A podcast where we share stories of hope for family caregivers breaking through loneliness to see God even in this season of life.

Stories of Hope for living content, loving well, and caring with no regrets!

ep 131 caregiver warrior

Episode 153

Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Suzi Colthurst. Suzi has always loved helping people and is passionate about dignifying people who experience challenges communicating. As a Speech Language Pathologist, she specialized in helping those who struggled with dementia. After Suzi became her parents’ primary advocate, she realized that putting all of this together is where she wanted to bring value to others. Suzi is now a dementia specialist who empowers others to help keep their parents safe at home without breaking the bank and burnout. She shares the following insights:

      • [4:30] Offering respite and support is an important piece when you are not the
        everyday hands-on person.
      • [5:17] If you don’t laugh, you are going to cry, so you might as well laugh.
      • [6:42] Seize the moment and be present.
      • [8:08] The constant guilt while caregiving can be surprising.
      • [12:19] When you are deep in, it is hard to look past the problem.
      • [12:58] God shows up to comfort, but also to help carry the burden.
        [17:08] You can honor your loved one without dishonoring yourself.
      • [18:20] Care from overflow and love vs. guilt.
      • [19:03] Caregiving was never meant to be toxic over all other areas in your

This episode was brought to you by Content Magazine, an electronic quarterly
magazine available today to help you find God during your caregiving season.
Visit www.ContentMagazine.online to subscribe.

This Episode is brought to you by:

Suzi Colthurst

Suzi Colthurst

Suzi Colthurst is a Dementia Strategist who empowers successful kingdom mompreneurs to get freedom from stress, insecurity, and fear surrounding dementia decisions while helping to keep their parent(s) safe at home without breaking the bank or burning out in the process.

Suzi has loved helping people her entire life! She is especially passionate about dignifying people who experience challenges communicating. In her career as an SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist), she found herself specializing in helping those struggling with dementia.

After personally experiencing the weight of becoming her parents primary decision maker and advocate, she realized that the culmination of all of these circumstances was where she wanted to bring value to others.

She brings hope, stability and confidence to those who find themselves becoming primary caregivers to parents who are experiencing the challenges of dementia.

Suzi obtained her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Illinois State University and she is also a certified neuroscience and kingdom entrepreneur coach. She lives in Royse City, TX with her husband and three dogs and enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, camping, riding horses, and riding motorcycles.



*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: Welcome. This is Rayna Neises, your host of A Season of Caring Podcast, where we share stories of hope for family caregivers breaking through the busyness and loneliness to see God even in the season of life .Today, I’d like to welcome our guest, Suzi Colthurst. Suzi has loved helping people her entire life. She’s especially passionate about dignifying people who experience challenges communicating. In her career as a speech language pathologist, she found herself specialized in helping those who are struggling with dementia. After personally experiencing the weight of becoming her parents’ primary decision makers and advocates, she realized that the accumulation of all of these circumstances was where she wanted to bring value to others.

[00:00:43] She brings hope, stability, and confidence to those who find themselves becoming primary caregivers to parents who are experiencing the challenge of dementia. Suzi Colthurst is a dementia specialist who empowers successful kingdom mompreneurs to get freedom from stress, insecurity, and fear surrounding dementia decisions, helping to keep their parents safe at home without breaking the bank and burning out.

[00:01:08] Hi Suzi. Welcome. So glad to have you here today. 

[00:01:12] Suzi Colthurst: Great to be here.

[00:01:14] Rayna Neises: So primary decision maker for parents. Tell us a little bit about that, what that caregiving season looked like for you. 

[00:01:21] Suzi Colthurst: My dad was still alive when mom was passing. I was working as a speech therapist in the medical world. I was in home health for a decade, and so I knew all the doctors, I knew all of the resources and so, I was a support from my dad as he was caring for her. And then I was also the advocate, the connecting, making sure they got connected with the right services and that sort of thing. And then when she went on hospice was passing, I was right there with my dad with her. I promised her on her deathbed that I would take care of dad. And, you know, there wasn’t specific, like, what does that look like? Type of a promise.

