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!
Rayna Neises, your host, talks with Tryn Rose Seley. Tryn is an award-winning author and a master teaching artist. Through her experience with the creative arts, she has witnessed profound transformations in people living with dementia. Tryn wrote about what she has learned to teach others to bring out the best in each other, to develop positive relationships, and to build trust between care partners. She plays guitar and mountain dulcimer and enjoys the beautiful world around her through gardening, bird watching, and photography. Tryn shares the following insights:
- [3:26] People are what they love.
- [7:26] Just because they don’t recall it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
- [9:01] If you know about rituals and special things important in the person’s life, do those things, and the person will respond and come back to the surface.
- [12:43] Give them a chance to show what they have and what they can do.
- [14:10] Magic can happen when you make that connection of the heart.
- [17:10] Using music, stories, and art includes almost everyone because different people respond to different things.
- [20:35] Lead from the heart and from the joy of what we can expect in a day.
- [22:23] Tryn’s caregiver book titled, “15 Minutes of Fame: One Photo Does Wonders to Bring You Both Back to Solid Ground”, can be found on her website, www.caregiverheart.com. She also contributed a chapter in a book, “Dementia-Friendly Worship,” which is available on Amazon.
- This episode was brought to you by Content Magazine, an electronic quarterly magazine designed to help you find God during your caregiving season. Learn more at www.ContentMagazine.online.
Tryn Rose Seley
Tryn Rose Seley is an award-winning author and a master teaching artist. Through her experiences with the creative arts, she witnesses a profound transformation in people living with dementia, from lower to higher energy and focus, which leads to more comfort and success during daily routines of care.
She wrote about what she has learned to teach others to bring out the best in each other, to develop positive relationships, and to build trust between care partners. She plays guitar and mountain dulcimer and appreciates the beautiful world we live in through gardening, birdwatching, and photography.
This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation
[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: Welcome. This is Raina Neises, your host of A Season of Caring Podcast, where
we share stories of hope for family caregivers breaking through the business and loneliness to see God even
in this season of life. Today, I'm excited to introduce you to our guest, Tryn Rose Seley. Tryn is an award-
winning author and a master teaching artist. Through her experience with the creative arts, she's witnessed a
profound transformation in people living with dementia from lower to higher energy and focus, which leads
to more comfort and success during daily routines of care. She wrote about what she's learned to teach
others to bring out the best in each other, to develop positive relationships, and to build trust between care
partners. [00:00:40] She plays guitar and mountain dulcimer and appreciates the beautiful world we live in
through gardening, bird watching, and photography. Thank you so much for joining us today. It's a pleasure
to have you here.
[00:00:52] Tryn Seley: It's a delight to speak with you today, Rayna. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:56] Rayna Neises: We talk to family caregivers all the time. I know you have your own story in that,
but we're gonna focus in on all the experience that you have through your gift in art, in those that you helped
to care for professionally. So share a little bit about your professional story.
[00:01:14] Tryn Seley: Thank you. Well, I've worked with all ages, so I started with young kids. I'd got an
Elementary Ed Degree for Michigan State. And I, I taught preschool age and I taught kinder music to
families and their children and loved just tuning in to each kid and their families and figuring out what's
gonna help them feel comfortable in this setting.
[00:01:37] Some kids were really, you know, engaged with the bells and the sticks, and some were more
shy. And the trainer that I learned from always said, just say to each person, thank you. Thank you, thank
you. So that kids feel comfortable participating more another time. It's always been my interest and goal to
make people feel included in the circle and connected and like they belong and like they're in the right place
at the right time, at the right people. [00:02:03] And I was able to then apply that. Philosophy and that kind
of approach to life, to elders. I moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado and started working with private home
care agency that brought me into a care home with a person who was being placed there. And she needed me
some of the time, but the people in the building said, you know, you're really great with these folks.
[00:02:28] You wanna do, you know, another part-time job with us. So it's been a, you know, a 25 year
journey of moving into work with people with dementia and appreciating that they've had a whole
wonderful life and I didn't know them at all before, but I, with my upbringing of being respectful and caring
to elders and to people, I just thought, you know, there's a lot of gold here in their lives. [00:02:56] How can
I bring that back to the present time? So I would learn about them and sometimes it was the nurse that told
us about their lives. Sometimes the director of the place, sometimes it was family members who would say,
you know, she designed bathing suits. He was a lawyer. They would tell us things about their family and
then we, the caregivers would know who they really were, who they authentically were, and protecting that
essential self, even if we weren't experiencing that now.
