Hope for living, loving and caring with no regrets!

Diane Clark

Episode 36

Rayna Neises, your host, interviews Diane Clark.  She has served in various positions with the church for over 20 years where she has honed her gifts of serving and administration. She especially loves her roles as wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, but counts serving as a caregiver as one of her greatest privileges. She feels that experiencing death with someone is as beautiful and miraculous as seeing the birth of a baby. She shared the following recalling her caregiving experiences with her father and father-in-law: 

  • Support from friends and family is so important and spending time with small children can help the elderly.
  •  Getting outside help, even just once a week for two hours, allows you to just getaway.
  • There will be times when you say, “I can’t do this anymore.”
  •  Caregiving is hard, builds your character, and has a greater impact on your life than you think.
  •  Your loved one needs help, but it does not always have to be you.
  • What you are doing right now if irreplaceable and valuable beyond your understanding in the moment.
  • The caregiving journey is just as hard as you feel like it is, but be encouraged that when you look back, you would do it again.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Rayna Neises: 

Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host. And today I have Diane Clark. Diane has been married for 48 years. She and her husband have two wonderful sons, two gorgeous daughter-in-laws and three near perfect grandchildren. And of course I have perfect West Highland terrier, Lulu. She has served in various positions with the church for over 20 years where she’s honed her gifts of serving and administration. She has a servant’s heart that has a time coaxed her into overextending herself, but she counts at one of her greatest privileges to be at the bedside of a friend dying of AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion, of her mother-in-law who was her best friend, and I’ve heard two precious fathers as they entered into eternity. She feels that those moments are as miraculous as seeing the birth of a baby and perhaps as painful as birthing aue natural, she loves being a mom and grandmother and considers it an honor to have friends and to be a friend. She likes cooking, enjoys new foods in places, but most of all, she loves Jesus and living sacrificially for him. Welcome, Diane. It’s wonderful to have you today.

Diane Clark: 

Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here.

Rayna Neises: 

So let’s just start off by having you share with the listeners about your caregiving experience. It’s a little unique, haven’t I run into others that have quite the same stories?

Diane Clark: 

Right. Yes, my husband and I decided years ago, actually that we would care for our parents until their, their home going. And it just so hard happened that both of our fathers needed end of life care at the same time. They were both in their late eighties, they were living in an independent living facility. Neither of them were happy at that facility and we asked them, what city would they like to move to? If they had their choice. They both said Huntsville and so I began looking for opportunities for us to move. we did make that move, fairly quickly, and, we’re able to have them live with us, a father for the next, two and a half years. And my father-in-law for five little over five years.

Rayna Neises: 

So having that brand new family and bringing those gentlemen in and you and your husband creating a brand new space together. I’m sure you had quite the adventure in caring for them. So there weren’t necessarily health issues that prompted the move? They were just unhappy?

Diane Clark: 

Yeah, there were actually more health issues concerning my father-in-law. We thought he’d had a stroke and we thought we need to move up our plan. My father would have been fine where he was. He’s very social load being around. People love talking about Jesus, but we actually made the move more for my father-in-law. What we found once we got him to Huntsville was that he had developed, a dependency on Valium. And that he had been on for his nervous system, oh, for probably 40 years. He had not had a stroke. As he would, take, smaller dosages of the Valium he would begin to have symptoms. And, he thought it was just, he didn’t relate it, nor did any of his doctors, relate it to a Valium addiction. So it was more for him than for my daddy, that we moved. And moved him in with us. But then the doctor that we saw, very quickly identified the addiction and his symptoms. And he said, your father-in-law has not had a stroke and we’re going to get him off this Valium them, and he’s going to be a different person. And he was.

Rayna Neises: 

It’s amazing what the right doctor can do for you. Yes. Yes, definitely. So

Diane Clark: 

He was a godsend for sure.

Rayna Neises: 

Tell us a little bit about the support that you had with friends and families. And she moved that might’ve been a little bit more challenging.

