been ignored or that he is hiding anything from me to spare my feeling—I KNOW what’s going on with him and that knowledge makes my life easier.

  1. I am able to share in the two minutes or less joyful moments

I have a very dry sense of humor and Lynn has a silly one.  Together, we can encounter a situation and between the two of us often one or the other has a slanted view of what’s happening, shares that perspective and we share a good laugh.  Our sense of humor allows us to face the challenges without taking them too seriously and helps to take the edge off the sharpness of our lives.  I enjoy those breaks from the seriousness of life and if I was not taking care of him, I would miss those.

  1. I have been able to share my caregiving experiences with others and been blessed by their feedback

continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/thankful-caregiver/

Just Because It Can Be Done Doesn't Mean It Should Be

With much excitement but a little trepidation, Lynn and I returned to church last Sunday.  We had not been able to attend there since he started requiring the use of a wheelchair to get around.  When he first came home from the hospital in 2010, he was too weak for almost a year; then as his strength improved he started using Rebif and just felt too bad.  Finally, he switched to Tecfidera and was strong enough and felt well enough to return to church but then we measured the old elevator and realized he couldn’t get his wheelchair in it and then be able to make the 90o turn to get back out again. So we resigned ourselves to listening to the previous week’s sermon each Sunday morning as our worship participation.  Then our prayers were answered and after several years of planning and fundraising, the church has expanded the building and part of that expansion was a wonderful, large, smooth-running elevator!

Last week was the first week the county had given the church an occupancy permit so the elevator could be used.  We got word on Friday that all was good for us to return on Sunday.  I have to admit; we were nervous.  For one thing, we were not sure about where everything was or how to use it but figured we could work it out when we got there. Second, while Lynn has periodically gone to doctor’s appointments for extended periods, he has not been in a setting where he could not move around, adjust his wheelchair tilt to lie back, or be able to have other comfort measures performed for the period of time he would be in church.  We prepared by limiting his liquid intake that morning while increasing his protein and carrying a smoothie for him to drink as soon as service was over. That seemed to work; no unexpected bathroom trips during the sermon.
Another concern was clothing.  At home he wears layers due to his difficulty in regulating body temperature.  Also, his waistline is impacted by the baclofen pump implant so getting suit pants on was going to be a challenge.  Therefore, we had ordered dress pants designed for people who used wheelchairs.  The butt is “out” on the pants so that the back is a panel that wraps around and snaps into place. It worked perfectly. They were also light weight but heavy enough for when he felt cool.  A pull-over collar shirt completed the outfit.  Since our church members usually do not wear suites, he would fit right in.
Continue reading this post at http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/just-can-done-doesnt-mean/

Lessons Learned From a Short Trip

I previously published an article (June 26, 2014) entitled, “A Short Trip Back Home.”  In that post I talked about the fact that going away for a weekend took just about the same amount of preparation and packing of equipment as going away for a week. Now, I want to talk about “lessons learned” from that short trip.