[00:03:26] I found that if I brought those stories out in their lives they would feel comfortable around me.
They would trust me. We would have an authentic relationship built on real information about their lives,
things they loved. In my Christian upbringing, I was taught that people actually are what they love. They are
what they love. So if this person loves gardens, I'm gonna talk about gardens every day with them, and
they're gonna feel more and more comfortable with me.
[00:03:55] in the shower, in the restroom, in, you know, having a meal socializing during the day when
they're tired and trying to figure out where they are. Where's my daughter? You know, all these things that
could be really destabilizing. Like who am I to them? Well, I'm the person who knows who they are in their
[00:04:13] Mm-hmm. . And I'm gonna treat them with that care and respect. And it really worked. And just
for many years did that direct care and have now worked into, musical and artistic experiences with groups.
And it's just, it always works to bring out the best in people. They feel reassured, they're okay, and it brings
up more joy for everybody.
[00:04:38] Rayna Neises: I think all of us desire to be seen, to be really seen. And that's what you do when
you make that connection to the deeper piece of who they've always been. And like you said, what they've
always loved. We don't lose that. Even if we don't see it all the time. It's all still there. I know both of my
mom and my dad, that connection was so important to remember that it's always there because if we don't
acknowledge that it's there, then they become a task and it becomes, then they feel that too. They don't feel
seen and they don't feel themselves probably either, which then brings out those other behaviors. So I love
[00:05:15] Yes. Being able to really see who they are and, and history gives us so much of that. We live
such a long, rich life, no matter who we are. And being able to acknowledge that I've come into your life
right now. If I come into your life as an adult friend, I don't ignore the past. I don't act like it never happens.
I make that connection with you. So that same thing's true as, as we're caring for them, it's beautiful.
[00:05:38] Yeah. So share a favorite story with us about what you do. [00:05:42] Tryn Seley: Nice. Yeah.
Oh, there's so many. I, I really thought there's so many just blessings. There was a friend of my family's
who, when she retired at 65, she just kept going. She taught yoga. She, she learned reiki. She, she knew both
my sister and I as younger people and she really inspired us. She collected Bible quotes that she would write
on index cards, and she had a file. She has a very organized mind, an organist as well. And . I just remember
admiring her and appreciating that, oh, you mean I can make the Bible my own?
[00:06:18] I don't have to just read straight through and go, okay, I need to take all this in. No, I can pull out
the ones, the little gems. My favorite quote is I will lift up my eyes to the hills from once comes my help.
My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, and I always think of her when I think
of that quote.
[00:06:36] That's a practice that she taught me. So in her later years, she got dementia and I was visiting
back in Pennsylvania. I live in Arizona. I was visiting family in Pennsylvania and went to see her and saw
this wonderful picture, and I knew this about her already. The daughter-in-law had made this beautiful
picture of six congregations that she had played the organ in all her life. So I said, oh look, look at this
beautiful picture. I brought it over to her in her bed and said, I remember you playing the organ when I was
young, and I want you to know you are a wonderful organist. It's a gift that you've given so many people.
[00:07:26] And she said, I did that? She didn't recall it, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Mm-hmm. . And
that she remembered when I told her, when I showed her, and that was lovely that it was there on the mantle
for everyone to see who came to visit her. Oh, yes, this is who she is. She's an organist. She was the
headliner. Like people would come really early to go and listen to her play for church. So it was just such a
gift to spend that time with her and see that her, her recall was not there, but her heart was, and how grateful
she was to hear that.
[00:08:03] And another time my sister and I were visiting a couple years later, and it was a late evening. We
were staying at a friend's house next door to where she was, and the friends were sitting outside saying, oh,
she's having a bad evening. So we went over there togetherand just sang with her. You know, "sang all the
old hymns the King of God and his righteousness, and she started to sing along and all these things will be
added unto you. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
[00:08:39] We told her how much we loved her and how much she had done for us as young people and
loved her, and she just, this glow in her eyes, just the glow came back. And she was reassured and felt calm
and drank a little bit more and went to sleep with calmness. We gave her a little blessing.