Diane Clark: 

It, it was, we both had, grown up in Huntsville, so we had some friends, but it’s that old saying, you can never move back home. We found to be true because so many people had moved away. So we really didn’t have a base of friends there. However, we had our family, our children were 100% supportive, our grandkids, they absolutely just loved there, Pawpaw and their Pops. And they were greatest support that we had. Our son and daughter in law and our youngest grandson lived in Huntsville. So we had immediate access to them and, they were able to step in frequently and help us out in tight spots.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, I know in my caregiving, my sister’s children. There’s just such joy kids bring and especially with watching, elderly with, kids, it’s just so much fun.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah, I have to share one quick story. We were moving in to the house that we had found that was absolutely perfect. Their end of the house was more private. Our bedroom in all was upstairs. So we were getting them moved in my youngest grandson was, you know, only three at the time, two or three at the time. And my daddy was coming from the back sort of looking at his room. Our grandson ran to him, own his own, because normally it would take a little coaxing. Ran to him on his own, knocked him back into the stairs, and cut his arm, you know, cause our skin, is a little bit you know, thin when we’re in her eighties and nineties My daddy said, honey, I don’t care. It’s the first time he’s ever run to me. I don’t mind at all.

Rayna Neises: 

Yeah. There’s nothing like the support of family though. They give so much the people we care for. but they give us a lot too emotionally whenever they’re really understanding and willing to step into it with us, so that was a blessing.

Diane Clar: 

Exactly. Yeah. And that’s not, just to be supportive, even if it was just a phone call, how you doing, how they do in, you know, can I talk to him He gave me a few minutes to do something else and so. Especially at the beginning, because their minds were a little keener when we first began that then when at the end of their lives, So not just the support of friends and family, though. You also were smart enough to go ahead and, look for outside help. So tell us a little bit about that.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah, we could not have made it without, in Huntsville let’s call Senior Helpers. They came out, several times a week, really, depending on our need. At the beginning, I only started off with one day a week just because I’m a father-in-law, especially had a little difficulty with strangers. And so we started off with just one day, a week and only two hours. And honestly I would just get out and drive. Wherever it took me for an hour, I would drive. And I would pray and I would cry. And every now, and then I would scream and then turn around and come back. I didn’t really have anything specific in mind. I just needed to be away. And, we increased it as we saw a need. So we went from one to at some point, three times a week, sometimes even a larger span of time, for, four hours. Even there was an occasion when we had to be out of town so we were gone all day long. But they were a very wonderful group of ladies and gentlemen who stepped in to help us when we needed them.

Rayna Neises: 

So wise to bring in help. I think that’s one of the things that’s hardest for us to do in that season is to realize that we don’t have to do it all. And being willing to ask for help with those that we love and our family, our friends, but then to just say, sometimes the outside help can be irreplaceable as well.

Diane Clark: 

Right. Yeah. I will say that toward the end of my father-in-law’s life. I decreased that time away from him because he seemed to get more confused and less, content, with having others in the home. He was a little bit more paranoid and just uncomfortable. And so, I did spend more time, one on one time, with him toward the end of his life, but I don’t regret it.

Rayna Neises: 

And that can be hard because they do want to have a say and they definitely, love us and want us around and not necessarily anyone else, but I think sometimes approaching it as a team and just saying, Hey, you know, I really need to do this. They want you to be okay too. And so, when they can you realize that it’s a need, it’s not just, it’d be nice to go.

Diane Clark: 

Right. And I did, I did take opportunity. It just wasn’t right as frequent. And I tried not to be gone as long and it, it really didn’t matter how long I was gone. It was, you know, he was always so. Like if I, I left him for the weekend, our, my husband was gracious enough to stay with them and with his dad the last week of the year, every year that we did this so that I can go with the children to the beach. But he would always act like, you know, Oh, I’m so glad you’re back. We’ve missed you so much.

Rayna Neises: 

That was sweet. That was sweet to hear that. So, but you know, in the midst of it, it can be a lot. And oftentimes we want to say I quit, if I just knew where to turn in my resignation letter. Right? So what did you do when you reached those points that you really just wanted to resign?