I have to say that this trip back home was one of the most miserable we have taken in quite a long time.  Maybe that’s due to the fact that we have not tried a short trip since Lynn became restricted to the use of a wheelchair but I think it just speaks to the complications of taking trips. Why was it so much worse?  There are two possible reasons I think for the difficulty of this trip–the first being that Lynn is being detoxed very slowly for heavy metals. The detox process makes him VERY tired on top of the MS fatigue that is a constant in his life. Needless to say, I couldn’t count on him to help in any way with the process and because he didn’t have the energy to lift a finger, literally, he was more needy than usual and was unable to recover from traveling with just a night’s rest. The second reason was that when we go on vacation, usually, my daughter and son-in-law come over to help me pack up the van. That means I can continue to work on meeting Lynn’s needs while my son-in-law packs everything I have assembled into the van. This time I packed and had Lynn to care for all by myself.
Lessons Learned
Lesson 1:  Take two days off to get ready for the weekend trip instead of one.
I took the day off before the trip to make sure I would have everything ready to go and could get started on time. It’s a five hour trip, I wanted to get at least six hours of sleep before I left, and I wanted to be there no later than 5 p.m. because I wanted my best friend from school to come over to visit for a short time.  I had not seen her in MANY years and we were going to be staying just a mile or two from her home—perfect opportunity to catch up with each other, or so I thought.
Since I had to take his food with me and since I was not going to be home to do my weekend cooking for the coming week, I had to do quite a bit of cooking the day before we left. All this cooking is why I should have taken the extra day.  Between cooking and doing laundry, I wasn’t able to do much packing the night before.
Since I didn’t get to bed before 3 and wanted (needed) at least six hours of sleep to be able to stay awake to drive, I didn’t get up till 9 the next day. Our morning routine takes 3 hours so that brings us to noon.  It’s a 4 hour drive if we have no stops along the way so we maybe we could still make it to the hotel by five???
Lesson 2:  Don’t try to do it all yourself.
I put Lynn to bed to rest before the trip while I started packing. While he’s been detoxing he’s been taking a 1-2 hour nap each morning. I put in an indwelling catheter for the nap and trip and proceeded to pack the van.
As I looked at the magnitude of equipment and supplies that I needed to take, I realized I needed to take out the bench seat in the back of the van.  I managed to remove the bolt securing it to the floor of the van but then I could not figure out how to unlatch the seat from the floor.  There’s some type of safety hook in there that I could not figure out and with my weak arthritic hands, I couldn’t get it to come loose so I had to give up and screw the bolt back into place (many tears and words left best unsaid were involved at this stage) and just pack around it.  By now it’s around 2 p.m. (plus 4 hours for an arrival time past 5…maybe I can reschedule my get-together?)
I get Lynn up after I finish putting all the bags and suitcases in the van. I take care of his comfort needs and then I’m ready to load him into the van. Part of the floor space needed for him to maneuver into his place in the van is taken up by a shower chair and cooler of food. It appeared at first that I would have to unpack them but at last, he shifted back and forth enough to roll into place.  Of course, then I had to crawl around and lock down the wheelchair and all the other items so that nothing would shift during transit and smash us into unconsciousness as we traveled.  I managed several moves that would have made a contortionist proud.  At 3:30, we were finally on our way.
 
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/lessons-learned-short-trip/

