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!

Susan Stern

Episode 192

What happens when a speech pathologist finds herself in the shoes of a caregiver for her own parents, facing the trials of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease? Susan Stern, who transitioned from a career in medical speech pathology to becoming a board-certified life coach, shares her deeply personal and transformative journey through the stages of caregiving. You’ll hear about the heart-wrenching yet spiritually uplifting experiences of moving her parents from independent living to various care facilities, and how her faith and resilience were tested and strengthened. Susan offers raw, unfiltered insights into the emotional rollercoaster of caring for loved ones, emphasizing the importance of recognizing when it’s time for change—for the sake of both the caregiver and the one being cared for.

Prepare to be inspired by Susan’s candid stories of facing unexpected challenges, such as administering medical care and making difficult decisions, all while finding solace and strength in faith. Discover how gratitude became a powerful tool for Susan, helping her shift her mindset towards positivity even in the darkest times. She opens up about the crucial lessons of letting go of control and trusting in God more, providing a heartfelt perspective on navigating the unpredictable journey of caregiving. Join us for an emotional and enlightening episode that explores the depths of human resilience and the power of hope.

1:44       Navigating Care Facilities and God’s Guidance
7:35       The Power of Videos and Memories
10:03     Unexpected Challenges and Strength in Caregiving
11:22     Caring for Loved Ones With Faith
14:52     Gratitude and Faith in Caregiving
16:45     Final Thoughts and Wisdom
17:52     Trusting God Through Caregiving Journeys

This Episode is brought to you by:

Hope for a Caring Heart Journal

HOpe for a Caring Heart Journal

“Hope for the Caring Heart Journal” is a 90-day guide for caregivers, blending Scripture, prayer, and reflection to foster spiritual resilience and emotional well-being. Each day offers hope, deep questions, and a space for gratitude, making it a source of strength and renewal. Ideal for anyone seeking to deepen their faith and find solace in caregiving, this journal is a testament to the enduring power of hope and faith.

Susan Stern

Susan Stern

Susan Stern has 20 years professional experience as a medical speech-language pathologist. She was a long-distance caregiver for her father who struggled with cancer for over 10 years. After he passed away, she became primary caregiver for her mother, diagnosed with cancer and Alzheimer’s, for 10 years, until she passed away this spring.

Susan had a calling to switch careers to become a board-certified life coach. In her business, Spring to Life Coaching, Susan supports family caregivers who want to grow their inner resilience, so that they can be emotionally, mentally & physically healthier during one of life’s most challenging seasons. She guides caregivers to “spring to life” even when it is still stormy outside.


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*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:02] Rayna Neises: Welcome to a Season of Caring podcast. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and we’re excited to share stories of hope with you, family caregivers, breaking through the busyness and loneliness of caregiving to see God, even in the middle of the season today. I’m excited to introduce you to Susan Stern. Susan has 20 years of professional experience as a medical speech pathologist. She was a long distance caregiver for her father who struggled with cancer for over 10 years. After his passing, she became primary caregiver for her mother diagnosed with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease for 10 years until she passed away this spring.

[00:00:37] Susan had a calling to switch careers to become a board certified life coach in her business, Spring to Life Coaching. Susan supports family caregivers who want to grow their inner resilience so that they can become emotionally, mentally, and physically healthier one of life’s most challenging seasons. She guides caregivers to spring to life, even when it’s still stormy outside. Welcome Susan. I’m so glad to have you here today.

[00:01:04] Susan Stern: Rayna, for having me. Thank you

[00:01:06] Rayna Neises: So I know since we visited a couple years ago on the podcast, and I know since that time mom’s passed away, so life and caregiving looks a little different for you, but tell us a little bit about her and what that season look like for you.

[00:01:20] Susan Stern: During the 10 years, it was a powerful life changing experience. I am I’m grateful for it It’s probably something no one would choose especially with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, but I definitely see how God did use it for good and Both her development and changes and also definitely for me.

[00:01:43] Rayna Neises: And I know part of that season when she reached a certain point, you did find yourselves. Having a facility was a great support for you. And so how long did you have that independence with her and then juggle her independence and then find that necessary for her to be in a care facility?

[00:02:03] Susan Stern: let’s see, I moved her down and I’ll just jump in if that’s okay too, with a God story too. When my dad passed away, we knew my mom had dementia but she wasn’t officially diagnosed. She wasn’t wanting to do that. So six months after my dad passed, my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. Okay.