Diane Clark: 

Yeah, there, there were a couple of times that, in tears, I would say in a hushed voice, I need to stop this. It’s, it’s just wearing on me emotionally. And, my sister died of early onset Alzheimer’s. This is before she became ill, I can’t, when I was caring for my mother-in-law, she said, I called her and I said, I can’t do this anymore. She’s going downhill. I don’t like watching her lose her abilities and that it’s too painful. And my sister wisely said, who else will do this? Who else will care for her? Your mom. And, you, you’ve got, you have to. You have to buck up, you know, I didn’t have my sister to tell me that this time, but I remembered her, her words. And, it was just an opportunity to just share with my husband, the burden I felt. He was away at work all day, so he would come in and sit with them, watch TV with them, or just sit with them and give me a little break. But, there was still, you know, sometimes it just mounted up, you know? I didn’t realize sometimes how quickly it mended up that, that I can’t, I don’t want it. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t, I didn’t want to.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, I think that’s an honest statement. There are times that you just don’t want to do it. You know, some of the tasks are not fun, many of them are fun. there were things, you know, I’ll never forget when my dad was having not regular bowel movements and, you know, made the phone call to the doctor and she’s like, okay, so this is what you need to do. And. I’m like don’t nurses do that? Don’t you go somewhere and let other people take care of those things, but so much more of it is on our shoulders as caregivers nowadays. And so there are those moments when you just think, no, I don’t want to do this. Like you said, knowing even when we find yourselves at a place that we can’t take care of, all of their physical needs, things progress within their disease or whatever, even having there somewhere else, you’re still so engaged. There’s so much that they need from me that it really isn’t about doing all the hands on yourself. It’s about being there and knowing they’re okay. And supporting them and having that conversation and having the whole picture. Each person who comes and goes only knows what they experienced in that moment. So being able to be that person who gets it all and puts all those pieces together is so invaluable.

Diane Clark: 

Right? Yeah. Yeah. My husband and his dad did not have the best of relationships, but the last week of my father-in-law’s life, my husband really stepped up. He could see that his dad would not live much longer. And, he was there yeah. With me day in, day out through the nights times. And, had never, I always sort of stood back while I, did the, toiletry things or toileting and, then at that point, when he saw how weak his dad was, really stepped up. But I told him later, I said, that’s really the Lord’s payback because you didn’t really help me that much when the boys were little. So not my planning. I’m just,

Rayna Neises: 

Precious times and great memories. Like you said, it’s very bonding, to be able to just come alongside and do for them, what they can’t do for themselves.

Diane Clark: 

Absolutely. There is no, in my mind, there’s nothing greater, there was no other choice for me, except to do this. It’s what I called the hardest right thing I’ve ever done. and I have a cousin who also cared for her mom but she said, you know, hard things, sometimes people shy away from, but it really builds your character. It has a great impact on your life probably more so than we think. Like I described in my bio, the birth of a baby and the, the, the death of a loved one where you’re able to be right there with them is there’s just nothing more beautiful in my eyes.

Rayna Neises: 

It’s amazing that you had them together. I would imagine there were a lot of blessings with being together and that they had each other to kind of lean on in that’s just difficult aging. Aging is just not easy. And so they had somebody else that really got it. and at the same time, that’s twice of them to keep track of.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah,

Rayna Neises: 

That’s a lot, but, but what a blessing to be able to be there.

Diane Clark: 

Absolutely. Yeah. And they became my father. He was very social. My father-in-law not so much, but after my daddy died, my father-in-law said, I really miss your dad. And he was probably my best friend, even though you would have never known that while daddy was still alive. But it was, you know, a need for me. I needed to hear that daddy would have loved to have heard that, but I needed to hear that, that my daddy made an impact on him. And, he was very appreciative, even though he didn’t show it like my daddy did. He, he was, you know, he did tell me one time. I think I love you more than I loved Mary Beth, which was his wife , my mother-in-law.

Rayna Neises: 

That’s sweet. Yeah. It’s hard. It’s not, every personality is so different and that’s one thing in caring. You have to really consider who you’re caring for because if we expect them to behave the way someone else behaves or we’re not changing, we know that. So we have to just take what we get, but it helps to understand them better so that we can realize.