When Reality and Dreams Don't Mix, No One Wins

The light was flashing on my answering machine when I came home from going into work to meet my “one day a week onsite” obligation.  Lynn has difficulty answering the phone before it automatically rolls to voicemail so we don’t even try to have him do it when I’m away.  I checked the message and excitement spread throughout my body—someone was calling to see if we might be interested in selling the land we had.  She explained they had lived in the area for a while and needed to build a house to accommodate her husband’s wheelchair.  She shared in her message that she had seen that we had a foundation started on the land but that it appeared to have been sitting there a while and wanted to know if we might be interested in selling.
I was so excited!  I’ve been hoping to sell that land for years now even though it did not have a “for sale” sign posted. Was God sending me an answer to prayer?  Would it really be this easy that I could finally get that land paid off and maybe have enough left over to pay some bills as well?  Even if there wasn’t money left over, it would mean being able to pay off the $43,000 loan on that land!  We would lose a lot of money, no doubt, because we had a lot of money invested in the land.  We had paid to have approval for a pond to be built (which never was); Lynn had spent two years putting in a cinder block full basement and foundation for the planned timber-frame house; we had the timbers already cut for the tongue and grove frame sitting in a storage container on the land.  All of that would certainly be lost in any deal because it was needed for our house and probably would not be of interest to anyone else. However, I was willing to let that go because the reality is….I don’t want to move there anymore.
We bought that land in the early 2000s.  Our children were still in high school.  Lynn had not been diagnosed with MS.  He was a carpenter and after we got married, he wanted to build a house that was “ours” and not live in the one that I had built with my first husband.  He drafted plans for a timber-frame house that was beautiful. We found the perfect land that would support a full basement (where the children’s rooms would be)with a main floor two stories high with an open ceiling and a loft on each side of the second story with nothing but windows in the back.  A full wrap-around porch, a stone fireplace, an attached two car garage on six acres of land with access to a pond in the back. It was going to be gorgeous!  Plus, just in case Lynn did get MS one day, the doors would be wide and we were considering installing an elevator for access from the ground to the main floor.
Lynn started to work on it…slowly.  He was doing it all himself.  First, he waited on the Corp of Engineers to approve the pond installation.  Hurricane Katrina caused a two-three year delay waiting on the pond.  We finally stopped waiting on that and he started putting in the foundation. He laid the cinder block, alone for the most part, after work and on weekends.  Then, five or six years into the project, he was diagnosed with MS. At first it didn’t bother him but gradually, he couldn’t work without a helper (me or one of the boys) and then he couldn’t do more than an hour at a time before he was too exhausted to keep going.
Now it’s been four years since we have even set foot on the land.  The house we live in is in bad need of repair and maintenance which he can’t do and I don’t have time or know how to do it.  The economy is such that selling our current home and making enough to be able to afford to build the new home is unlikely with all the repairs needed here; plus where would we live till the new house could be built?  The timbers previously cut have dried over the years so it’s unlikely they would fit together well without being re-cut and adjusted.  It would take a lot of money to build that house now.  Plus, my daughter is now married and lives ten minutes away with her husband and most importantly, my grandchild.  She and her husband help us out so much and if we moved, they would not be able to do.  So, in my mind, I’ve let go of the dream and faced the reality that we need to sell that land and recoup whatever amount of our investment we can so we can do repairs on this house and pay off many of our mounting bills.   Therefore, this call was a blessing in my mind and I excitedly danced down the hall to tell my husband.
Whose face immediately crumpled at the news as he fought hard not to cry….
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/reality-dreams-dont-mix-one-wins/

How Others See Me

Whether it’s right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy, most of us tend to “take in” the view others have of us.  I think that’s especially true of caregivers.  Once you become a full-time, all consumed caregiver you tend to lose part of yourself through absorbing the emotions and needs of the person for whom you are caring.  I think in some ways that’s what also sets apart the “born” caregivers from those who just provide care. The healthy balance is in knowing how much to absorb so that you can instinctively know what the other person needs and being able to filter out the rest.

When you are very in-tune to the emotions of another, it’s very easy to take on those same emotions.  If that person is happy, you enjoy laughing along.  If they’re sad, you feel a gloom settle over you both while you try to find ways to cheer them up. When they’re angry, it feels like it’s directed at you, and in fact may be, but the underlying reason for the anger is often their disease process.  However, it’s very difficult not to “give as good as you get” when someone is spewing forth hateful or angry words at you. When those words are spoken, it’s difficult not to wonder if you’re to blame or are you doing a good enough job.  It’s also very difficult to come back and keep taking it.
I’m very fortunate that Lynn rarely directs anger at me.  He gets angry at his situation or the equipment he is using when it malfunctions but he’s very careful not to blame me. He’s very considerate of my emotional needs and very grateful for all that I do for him.  But he also has all his mental functions intact.  Not everyone who cares for someone with MS or other neurological conditions is that fortunate.  When MS dementia sets in, the person with MS might not have a clue as to who their caregiver is or why they have to do what is being demanded of them.  It’s heartbreaking to be in that situation when as a caregiver you are doing your best to keep them safe and healthy but they are fighting you each step of the way because they think you’re trying to harm them.  I can’t image anything much more frustrating.  In those situations you might begin to doubt your own sanity or if it’s the right time to say, “no you can’t have cake for breakfast,” or would it really be okay this time.
There are many challenges that come from being a caregiver that you deal with every day in the privacy of your own home. I know I often devise ways to handle a challenge that to others who might observe from the outside looking in might be seen as being weird or even unsafe but unless you walk in my shoes and have my exact same resources, skills, and time constraints; don’t judge what I do because at the time, I’m probably doing my very best.
It’s easy for people on the outside looking in to make judgments on what you should or should not do. They’ve read an article, heard a story, watched Dr. Phil, or taken a class and have become experts on what should or should not be done.  I know mothers are often criticized about how they handle a toddler who acts out in a store or disrupts a waiting room or whatever. They get “those stares” that cast judgment and they feel embarrassed and ashamed to be caught not being the perfect mother.  The same holds true with caregivers.  In public, Lynn does not want to be fed.  He prefers to try to feed himself so I always have available for him special utensils for that purpose and finger foods he can pick up and eat without too much difficulty.  However, it’s usually not the same food as everyone else and he usually makes a mess.  I can sometimes see the pity or embarrassment in the eyes of others which unfortunately makes us both want to avoid eating in public.
Continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/others-see/

