CAREGIVER OF THE MONTH SPOTLIGHT CONGRATULATIONS!

Lydia Joan Croteau

HIND SIGHT IS 20/20

There is a time in life when one must look back in order to bring forth the blessings of today and see the Hand Of Our Creator even when we thought HE was not there.

As early as I can remember my father use to tell us that each new day is a gift from God. Treat it as a new adventure and live it to the best of your ability. To this day his words of wisdom lay deep in my heart. My brother, two sisters and I cherished these little tidbits we received as we were growing up. My mom went to work when I was 8 years old and at that time I assumed the task of caring for them as much as an 8 year old could in order to help mom. Before I even knew what the word "caregiver" meant I was journeying down the "caregiver path".

There was a time though when my heart and soul saw only darkness. It was in the year 1967 when I found out I was to have another child. At that time I had three boys who were my pride and joy---beautiful baby boys--but two of my precious babies seemed different. No one saw it or felt it but me. So, with this deep sense of urgency I started traveling along a path of health clinics trying to find out what was wrong with Michael, age 3, and Allan, age 8 months, while trying to maintain a stable environment for Eddie, age 5, and being a wife and homemaker for my husband.

The day of clinics came to an end when my daughter was about 6 months old. There was a meeting at Rhode Island Hospital which consisted of a table of nine doctors, the Burrillville Special Education School director, my husband and myself. Allan was diagnosed as severely retarded due to Rubella syndrome and Michael as Hyperkinetic with autistic tendencies, ADD, and organic brain dysfunction. This indeed was the darkest day of my soul. My God seemed nowhere in sight, I felt abandoned, alone and forsaken.

Here I was, alone, so it seemed, for my husband was in total shock and unable to help me with the decision-making as to their welfare and best interest. In a cloud of despair, we went home to sort things out. A few days later the doctor came to our apartment and sedated me. He told my husband I was in a state of complete physical and mental exhaustion. He wanted me only to tend to the children and the rest of the time I was to be in bed. He put me on 20 mg. of Valium every four hours around the clock (the Prozac of the 60's). Since my parents had the same doctor he informed them as to my condition and had them checking on me daily. He told them another fact that I didn't learn until 8 years ago from mom and that was that I was very close to death.

For the next few years my soul felt empty but the Spirit Of God Within was working overtime even through the drugs. Everything was falling in place one thing at a time: Special education programs for Mike, a special school for Allan and affordable housing for us as a family with total family support. Our Lord said: When you see only one set of footprints in the sand, It is MINE carrying you.

As I said you have to look back to see the blessings which carry you forth and set your feet on firm ground. All those years of special caregiving helped to prepare me for the journey of today.

A New Journey in God's Presence

We never know why things happen the way they do but there is a purpose for it all. It is all in the aspect of life and has meaning for the goodness of all concerned. I am finding out that every aspect of life has an impact on all of creation, not just my household. It is quite a spiritual awakening to realize this fact.

During the summer of 1998 I started experiencing severe pain in both elbows and upper and lower muscles from the work I was doing. In October of 1998 my Chiropractor started me on Ultrasound treatments twice a week. It helped but the following day at work I would undo all the good it did. The treatments kept me working during the Christmas Season which is the busiest time in retail.

In January of 1999 my Chiropractor took me out of work and referred me back to my Orthopedic Specialist. Thanks be to God, this was a blessing in disguise because I was home for another spree of events which were falling on my shoulders. This time the Spirit Within was guiding me and I knew it and felt it.

The Orthopedic appointment wasn't until February 2nd and each day the pain was getting worse. To top things off my mother-in-law (M-I-L) was taken to the hospital (again). She couldn't breathe and her heart was racing a mile a minute. Her illness, Congestive Heart Failure, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Dysfunction, Hardening of the Arteries, and Mitro Valve Prolapsed, gets worse with each episode.

Two days before she was to be discharged I had a consultation with her doctor. Dr. Ramirez said she could not live alone any longer. She had to live with family or go into a nursing home. The next morning Doc., M-I-L, my husband and I had a long discussion. My M-I-L said, "No Nursing Home" and since her other children were unable to take her in Hubby and I had a big decision to make. Choices, always choices in Life. We agreed and "chose" to take her in knowing there would be lots of adjustments for all of us (and more caregiving for me).