[00:09:01] And, knowing these routines, knowing these rituals and these practices, spiritual practices,
whatever they are in our lives, in your family's life, and the people that you're caring for, if you know
anything about these rituals and special things. If it's counting the rosary or if it's doing daily prayers or it's
whatever it is. Do those things and people will respond. They'll surprise you. They'll come back. Come back
to the surface.
[00:09:30] I've seen so many people go from just unable to connect to animated and engaged just by,
sparking that beauty in the spirit, sparking that person's joy. To everybody
[00:09:45] Rayna Neises: Yeah, just becausec we lose that initiation. They lose the ability to initiate that. It
doesn't mean that it's not still in them. And so they can join in and bring that back forth. And so sometimes I
think it's funny, it's just like anything we do for them physically. I mean, oftentimes just getting the
toothbrush to my dad's mouth then prompted him to take over because he had done it for years. And I think
the same thing is true with those ways that we nourish the soul.
[00:10:12] We might get to a point that we can't read anymore. We can't see the words, or we can't
remember the words, but it doesn't mean we don't remember hearing the scripture and having it speak to our
hearts or those songs that mean so much from long ago or currently within life. That's beautiful to really
bring out that connection of the soul.
[00:10:32] Tryn Seley: Yes. Connection of the soul. That's exactly right. Nicely said.
[00:10:36] Rayna Neises: So what's one thing that surprised you about caregiving?
[00:10:41] Tryn Seley: Well, this, I mean, I'm a person who's very interested in people engaged and uh,
joyful. You know, as I say, I worked with the young kids first and they. Bundles of energy and joy and
they're just, it's, it's not hidden at all. It's just right there with an older person who's gone through some
struggles and in the care homes that I was working in. There's layers of, of confusion and blocks and maybe
nobody knows who I am and I don't know either. And I, I don't, I'm just gonna check out, you know, I don't
have any way to connect. I don't know who these people are, they're not my family. Or even if they are,
sometimes it doesn't feel easy to know that. Mm-hmm.
[00:11:20] so, I remember as I started to do this caregiving work in the care home that I was working in, I
worked with the one individual a few days, and then the, the rest of the days did more activities with, 25
people in a circle. And we do exercise and the, the other caregivers in the building would say, well, they
can't really. Read, they can't really talk, they can't really connect because, and I, I have total compassion for
the people who are doing the, the deep care, which I did later in, my experience. But at that time I was just
activity work, keeping people engaged for, you know, an hour and a half and here and there and, but ,
[00:11:58] I said well to myself. Well, I'm gonna just see if they can read. Mm-hmm. . So I had this pack of
cards. It was, they're called Choose Joy. And there were bible quotes and some quotes from other
inspirational sources. So I had about 20 people in a circle, and I had 20 and five cards. So I passed out the
cards to each person. And 18 out of 20 people could read the card aloud.
[00:12:26] And it certainly wasn't a judgment, it was just a no, an observation that I gave them the chance to
try it, and they did. Yes. And so it's my, it feels like my job to create a rich and interesting atmosphere that
allows people to you know, bring out the best in people.
[00:12:43] Gives them a chance to show what they have, you know, do what they can. And it was lovely. So
that was my experience at that place. I just kept, checking and pushing the envelope a little bit and, putting
out art that people could do on their own and watched them create and watched them feel excited. So then
much later, as I moved, and again here now to Arizona and I'm doing this work here, I created sessions
called Mindful Art that have a music component. A storytelling component and an art creating component.
And my favorite day of all was when I was with several students from a local university here called Grand
Canyon University Christian College.
[00:13:29] There was a cadre of students who was learning how to do center direct care, but we got them
involved with the music and the art, and so, they were all around the people sitting at the art table, and I just
heard so many this murmur of thank yous. Thank you. Well, thank you for the, I need the yellow one. Oh,
thank you. Oh, you're giving the card to me. Thank you. And it was, you know, 20 year olds and 80 year
olds talking to each other on the same level. We had sung songs together. I have story prompts that allow
people to say, Hey, were you a surfer? Yes, I surfed in California. And then, the 20 year old and the 80 year
old said, I surfed at the same beach, you know, when I was a kid.