How FMLA Supports Caregiving

My paid job, that supports Lynn and me, is as a Human Resources Director of Employee Relations.  As part of that role, I am responsible for keeping up with employment law.  One of the laws often misunderstood by employees is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  While from the employer perspective this law is a thorn in their sides, from an employee perspective this law can provide you with the ability to care for your loved one without being punished for taking time off.

When many people hear about FMLA it is in relation to having time off when a new child arrives in the family either to recover from childbirth or to adjust to being a parent.  However, it’s more than just a law for new parents. Where it can especially be useful is for those people who need to miss time from work intermittently to care for a parent, spouse, child, or themselves due to a serious health condition.  Multiple Sclerosis is included as one of the conditions that is considered a serious health condition.
The provisions of FMLA say that you cannot face disciplinary action (including termination of employment) if you need to miss time from work to provide “care or support” for your immediate family member with MS…at least for a while.  It does have its limits. If you work full time you can have up to 480 hours off, without pay, each 360 days.  The 480 hours does not have to be taken all at once. It can be taken in as small as 15 minute increments if your employer counts its work time in that small of an increment which is the standard for most jobs (meaning you’re paid for each 15 minute period you work).  You can also take the time off with pay if your company has a paid vacation or personal leave policy.  In other words, if they allow you to take time off using paid leave to take your car to the shop for repairs; they have to allow you time off to take care of your spouse using that same leave.
You can use FMLA for any reason that meets the definition of care or support.  The obvious ones are to take your spouse to medical appointments, bathing and dressing them, helping with therapy, etc. But you can also use it to clean your parent’s house if they physically cannot, run their errands if they cannot drive, provide emotional support, and take care of their banking, etc. if they cannot do it themselves. The only thing to keep in mind is that you only have 480 hours each 12 month period.  Once you use it up, it’s gone till the year starts over again.  It’s also one of those situations where if you don’t use it, you lose it.  You can’t carry it over to the next year so that you can be off for an even longer period.
There are, of course, some rules you have to follow.  First, you must prove that you qualify for this law’s protection.  You must have been with your employer for 12 months though the 12-months does not have to be continuous.  Second, you must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-months just prior to when you need to take the time off.  1,250 hours is about 31 weeks or almost 8 months if you miss no time and are working 40 hours a week.  The other point is that if you don’t work 40 hours a week, you are not entitled to as much time off.  If you want to know how much time you’re allowed, here’s the calculation.
Number of hours you work per week /40 (divided by).  That gives you a percent. (Example 30/40=.75) You take that percent and multiply it by 480 to find out how many hours you can have off.  (Example 480 x .75 = 360 hours)
Once you’re qualified then you have to provide medical documentation that you or your spouse, parent, or child has a serious health condition. Usually your employer has a form for you to take to your healthcare provider for him/her to complete.  Your healthcare provider and you should talk about how often you will need to be available to support your family member. I recommend estimating on the high side to be safe but also be realistic.  For example, you might need an hour each morning to get your loved one ready for the day.  That would be five hours per week but do you also on a fairly regular basis need to take several hours off for medical appointments or to run errands?  If you can’t do these things outside of work time and have to do them during working hours, include that time.  Just remember, when it’s used up, it’s gone AND you’re likely using your vacation time up to earn pay for this time.  Many employees assume because they have to be given the time off, their employer has to pay them extra pay above vacation time to provide this care.  That is not true. The law only protects your job and access to your benefits.  It does not provide for pay.
continue reading at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/fmla-supports-caregiving/