Diane Clark: 

Exactly. Exactly. And I did do a lot of rating rhino. The senior helpers did give me a lot of material. I did go to a support group. Once a month, it wasn’t altogether that helpful, but they did give out a little, a lot of information that I was able to read. So I was very, equipped, I think, on what was coming. What dementia looks like, especially having been around my sister so much and her declining a days and weeks and months, I wasn’t there with her every day. But when I was, I could see what that looked like, and that helps a lot.

Rayna Neises: 

I do think that that’s one of the great values of support groups, not only, just that great information that they give you, but there are others who have been on the journey and they’re at a different place that can help you, realize what’s coming in a way that’s not super scary, but at the same time, just to encourage you that life beyond it too, because sometimes it feels so overwhelming that it doesn’t even make it on the other side.

Diane Clark: 

Exactly. Yeah.

Rayna Neises: 

So tell us a little bit about how did you take care of you, during this time of caring for the gents?

Diane Clark: 

Yes. well, I have to be honest, I didn’t do a great job of doing that. I, put off a lot of doctor’s appointments when they came up. I would say, Oh, you know, I’m really doing fine. I’ll just, I’ll, I’ll just make one later. It never got around but I, I wish I had done a better job, but to be honest, I did not take good care of me. I was. I was given advice to, to do that. By all kinds of people. Are, are you, you know, taking care of your own? Yeah, I am all the while knowing that I wasn’t. And there were consequences for that. some of which have gone away, but, others aren’t, you know, I’m still dealing with them, but, I wish I had listened more to other people. Help trying to help, you know, you need to take more time away, on a regular basis and, that’s just something that you look in hindsight and say, yeah, probably should’ve have done that better job.

Rayna Neises: 

It’s funny because Aly my cohost and I frequently say the same thing over and over again, as far as take care of you and take care of you and take care of you. And we were talking the other day, like, do you feel like a broken record sometimes? She’s like, yes, but it’s because it’s so important. So, listeners, we’re going to say it again.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah, exactly. Do it.

Rayna Neises: 

Do it, figure out what you need. Yeah.

Diane Clark: 

Do it, yeah, I do it, on a regular basis, you know, I think you and I were chatting before when they had an appointment, I should have then made an appointment for that, and kept it. Instead of letting other things, convinced me that it would be okay later on. So, that, that would have been good to hear. I don’t know that I’ve listened to it, but it would have been good to hear.

Rayna Neises: 

And that’s the hard part is not to get people to really know, we know what we’re talking about,

Diane Clark: 

Yeah,

Rayna Neises: 

But in the trenches, it feels like you just don’t need to worry about it. It feels like it’s not that important.

Diane Clark: 

Right. Right. And you know, to be painfully honest, I think I needed to be needed during this process and I overlooked a lot of things about myself. Just because that came to the surface, you know, during, while I was caring. And, I’ve since discovered that that’s not the case, I don’t need to be needed. I needed to care for them, but I didn’t absolutely need to be needed. They needed me for sure.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, and they needed help. It just comes back to not all of it has to be you.

Diane Clark: 

Correct. Correct.

Rayna Neises: 

And that’s a hard line to see in the midst of it. So,

Diane Clark: 

It is.

Rayna Neises: 

and especially when they’re telling you, they don’t want someone else.

Diane Clark: 

Right. Right. And my daddy was, he was just the opposite of my father-in-law. He, honey, go, go, go, go. My father-in-law was when will you be back? He was an engineer and NASA engineer. So, you know, punctuality and knowing what the is schedule is, was very important to him and consistency. You know, he just kind of wanted the same person all the time. It just gave him comfort. So, I probably, we should have had my husband step in and say, you know, your dad, let’s give her a break. And he did it just, wasn’t probably as frequent as I needed.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, it’s hard to know in the moment. I think sometimes how frequently you need it. I found when I got away, I could feel the difference, but if you don’t get away enough, you don’t feel the difference.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah. You don’t feel it until you get back and you’re like, Oh wow. Back in the thick of it again. But yeah, you’re right. I think if I had done it more frequently. I would have felt refreshed, more. You know, more often instead of, struggled with depression, just being, I ‘m like my dad, he’s just very social and, I love to serve. And even though I love to serve them, there were others that I wanted to serve. I wanted to do it in a different way. And the Lord very obviously had this amount of time blocked off for me to serve them, wholly and completely. And I would not change anything. I would do things differently, to do some things differently, but as far as doing, it again, I would do it in a heartbeat again, it was absolutely, the hardest right thing I’ve ever done.