[00:01:59] Mm-hmm. . but, I’ll make sure that he’s taken care of. And so I was his power of attorney which didn’t have to kick in until the end. Because he had his cognitive capabilities intact. But when he was too sick to pay his bills and I, you know, needed that decision maker. I was the advocate, I was the decision maker. Just making sure that. that he got everything that he needed. Mm-hmm. . I was not the day-to-day primary caregiver because we had just moved from Illinois to Texas and we were building our house, and so he came down. I felt guilty leaving him because I’m like, oh no, I’m breaking mom’s promise.

[00:02:35] Oh, I promise I made to mom. You know? But our circumstances, I had no choice. I had to move and. God just did an amazing thing and arranged it for him. He drove down here from Illinois to Texas. He wanted to see where we had moved to. Sure. And then he got sick. And so like that wasn’t, that wasn’t a good thing. And yet that was a good thing cuz I know how agonized I would’ve been had he gotten sick back at home when I was hundreds of miles away cuz there was nobody else back there. It worked out cuz I got him a placement and was able to still advocate and still be there. And even the night before he passed, he couldn’t take his medications because of swallowing trouble. And I am, as a speech therapist, I am the person that the doctor calls when a person has swallowing trouble, right?

[00:03:25] So I am the swallowing expert. . And here my own dad can’t even take his pills cuz he’s got swallowing trouble. So I was right there, helped him get him down and then I said, Dad, I’ll be there tomorrow morning when you need to take your pills. He didn’t wanna be a burden, he didn’t want to be dependent. And I think he just made the decision that he wasn’t gonna do that. And he, he had passed before I got there the next morning. 

[00:03:50] I was super thankful that I was able to be there for him, even though I had moved away, like God just arranged that. Yeah. That was a gift that I was able definitely to do that. And then of course, I was the executor of the state, so outta state, I had to go. We had to do all of that stuff and deal with the funeral and deal with his house and all of that. So that was my caregiving journey with my parents 

[00:04:14] Rayna Neises: And you know, it can be a little tricky like you were describing, of how do I help to be a support when I’m not the primary caregiver when they have each other. I was only 16 when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so I for a long time didn’t really even think about being a caregiver in that situation. . But offering the respite and offering that support is such an important piece. Even though we aren’t the everyday hands-on person in that situation.

[00:04:41] Suzi Colthurst: Right. 

[00:04:41] Rayna Neises: We can play such an important role. Yes. And then once that parent is gone and they don’t have anyone else, we do need to step into that and it can be tricky to do that. So that’s amazing how God worked that out. Just for you to be able to be where you needed to be with your family at the same time is have him there with you in those final days. That’s, yes. That’s amazing. That’s always good. He always does. Doesn’t things we never even dream of. Right?

[00:05:06] Suzi Colthurst: Exactly. 

[00:05:06] Rayna Neises: Wouldn’t planned it that way at all, but at the same time it worked out just the way it needed to. 

[00:05:11] Suzi Colthurst: Yes, it definitely, definitely was amazing. 

[00:05:14] Rayna Neises: So share with us that one of your favorite caregiving stories.

[00:05:17] Suzi Colthurst: My mom used to say this, she was a nurse while, she was, still working. If you don’t laugh, you’re gonna cry, so you might as well laugh, . And so, some funny stories that are, that are kind of like that they’re, they’re not really funny, but it’s like, oh my goodness. I was doing memory care training in a home. And, the loved one with dementia, Literally was trying to light the stove and lit a paper towel on fire to light the stove. Yeah. You know, it’s like, ugh. That same person I walked in the house is like super hot. She’s got her foot on an old metal space heater that the kind that gets hot. Mm-hmm. , she’s still saying it’s super hot. She’s still saying she’s cold and literally touching this metal space heater. Wow. And I’m like, no. Yeah. 

[00:06:03] So it’s just like those types of things where, it’s sad because you’re having to tell the family that you know, something else has to be done because, this is a danger. They’re not safe. Mm-hmm. , That’s always sad. But then when you have the, the family, thank you, you know, they find some other arrangements or they get in-home help, or facility or something like that. And they, they, thank you. Then that makes it all worth it because, they thank you because you helped them to see that something else had to be done and you helped them through the decision making process. And so that just makes it so worth it. 