[00:02:23] Rayna Neises: Oh, wow.

[00:02:24] Susan Stern: and what was weird for me is I wasn’t shooken up by that because I saw how God was going to be using that to help her agree to move down to Florida sooner than she wanted.

[00:02:37] And also it was a way we could get her officially diagnosed. So I was very grateful, but also I noticed that, wow, I’m not as scared as I think I should be. But that was because I saw how God was using it as a tool to help us.

[00:02:53] Rayna Neises: Yeah. Those things working together, things you wouldn’t expect to be, was something that really helped her to be willing to give up her independence more.

[00:03:03] Susan Stern: Yeah, exactly. So she was so I moved her down, then she lived in independent living for three and a half years. And even though when she did get diagnosed, they said assisted living, but she refused. I honored her by having her in independent, but then it got to a point, and this is another little God story, too, where she was had three falls.

[00:03:25] In one week, and I’m calling 9 1 1. What happened is she had a UTI and the flu at the same time, and I didn’t know that. So I was spending the night, spending all my time there, and when that third fall happened, I just felt peace, which is weird. But again, I thought, Okay, God, this is what you’re going to do.

[00:03:49] This is the end of this chapter of independent living. I just knew what he was doing. So I called 9 1 1 and I said, take her to the hospital this time. And so that was the turning point where then I had her move to assisted living. So I had that hard conversation with her. So she was in assisted living for nine months. Then that was no longer enough to support her. So then I moved her to memory care for three years and then she had a fall. And so then she was in skilled nursing community for two and a half years because she wasn’t able to stand on her own. So she couldn’t go back to memory care.

[00:04:28] Rayna Neises: Yeah. So you went through all of the stages, so that’s definitely so challenging. Were they all the same location that you’re able to just kind of move her to different levels, or did you have to move locations too?

[00:04:40] Susan Stern: So I did have to move locations for each and every one of them. I’m I’m blessed to live in Florida. So there’s a lot of senior living communities. Yes. So it was, you know, 50 minutes away. The furthest one in her last year and a half of life was 30 minutes away, but that was still doable. And so it worked out. Okay.

[00:05:02] Rayna Neises: that’s great. And I think that’s one of the hardest things as you’re looking at places, just being able to know number one, do they have an opening? And then number two, is this going to be a good fit? So it’s always good to hear whenever people have experiences that they felt really supported and that things went well for them.

[00:05:16] Susan Stern: Yeah, well, thank you. I think when you recognize when there’s a lot of uneasiness that is continuing, that for me was the sign to, okay, it’s time for a new place and, um, find something different. And so that worked out well.

[00:05:34] Rayna Neises: And I think that’s true at all places. I think as we’re offering support for that loved one, whatever it looks like, we have to pay attention to those things and really being able to pray and ask for peace around it. And then if we don’t have it, then taking that as, okay, we need to do something different.

[00:05:52] And I love that story that you shared too, of just being able to see that the difficult times of her falling is just scary. And obviously with the UTI, she was probably not very coherent either. Those scary moments still God’s in the middle of them and He’s working and He has a plan and we can have faith in that and, and trust in that, even though so much is out of our control, which is not fun.

[00:06:18] Susan Stern: Yeah, exactly, well and I think too, the crises, crises that pop up too, they can feel really scary. But I think that is where change happens too. And, and, and another God story I have was when she was in her skilled nursing community. She had, this was summer of 2022, and she had just had COVID and almost passed away from it.

[00:06:47] She’s a fighter, so she was still with us. I got her on hospice. She’s on oxygen 24 seven summertime. We had a hurricane, hurricane Ian come. And so since she had 24 seven care because she was still trying to get out of bed and taking the oxygen off, I stayed with her for three days. And so that’s something, again, it’s a crisis. But it’s also an opportunity and so that’s how I like to try to look at things too. So it’s an opportunity during that time of what was that? 72 hours with my mom. I’m taking videos, asking questions, even though she’s in that later stage. So even in hurricanes, God uses all things for good and I was grateful.

[00:07:36] And that was a turning point for me because I felt like I missed the window of having videos for my mom and then it just gave me permission to, no, let’s keep taking some videos because you just don’t know what precious gems that you’re going to get. And that’s what I’ve been using for my time of grief right now is revisiting those videos. And it’s been a great comfort.