A Short Trip Back Home

For the most part, Lynn and I are home bodies.  He just doesn’t handle traveling very well so we rarely leave home.  His already ever-present exhaustion is made significantly greater when he travels and it usually takes a full day to recover afterwards; therefore, we rarely do any short trips since he spends the time at our destination recovering.  Because of this fact and the fact that their home is not wheelchair accessible, I have not made the five-hour trip “home” to my parent’s house since around 2008.

I grew up in one of those rural areas where everyone knew everyone else and more than half of the neighbors were related in some way.  My cousins and I used to all get together annually for a family reunion; however, since Lynn developed MS, we haven’t attended.  I’ve really missed seeing them all and figured I would never see them again due to our travel issues, but my parents and brothers have come up with a plan for us to get together in a few weeks.  I’m really looking forward to seeing all my relatives but planning a short trip is as challenging as planning for a long one so I also dread it in many ways; especially since Lynn will not have a recovery day before he has to attend the reunion events.
In planning for this trip, my first order of business was to find a hotel nearby that was wheelchair accessible. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Many pronounce themselves to be handicap accessible but when you start asking questions, all “accessible” actually means is that they have handrails to use in the bathroom.  That is totally useless for my purposes because he couldn’t reach them anyway and he can’t transfer himself to the toilet so they serve no purpose.  Instead, my “search” criterion was for a roll-in shower.  I figured if a room included a roll-in shower, then the room planner might have a clue as to what was needed for someone confined to a wheelchair.
The first place I booked had the shower but the room had two double beds in it and the picture of the rooms looked really crowed.  Too much furniture in a room makes it nearly impossible for him to turn his wheelchair around so I began to look for something else.  The one I booked yesterday has a single king-size bed, a roll-in shower, a small refrigerator and a microwave in the room, and wide doors.  Mentioning the 32” doorway is a plus since that’s an indication they know what they’re talking about. I’m still a bit concerned because there was no actual picture of a handicap accessible room so I still wonder how much space there might be for him to turn around in.  I guess, if necessary, I can have maintenance move out furniture if I need more room for the wheelchair.
To continue reading this blog, click here: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/short-trip-back-home/

I Like Ours Better

There’s always a lot of hype that surrounds holidays, and Valentine’s Day is certainly right there keeping pace with all the rest. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate your love for one another in some special way with gifts, dinner out, and other more intimate ways of expression. I’ve never been overly romantic; though Lynn was.  He used to always send me flowers where I worked or made me some type of special decorative object.  He always did something special because he enjoyed showing his expressions of love in his own way.
Now that he is unable to get out on his own, he isn’t able to do those things anymore. He can’t make anything since his hands don’t work and he can’t order anything to surprise me since I manage the household funds and would have to type in the credit card information. He can’t take me to dinner because he tries to stick to his special diet and by night time he’s pretty wiped out anyway (plus this time of year we avoid crowds anyway due to cold and flu germs).…he can’t show other more intimate expressions of love independently—other than a kiss.  He can’t put his arms around me or hold me or cuddle with me unless I position him like a manikin and honestly, with my arthritis pain and muscle spasms, that’s just not something I want to do for a few minutes of physical closeness.
You would think that this loss of physical intimacy might have adversely affected our relationship, but I honestly think just the opposite is true. Before Lynn became so dependent on me, we both were VERY independent souls.  Both had previous marriages that did not succeed and both had learned to be both a mother and a father, a housekeeper and a maintenance worker, a CEO and a front-line worker.   Learning to share and include one another was not always our first instinct and that oversight often caused conflict. We may have had physical intimacy but we didn’t have as much emotional intimacy.
While it may sound strange to say this, Lynn’s loss of mobility has lead to our relationship actually becoming much closer than we ever were when we could go out and participate in things together.  Now we have to share everything.  If he has an itch, I have to scratch it. If he needs a bath, I have to give it. If he has a problem…he now tells me about it. There is a strong connection that bonds us like nothing we had before. No longer am I shut out of his life; we truly are one.
 