[00:14:10] Yeah. And they had an immediate real connection. And then just being able to create a setting
where people are saying thank you. It just brings that love and energy right to the heart and then those young
kids could say, Hey, you know, I've been thinking about my blood pressure lately and I'm gonna take my
own now. Can I take yours? Are you curious about your blood? Yeah. I'm curious about my blood pressure ,
you know, instead of it being like, I gotta take your blood pressure mm-hmm. , it's more like, Hey, my friend
wants to know how I'm doing. Yeah. I can't wait to find out about my blood pressure. This is the magic that
happened when you, when you make that, that connection of the heart.
[00:14:55] Rayna Neises: Mm-hmm. magic. That's beautiful. I love that. So it sounds like God often shows
up in different opportunities with you and your caregiving, but do you have one story you could share where
God really showed up and just made himself obvious in the midst of it?
[00:15:13] Tryn Seley: Oh, so many. Well, I had family friend growing up, and they also moved out to
Arizona and then she had dementia. Now she's moved to Atlanta to other family. But I cared for her in her
home for several years. And you know, when you have such a strong faith in you, then that's what you go
back to. That's what you, you reconnect to that that basis and that joy. And so she would sometimes, not
even remember her son's name, who was right there.
[00:15:45] But then she would talk about church and how much she loved to sing. And then na names would
start to come back to her if she was thinking about the songs or the people that she cared about. It's always
important to have our basis that is solid. My, my caregiver book that I wrote is called 15 Minutes of Fame:
One Photo Does Wonders to Bring You Both Back to Solid Ground. And grounding being grounded by
something as I said earlier about if you have a ritual that's important to you, that's a spiritual practice. If it's
to wake up every morning and read your daily devotionals, or if there's certain songs that you can sing if
you're at home with your family member to to sing with them and bring back that solid, oh, I know that. I
know that song and I feel better because I recognize what's happening. Something special that's happen, with
this adult day program that I was doing, the Mindful Art had a break with Covid, but was doing full-time
programming there. . There was a woman who, they had a piano of a keyboard there, and the family didn't
know that she would remember. Mm-hmm. the songs, but as soon as she saw the keyboard, she sat down
and played. You know what she played? Everybody knows, Amazing Grace .
[00:17:10] She played the whole thing and the family was like, whoa. Wow. Yeah. She's still there. Like,
yeah, she's still there. and it's our job to provide those things that bring that memory back, bring out that
best. The reason that I do music stories and art is because different people respond to different things.
[00:17:29] Yeah. Some people. Fall asleep during the singing. Some people are singing heartily for the
whole time, and some people love to tell a story and some people are creating beautiful works of art. But
every time it felt like I can't miss any one of these pieces because I'll miss somebody. Mm-hmm. and I
wanna bring out the best in everybody that I can while I'm there.
[00:17:52] Yeah. Having that spiritual basis for my own life of looking at people with the lens of
compassion and love, and this is an angel in the making here, and the essential self is always protected, even
if I can't see it on the surface with dementia, and there's all forms of dementia. You know, depending on
what is happening with the person, if it's from a stroke or if it's from a trauma or if it's from a heart issue.
There's lots of ways to, to get to what dementia is, but the truth is this cuts through every one of them, is to
recognize the heart in a person. Yeah. And to bring it out.
[00:18:36] Rayna Neises: Definitely, and they are just waiting for you to do that. I think they can be tired
and there can be a lot, it is a lot of trying to figure things out, a lot of processing that goes on, but that
connection, it does bring that spark. And when they're able to show themselves, I mean, there's such joy, I
think, on both sides of seeing that and them just radiating with joy. It's just beautiful.
[00:18:59] So, well our time is wrapping up, so do you have one last nugget of wisdom you'd like to share
with our listeners?