Rayna Neises: 

I love that. And that’s what it’s all about is offering you, the listeners that hope that what you are doing right now is irreplaceable. It’s valuable beyond your understanding in the moment. And it is just as hard as we know it is as hard as you feel like it is, but be encouraged that when you look back, you would do it again. You don’t have to have regrets that you didn’t do what needed to be done. And you don’t have to have regrets that you did more than you should have done. So be intentional and think through it and really invest where you are right now. Because it is just a season. And I think that’s also encouraging when you’re in the middle of it to know it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to come to an end, but it does come to an end.

Diane Clark: 

Yeah. And do you feel badly about thinking that, you know, I can remember lying in bed, thinking that and thinking, Oh, I shouldn’t even think that, that’s horrible, but it’s just a fact that it’s, it, it didn’t go on forever? Especially towards the end. My father only was only ill actually four days before he went home to the Lord. My father-in-law took, it was a lot longer. That sounds bad to use that word took it took longer for him, but it is a process. Death is a process. And if you can separate the emotion behind it and realize all of these things that is happening to their body, that they’re just not liking it at all. Nobody said, this is a period in life where you’re just gonna love it. It’s difficult for them. Especially for men. I’m sure it is difficult as well for women, but I’ve only, you know, I care for both of them and this is fresher in my mind. It was so difficult, my daddy would say some days when he couldn’t recall things, how am I going stupid on you? Cause he was like, no, daddy, I, I remember half the things you remember, but aging is not easy.

Rayna Neises: 

It is not.

Diane Clark: 

And letting go of this life, it’s all we know. But it is a part of life, just as birth is. And, and it is a beautiful part of life. And it was a beautiful thing to care for these two World War II Veterans. I would have crossed the oceans to be able to do that for them, because they had done served, served me as a child, but also served in the military. And I had great respect for both of them.

Rayna Neises: 

Well, Diane, it’s been wonderful to talk with you and just to reinforce one more time, those important things about caregiving. And I love, you’re saying it’s the hardest right thing because it’s so true. And sometimes we think hard means it’s not the right thing, but that’s not true. It is hard is where we’re supposed to be at times of hard things. So. Well, thank you so much for your wisdom and visiting today. We really appreciate it.

Diane Clark: 

Absolutely. Thank you, Rayna.

Rayna Neises: 

Just reminder listeners, A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have medical, financial, or legal questions, please contact your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

Diane Clark

Diane Clark

Caregiver at Heart

 
Diane Clark has been married for 48 years to my first (and only!) husband. They have two wonderful sons, two gorgeous daughters-in-law, three near-perfect grandchildren, and a perfect West Highland Terrier, Lulu.
 
She has served on a church staff in various positions for over twenty years where her gifts of serving and administration were honed. She has a servant’s heart that has at times coaxed her into overextending herself.
 
One of the greatest privileges Diane has had is the privilege of being at the bedside of a friend dying of AIDS contracted from a blood transfusion, of my mother-in-law, who was my best friend, and of our precious fathers as they entered eternity—as miraculous as seeing the birth of a baby and perhaps as painful as birthing au naturale.
 
Diane loves being a mom/mother-in-law and a Gg to my grandchildren. They bless her immeasurably! She considers it an honor to have friends and to be a friend. She love to cook for her husband who is so easy to please unless he wants to take her out then she is ready in a sec. Diane loves experiencing new foods and new places. And listening to the Psalms and Proverbs in the early morning hours. But most of all she loves Jesus and living sacrificially for Him.

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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

Your Host

An ICF Certified Coach, Pod-caster, Author & Speaker, offers encouragement, support and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected

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4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

4 Things you need to know as you begin your season of caring

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