Read more of this blog at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/like-better/

I'm the Primary Healthcare Provider

Lynn has never been good at sharing information. He’s one of those men who can go to the doctor about a problem, find out he has a new medical condition, start a new treatment program, and when he comes home will say, “The doctor says I’m fine,” or say nothing at all. He did that for years before he was diagnosed with MS. Used to drive me nuts! I have a nursing background and when he came back from the doctor, I wanted to know everything—his blood pressure, what lab work was done, what was the differential diagnosis, what is the treatment plan, what options was he given before he made a choice, etc. Needless to say, I never got that level of detail from him because not only did he not ask those questions but if he did, he didn’t “hear” the answers and could not, therefore, provide any details.
One day after such an experience, I blew up and demanded that I be allowed to accompany him to his next visit.  Not only was I going, but I was going to make an appointment for him with a neurologist and he was going whether he liked it nor not!  I knew he had MS. I also knew he was not telling the doctor what he needed to share so that the doctor would consider that possibility. THAT was the moment that I truly assumed the beginning of my caregiver role.  I decided his medical care was coming under my supervision and that was that!
To read more go to:  http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/im-the-primary-healthcare-provider/

Planning, Time, and Flexibility: Essential Ingredients for the Holidays

Christmas is a wonderful time of year; full of fun, excitement, and family gatherings.  For weeks beforehand, I spend time decorating, planning, anticipating the good times and envisioning the perfect holiday.  Like so many dreams, reality is rarely the picture perfect vision that I have in my head.  That is particularly true now that MS is part of our lives.
Lynn and I have three big family get-togethers at Christmas—my parents and siblings come the week before Christmas, our kids come Christmas Eve, and his family comes Christmas day.  Each is a wonderful time of creating memories and eating way too much food.  Even though these times are lots of fun, they are also very challenging.
Holiday celebrations are always held at our house since Lynn’s wheelchair cannot enter anyone else’s house in the family. Even though we often order pizza or one of the other family members will do the cooking, there is still a lot of preparation required to host a gathering. Everything takes more planning, more time, and great flexibility if you’re hosting the party at your house.  There’s the need to buy and prepare some, if not all, of the food, clean the house, and decorate (or make everything look festive).  When everyone gets there, you help make your guests comfortable, assist those who need to heat up items or put out food to do so,  make sure everyone has what they need to eat the feast (the fun part), clean up afterwards and put everything back into its original place.  Even if you and your family members are healthy, it’s tiring to host a party at your own house.  If someone in your family is not healthy, then it’s exhausting.
Read more at: http://multiplesclerosis.net/living-with-ms/planning-time-and-flexibility-essential-ingredients-for-the-holidays/

Follow Me on WWW.Multiplesclerosis.net

For those of you to like to follow  my blog, I recently began writing for Multiple Sclerosis.Net, an email newsletter that is published weekly.  My first article was just printed.  In case you’re interested in reading the email newsletter,  just go to http://www.multiplesclerosis.net
Adapting Celebrations to Meet Our Needs
Finally all the Christmas decorating is finished!  What usually takes me two, maybe three days, has taken me twice that long. But then, almost everything I do now takes twice as long as it did in the past – before my spouse was diagnosed with MS. (http://www.multiplesclerosis.net)