[00:19:08] Tryn Seley: I think that in my book, about 15 minutes of fame, I realized, as I did the work that I
needed to write the book so that I could share it with other people who were doing this work, either
professionals or people at home. And with the Covid times, it's hard for me to even recommend care homes
now although I'm, they're getting better, but I wrote it really for people who are at home, who are not ready
to say, I'm ready for someone else to take care of my family. But when that time comes, it's a blessing to be
able to send that family member with some resources. With some things that they love, because as I say, you
are what you love, and the more that a person who's caring for your family, knows who they really are. Mm-
hmm. , then that's what they'll bring out in them. That's, that's the lens they'll see them through. And that's
really precious. I mean, I just felt like if I'm meeting people for the first time at 85 with deep dementia, I'm
gonna find out as much as I can about their lives so that I can bring out that love in them. And it worked
really well. I mean, to, to be able to help people in their, in their bedrooms, and it's a very private space for
people. Mm-hmm. . And to be able to just gently connect there and help people, prepare for the day. I would
always say, we've got a breakfast date and I'm here to help you get ready.
[00:20:35] And they would be like, oh, right, let's go. You know, it wasn't about let's do this shower because
it's really hard. Like, no, it's more like, where are we going today? Like lead from the heart and lead from
the joy of what we can expect in a day. And that people need to, need to do that until they're done.
[00:20:54] They're, they're here until they're done. So I'm gonna bring out the best in them until, until that's
[00:21:01] Rayna Neises: That's lovely. And I think it's so important too, for us to remember as family
caregivers, as we bring people and our team, we can do a wonderful job of introducing our loved one to that
[00:21:12] Tryn Seley: Exactly.
[00:21:13] Rayna Neises: And that was something we really tried to do in our family as we brought
caregivers in to be a part of caring for my dad. Walking through the house, it was talking about the picture
of my mom and the fact that she had been gone for a really long time. That he was a professional baseball
player. He was an accountant and he loved numbers and he loves organization and he doesn't like things on
the floor. And you know, just all the things about who he is because he can't communicate that necessarily
anymore but it is still who he is. So if you leave your shoes on the floor, it's gonna drive him crazy
[00:21:45] Just being able to give those little tips and ideas with those people that you bring in to help
support you can be so important because it does give them a place to start that connection. And like you
said, the heart connection is really the best way to help your loved one be able to progress through any point
in aging. And as I say, walking them all the way home, no matter what stage they're at, whether dementia's a
part of it or not, helping them to stay who they are as much as possible in the heart of who they are, is
important. I love that. [00:22:19] Rayna Neises: Tell us a little bit about your book and where we can find
[00:22:23] Tryn Seley: My caregiver book is called 15 Minutes of Fame: One Photo Does Wonders to
Bring You Both Back to Solid Ground, and that can be found on my website, www.caregiverheart.com.
That's caregiverheart.com and also a book that I have a chapter in that this lovely woman organ story is
from, is called Dementia-Friendly Worship. And that is also on Amazon. It's a large compendium, very easy
to read, though and very inspirational about different kinds worship elements that bring people closer to the
heart. And, it's for, what does a Baptist like? What would a Jewish person like at home? What would a Sikh
person want at home? What would a Buddhist like? It's just a lovely collection of inspirational stories and,
and practical how to. How do you bring an environment of worship and sacred space to a person at home?
It's a very lovely book and I'm really proud to have a chapter in there.
[00:23:33] Rayna Neises: Great. So listeners, be sure to locate our show notes page will also put a link
there. We will connect you to Tryn on her website or you can just visit her website at
www.caregiverheart.com well, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to be able to talk
with you about just how those connections can be formed in some really fun ways.
[00:23:54] Tryn Seley: Thank you, Rayna. It's a real pleasure. The book is a work of love and hoping that
more people can have more joy and build that joy into their daily routines.
[00:24:05] Rayna Neises: Thank you for joining us today for Stories of Hope from Tryn. This episode has
been brought to you by Content Magazine, an electronic quarterly magazine designed to help you find God
during your caregiving season. Take a moment to take a deep breath. Find him and then jump back into your
caregiving season refreshed and ready to go. Learn more about Content magazine. Content magazine.online.
[00:24:28] A Season of Caring Podcast has been created for sharing stories of hope, for living content,
loving well, and caring without regrets for family caregivers. If you have legal, financial, or medical
questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.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.
Meet Your Host
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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