[00:06:42] One of my, my favorite memories with my dad as he was passing is he wasn’t, he wasn’t on hospice quite. , but it was a beautiful day. I went to visit him. We made, we had a picnic outside in the atrium area that was just beautiful and got to watch the planes overhead and he was a pilot and so that was meaningful to him. And we just had a really good day. We seized the moment, had a really good day, and I had no idea that that was gonna be the last day like, With him. So I was glad to be able to be present in the moment with him. That was an honor and a blessing. 

[00:07:22] Rayna Neises: So important to take advantage of those moments. And it is hard because no, really, no matter what, we don’t know when the last time’s going to be that we have that opportunity to just share those moments with our loved one, whether it be parents or anyone. So really taking that time to listen to stories, to enjoy, that which he loved, which is the airplanes flying over and just hearing and listening to those things.

[00:07:48] It is such a blessing to have those moments and it can be tricky because there’s so much to do. We’re always so busy but at the same time like you said, you never know when that last time is gonna be. So that’s beautiful. 

[00:08:01] Suzi Colthurst: Right. Yeah. Less than a week later is when he passed, so. Wow. Yeah, I was grateful. 

[00:08:05] Rayna Neises: So share with us what’s one thing that surprised you about caregiving? 

[00:08:08] Suzi Colthurst: The constant guilt, you know, the constant feeling like you’re not enough, feeling like a also you can be surrounded by people and feel like you’re alone. Just that feeling like you’re, in a sea of people, but you’re alone. And, and I think that that is, that’s not the truth, you know, but it is oftentimes the feeling and the feeling is real. So feelings aren’t always based on truth, but they are, they sure do feel real and just that constant guilt.

[00:08:42] Another thing that has surprised me as I’ve walked. caregivers through the years is how many caregivers end up being verbally and emotionally abused by their loved one. Mm-hmm. , you know, because it’s the disease it’s not their loved one. At least hopefully , you know, hopefully that wasn’t prior.

[00:08:59] Yeah. You know but just how much the change happens and then the guilt they get paralyzed by the guilt to think that they have to tolerate that. Mm-hmm. , when they could, set boundaries, they could say, that if you’re gonna talk to me like that, I can’t help you and maybe you need someone alone time or just give choices or something like that.

[00:09:21] But they don’t have to stay in the room at, in that moment and take the verbal abuse. But it has surprised me how the guilt just. People trapped and they don’t realize that they have the power to still set up boundaries and yet keep their love 

[00:09:42] Rayna Neises: on. Yeah. I think as a person who’s been there, my parents were not very aggressive from what I hear, other people’s stories, but I definitely learned what I was doing that was putting my dad in an insecure place that caused him to then lash out. So sometimes just having an outside perspective I think can make such a big difference in just realizing that you know what it is that’s causing that aggression, because typically it’s not just sitting around being grumpy in that way all the time.

[00:10:14] There’s been a trigger. So being able to problem solve that, and at the same time, I think it is a process of realizing. , it’s not personal. And so, yes, it’s one of those things that you have to make a shift emotionally, personally to realize, where the person stops and the disease begins.

[00:10:33] And that’s a hard thing to do. It’s so, I think there’s difficult’s so many things that get tied up in that caregiving role that definitely can see where guilt is a big piece of it for a lot of people. 

[00:10:45] Suzi Colthurst: Right. 

[00:10:45] Rayna Neises: So what would you say where have you seen God show up in your caregiving season? . 

[00:10:50] Suzi Colthurst: Well, I mean, the one story was how my dad got down here.

[00:10:53] Like yeah. The fact that, that I was leaving him, but yet he wasn’t alone when he died, you know, he mm-hmm. , he, I was able to still care for him. I was still able to, to, to get things in place for him, and so that, that was, that was huge. in, in my own journey where, you know, I was still able to help him and then God showing up, like I lead weekly caregiver prayer on Zoom and I have had people attend and they’re burnt out. They’re stressed out, they’re at their wits end, and they’re like, I don’t know if I can be doing this and I need help. But then like one person hadn’t been able to, to get the help. And so I felt led to create some space in that prayer time. I said I, I feel like, I feel like maybe there’s someone you already know that could be a resource. Can we ask God if there’s anybody that you already know that you can ask to help you? And sh then we, we, we waited in silence. Cuz I believe that prayer is a two-way communication and we can, my, sheep do hear my voice, or his voice, you know. And so we can hear him and she, she got a few names and within a week, this really burned out, stressed out caregiver had. She had been searching for help for a long time.