Cheesecake Makes it All Worthwhile

English: Orthodox Christmas decoration Српски ...
Nativity  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Christmas.  I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the excitement, the beauty, and especially the meaning….but it IS a lot of work.
The reason I did not write a blog last week is that I was busy decorating for Christmas.  You see, I must have about 2o tubs of Christmas decorations.  I have stuff for the inside and stuff for the outside and although it takes a long time and my poor arthritic joints are crying the blues, I enjoy every minute of decorating. However, now it’s a bit more challenging to get all that decorating done and it takes twice as long as it used to do.
Once upon a time, I used to get all my decorating done the day after Thanksgiving. I would start early in the morning and keep at it till it was all done. Now, I always have the first three hours of any day devoted to Lynn’s morning routine of hygiene, toileting, and exercise. Then he rests in bed for 30-60 minutes depending on how restless his legs become.  During that time I eat breakfast and start cooking whatever is in low supply for his diet.  Then I get him up, connect him to his peddler, work to get him comfortable, and head back to the kitchen to finish cooking. Shortly after this he’s ready to eat breakfast.  All and all I usually start being able to decorate about 2-3:00 p.m.
Though he really does try not to bother me too often, on average I get a “call” from him every 45 minutes to an hour.  When I answer the call, I’m usually involved with him from 15-20 minutes depending on what he can think to ask me to do.  (He stores up his requests so that he won’t bother me as often).
On advantage to decorating now is that once Lynn goes to his room after his morning exercise, he does not venture out again till the next day. Therefore, I can spread out whatever I’m using as much as I need to do.  I don’t have to worry about him running over debris with his wheelchair or moving things to where I can’t find them.  All decisions related to how or what I decorate are totally mine.  His participation is very limited.
While Lynn has never been one to go all out and decorate like I do, he has always enjoyed the season’s festivities as well.  We both were involved in choir at church and so we had rehearsals and get-togethers we enjoyed as we prepared for the Christmas cantata.  There were family and friend get-togethers where we socialized with those we may not have seen all year.  And Lynn loved to cook.  He loved to invite family and friends over and provided them a feast.
Now all that has changed.
Lynn still wants to have family and friends over for get-togethers but now I do all the cooking (and I’m not a gourmet cook like he was; nor do I especially like the challenge of cooking for a group).  If we have people in, I have to split my time between making sure all the food is prepared and everything is available and running smoothly and taking care of Lynn’s needs.  I get to do very little socializing. I stay near Lynn all the time; watching for signs of fatigue or getting overheated.  We often have to excuse ourselves so he can bet cathed. He doesn’t like to be fed in front of others so I get him finger foods to nibble on and later I feed him something when he goes back to his room. All too often he feels miserable when others are having fun and that becomes very depressing when it happens so often.
But there is one bright spot for him that he always looks forward to.  Lynn always “cheats” on his diet at holidays and gets a big slice of cheesecake.  He loves cheesecake and he looks forward to it with excitement every holiday.  Somehow that slice of cheesecake seems to make it all worth while.
Even with all the challenges and disappointments, Christmas is a special time of joy, love, and sharing.  It’s more difficult than it used to be, true; but it has never lost that special place in our hearts. We still recognize the meaning of Christmas as a time of newness and birth. Christ’s arrival brought hope and promise of a better tomorrow. It was a time of celebration and love. It’s still that for us.  It’s a time of joy, remembering that there are possibilities of a better tomorrow in the year ahead. There is the love of family and friends which is renewed when we gather together.  There is the promise that thought we struggle with Lynn’s condition each day, there will come a time when we join Jesus in heaven and Lynn will walk again without any fatigue or stiffness and with lots of energy and strength.   It’s no wonder I like Christmas.