Before we took her home the Oxygen Co. sent someone to the hospital to get her all set up for the trip home and then came to the apartment with all she would need and explained how everything worked. I also made sure I connected with Social Services, Visiting Nurses, and a Health Care Agency to help with her ongoing care as I was unable to do much with my arms the way they were.

My daughter, now 30 years of age and knowing I would be M-I-L's primary caregiver, linked me to Empowering Caregivers and Caregivers of the Elderly Chats. The Spirit Within helped me to absorb what I was hearing like a sponge.

My orthopedic visit was February 2nd and I was diagnosed with Lateral and Medial Epicondylitis in both elbows, which affects the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, down into the fingers and up into the shoulders and neck. He sent me to Rehab. Hospital of RI for therapy. They made splints for both hands and I had to wear them 24 hours a day. I am still out of work due to this work-related injury and still in therapy.

My Husband has been experiencing knee Problems for several years now. He had Arthroscopic Surgery 3 times in his right knee and one in his left. This March he had a total knee replacement surgery on his left knee and will have the other done in September. Even though both hand were in splints and elbows/arms were in much pain, I always received the gift of strength from The Spirit of God to do the caregiving for Hubby and M-I-L. It had me in total amazement !!!

The illness I had when the children were babies never went away. It would get better but sudden events would kick it in and it would flair up big time. After all these years, the doctor diagnosed it as Anxiety/Panic Attacks. She got me started on Paxil and sent me to see a Psychiatrist to monitor the medication and see to my mental health. These attacks have been in full bloom since February of this year but the Good Lord has put several angels in my path to help me. As things got worse my Spirit seemed to soar to higher levels. I felt HIS warmth within and HIS guiding hand upon me. When I was panicking while trying to change M-I-L's Oxygen tank, God was with me. Even though I was having difficulty breathing my mind was clear and HIS Spirit just took over and guided me step by step thru it all.

From the chats I learned to protect my mother-in-law and us. We took her to see an Elder Care Lawyer to make sure everything she wanted was in order. She has a Durable Power of Attorney for Health and she also made a Will. She appointed me and my husband as her Power of Attorney for her financial and medical needs.

I met several beautiful people thru chats who taught me how to take control during an anxiety/panic attack and now I use this knowledge to help others in chats. It is still a learning process and will be until I can overcome it. With the Spirit of God holding my hand, I will do it. The Spirit within guides my steps daily and when I start to fall HE wraps me in HIS arms. I feel so nice and warm and safe. The God within is a Mighty Force. It is not to say we won't have our troubles, I surely have had several hair raising experiences since January and most of the times both my hands were in splints with severe pain. But, I was guided through each step, one day at a time, by my heavenly Father and HIS Spirit within. Each day I feel more in tune within myself and I know there is nothing I cannot do for HE is with me.

"Would I do it all over again, knowing what I know now?" I would, without hesitation. Although my experiences at caregiving have brought God deeper into my life, they have also made ME grow as a person. After each of the chats I stop to analyze how all those who were present reacted (or didn't) and what I needed to further do to have helped them. I feel that I am experiencing personal growth as a regular participant - even being one of the "Old Timers" with the groups that I am in. I realize that all past experiences has enabled me to actually help - not just listen - to those desperately in need of advice, reassurance and suggestions not only in chats but people in my every day life. I am learning to make clear "choices" in my life for my benefit while also setting "boundaries" to help with my anxiety and panic attacks. I feel more sure of myself and my capacity as a leader in the caregiving sessions. My faith in myself has grown exponentially thru the trials I have faced.

Copyrighted by Lydia Joan Croteau

EMAIL JOAN

EMPOWERING CAREGIVERS features the "CAREGIVER OF THE MONTH SPOTLIGHT". If you know of a unique caregiver who you would like to honor or perhaps submit yourself, please send a jpg photograph (if one is available) along with your story. All submissions must be received by the third week of each month to be considered. In the subject line, please type CAREGIVER SPOTLIGHT SUBMISSION. Submit your entries here:spotlight@care-givers.com 

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