[00:12:19] But that was just really neat to see. See that breakthrough happen when she heard from God the strategies. And sometimes I think when you’re in it and you’re deep in it, it’s hard to look past the problem and not be weighted down by the problem. It’s hard to come up. above the problem so that you can see the solution and here the, the heavenly solutions that God wants to provide for you. And I feel it’s been really neat to see that. That was just one example in caregiver prayer where I’ve seen that and, people get the breakthrough and then that’s just so, so fulfilling.

[00:12:58] I’ve seen God show up for them as comforter healer, and show that he wants to help carry the burden. And then, sometimes even give insight into how they can decrease some of the things that they’re taking on all by themselves and delegate more and get more help and, and those sort of things.

[00:13:19] Rayna Neises: I love that because we often do focus on the comfort that he brings and the peace that he brings, which is something that only can come from him, but at the same time, the practicals there as well. And like you said so many times, I think we’re so in the thick of it all that to actually think about asking him and listening then once you ask to find those solutions can be really difficult and it is beautiful to be able to hold that space and really, ask with anticipation of an answer and then see him come through like that. That’s amazing. I love that story. Yes. And that opportunity to be in that place with people is such a blessing. So yes, I love that you do that and, and are able to, to do that regularly with caregivers. 

[00:14:06] Suzi Colthurst: Yeah, it’s been such a blessing. It wasn’t something I anticipated doing. I, I felt like God was leading me to do this. I’m like, God, I’ve never let a prayer ministry. I’ve never mm-hmm. , I don’t have formal training and, you know, you, you do the Moses thing where , you know, oh, I can’t talk, or, whatever, when, when you’re called to do something. But I was obedient and I have been thoroughly blessed since I stepped into to doing that. Just to see the blessing that he wants to. through me for his people that, that he loves. 

[00:14:37] Even coming into this space and, and helping those who have a loved one with dementia. I sort of fought it. I, I did it for, for years in home health as, as, as a speech therapist. And I didn’t love it. And what I found out when I knew that this was something that I could do, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do. Mm-hmm. and I’m like, Lord, you know that hope is a core quality of mine and it’s really hard with dementia to have hope.

[00:15:08] Mm-hmm. , and then I felt like he was saying back to me, but that’s what I want you to bring. And I’m like, okay, if there is a way to bring hope into this hopeless situation, I’m in. and now I have just become passionate. I’m finding that, I’m finding, you know, just this week somebody said, you brought me peace, you brought me hope. And that makes it all worth it for me because I didn’t want to do that. But now, it’s all I wanna do because it’s so fulfilling. And he has given me this big heart and this big compassassion to love these caregivers. And you know, 

[00:15:46] Rayna Neises: I think for me, I’ve been talking here on the podcast for years about hope and one of the shifts that I’ve made in this is just really getting to the detail of the true hope only comes from Him. There’s hope in other ways, but it’s not right the true hope. And that truly for us to offer hope, we have to offer the hope that comes through him because this isn’t a happy ending. . Right. Honestly, we’re all gonna die, you know? But when we’re caregiving for somebody that we love so much, I say all the time on the podcast, we’re walking them home.

[00:16:22] And it’s hard because that’s not really what we wanna do, but it is the reality of what we’re doing. Right. And by offering you hope in knowing that you’re walking them home, I mean that’s wonderful. And so, yes. You know, really being present with them while you walk them home. 

[00:16:40] And I always say and bury them with no regrets, and then have a life to walk back into because that is so important that we understand that our life is gonna go on once theirs is over, and that we have to make sure that we have been able to honor and give them the dignity that they need through the journey. But at the same time, we haven’t given all of ourselves away to a point that there’s nothing left when they’re gone. 

[00:17:06] Yes. Cause sadly, I don’t see that 

[00:17:08] Suzi Colthurst: too. Yes. You don’t have to, you can honor them without dishonoring yourself.

[00:17:13] Rayna Neises: That’s right. Yep. 

[00:17:14] Suzi Colthurst: And I think that that’s super important to know that at the end of your caregiving journey, you will be a different person. And it is your choice whether that different person is angry and bitter and, all of those things. Or, or strong and hope-filled and faithful and peace filled, those things. The, the kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy and hope, and those, things are inside. Regardless of the circumstances. 

[00:17:41] Rayna Neises: Definitely. It is something you have to be intentional about. Yes. It isn’t natural. Yes. To walk through this really difficult journey of walking them home and, end up with those things which are his fruits.

[00:17:54] Suzi Colthurst: Yes, 

[00:17:54] Rayna Neises: because. in this world and in ourselves, by ourselves, we end up on the other end of it, that resentment and anger. So Right. It is something we have to be intentional and be looking for, and that’s one of the things that I love most about being able to offer true hope, is that 

[00:18:11] Suzi Colthurst: yes, 

[00:18:11] Rayna Neises: with that hope we can have the fruits that I found myself having after a long, long journey with my parents. So yes, I love that. 

[00:18:20] Suzi Colthurst: You can’t care from guilt like you have to. , you have to caregiver from an overflow and from love, and it just has to flow in, and then in order to flow out 

[00:18:29] Rayna Neises: Yep. Has to come in before it can go out. Definitely. Yes. 

[00:18:33] Suzi Colthurst: You can’t do it from an empty cup. So, and sometimes you need help in, in walking through this. Always you need help and there’s no, there’s no shame in that at all. . Yeah. 

[00:18:43] Rayna Neises: I think the biggest thing we have to realize is it’s community in everything, in life in general. And this is just one more season of life so we need that community to get us through. So as we wrap up here, just one last nugget. What would you offer our caregivers? 

[00:19:03] Suzi Colthurst: I just think that caregiving was never meant to be toxic over all of the other areas of your life. You were never meant to lock this journey alone. You were never meant to carry the weight of it, of, of caring for your loved one by yourself and that you were also never meant to have caring for your loved one, make you unable to meet the needs of your family or maintain your business, or, you know, be a martyr yourself and not have your own needs met. I think that self-care is just so important and being aware of your limits. And setting those boundaries is just so important and that I think that you can caregive abundantly. I think you can do it from love, you can do it from honor without dishonoring yourself and without being a martyr.

[00:19:58] But you do, you do have to carefully analyze the dynamics of the relationship, even pre dementia. Mm-hmm. , you know, could you have lived with them before they got dementia? Before you make those decisions to, to do things like that and to be the primary day-to-day caregiver, you have to evaluate that and you can make those decisions without guilt. If you’re not the one that should be the primary day-to-day care caregiver due to the dynamics of that relationship, that’s okay. You can still provide for them. you can still make sure that their needs are met without having to do it yourself, but then also just being aware of your limits and prioritizing the, the self-care.

[00:20:40] I think it’s super, super important to do something daily that brings you joy. That is something that’s fun, that, that brings laughter and, and silliness into your life and allows you to care from a place of 

[00:20:54] Rayna Neises: peace. So important. I agree. Caregiving doesn’t have to be toxic to every other area of her life. And that’s something that we really do have to keep in mind. If we find that it’s being toxic, then we need to find why. And there is a way yes and a why that needs to happen there, and some changes need to be there. So yes, 

[00:21:16] Suzi Colthurst: and reevaluate those decisions. 

[00:21:18] Rayna Neises: Definitely. Well, thank you so much, Suzi, for sharing part of your story and just the wisdom that you’ve gained and the families that you’ve worked with. It’s been a joy to have you today.

[00:21:28] Suzi Colthurst: It’s been a pleasure. 

[00:21:29] Rayna Neises: Well, listeners, thank you for joining us today for Stories of Hope from Suzi. This episode has been brought to you by Content Magazine, an electronic quarterly magazine available today to help you find God in the midst of your caregiving season. Take that moment to take a deep breath, find Him, and then jump back into your caregiving life refreshed. It’s available now at Content Magazine. Online and A Season of Caring Podcast has been created to share stories for living content, loving well, and caring with no regrets. If you have legal, financial, or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

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Rayna Neises

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Rayna Neises, ACC

Author of No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Editor of Content Magazine, ICF Certified Coach, Speaker, Podcast Host, & Positive Approach to Care® Independent Trainer offering 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, so that both might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

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Rayna Neises: A Season of Caring