[00:08:03] Rayna Neises: That’s awesome. I know I look back. I cared for my dad from 2014 to 2018 and I had a cell phone, but I certainly didn’t use it like so much of what we do today. And obviously I’m not a teenager. So I didn’t think to just video everything. I wish that I had done more of that. I even look back. I’m like, I don’t really have a lot of pictures.

[00:08:23] I took some pictures of us while we were doing things together. But I don’t really have a lot of pictures and we really didn’t do any video at the point where he could really talk and share stories. And it would have been nice to have that. It’s even more difficult because my mom was the picture taker and you know, she was so young when she was diagnosed.

[00:08:42] There are very few pictures of my mom, much less of me and my mom. And so I always encourage caregivers to go ahead and snap those moments, even if it feels little uncomfortable. I’ve learned with grandkids, I do a lot more picture taking, obviously, but even as I look back in their early lives, I didn’t do a lot of that either.

[00:09:01] So one of the things I love to do is on their Birthday I take a selfie with them. And I’m really look, enjoy looking back over the years already. My oldest is only nine, but I think that would have been so fun even with my dad, you know, to have pictures of us together on his birthday or things like that. So I always encourage people to take time to document.

[00:09:21] And then like you said, those videos, you never know what’s going to come out in a lucid moment. So picking up that phone and having an opportunity to take those videos. That’s really neat. Oh,

[00:09:32] Susan Stern: Yeah, well, it’s funny, one of the videos I looked at last night was her birthday last year. And I said, so mom, how old do you think you are? And she looks and she’s like, about my age. And I’m like, yes. I mean, just the funny things that she would say that just You know, you can still get a lot of joy from, you know, the moments of being lucid and or funny.

[00:09:53] Rayna Neises: yes. Yeah. Even when they’re not always right, there’s still fun things in the moment. So yeah.

[00:09:59] What would be one thing that surprised you most about caregiving?

[00:10:03] Susan Stern: How much it made me stronger. I did just the strength for all the different trials that you go through and just how you aren’t the same person as you were when you first started, just the amount of strength that you build at the end, if you don’t let it tear you down too. And so I definitely leaned into my faith.

[00:10:30] And grew my faith during that time. And I don’t know about you, but it usually is when I’m at my most desperate times is when I definitely, you know, get closest to God. And so those 10 years, I’ve never had a better quiet time and devotion and consistency then during that season of caregiving. So that’s strength. And so also recognizing I can do so much more than I realized that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. I mean, you know, within reason,

[00:11:05] so I’m able to say, I’m able to say yes to things that pre caregiving, I was like, no way would I ever do so. I like that. And also, you know, I’m older now I’m in my mid fifties. So there’s that, that also goes with giving us more courage. Yeah.

[00:11:22] Rayna Neises: is, it’s such a difficult season because there are so many things that we have to step into and we don’t think we can. And I love how He never asked us to do more than we can with him. Knowing that He’s alongside and just remembering that we’re doing this together can make such a big difference.

[00:11:41] I was so thankful to have my sister teaming with me because there were things she definitely could do that I didn’t want to. It wasn’t, I can’t imagine I would have been able to, but maybe I could have just because there were things I didn’t think I could do. And I did do, but especially wound care comes to mind.

[00:11:55] She just was. I will never forget people who are caregivers know how important having a regular bowel movement is. Right. And so when my dad reached a point where there was a season where he was not going regularly, we called and talked to the doctor and she’s like, I think it’s time for an enema.

[00:12:13] And we’re like, okay. Oh, okay. You know, thinking we would take him somewhere.

[00:12:18] Like, no, they don’t do that anymore. She said, even if you’re impacted and you go to the emergency room, they’ll send you home with it. Wow. what? So yeah, you know, we had to do that for my dad. I just thought who would have ever thought, and just to be able to calm him and Just all of it was, it was such a moment of, for me, of just praying that I would, be able to calm him and be that we would be able to be successful and that it wouldn’t be, and it really wasn’t this big, huge ordeal.

[00:12:49] it went so well between the two of us and with him and, it helped him to recover and he was so much better after, but it was such an. Yuck. Not something I’d ever want to do, but it’s amazing. The things that we can do

[00:13:04] that we can do. So

[00:13:06] Susan Stern: Yeah, you got through it. Gosh, that’s hard.

[00:13:08] Rayna Neises: Yeah. It’s on the done list. Never to do again.

[00:13:13] Susan Stern: Amen. Oh gosh.

[00:13:15] Rayna Neises: Sorry, if that got a little too much for you, but it’s true. These things happen in our caregiving life. So you’ve probably experienced some of those things like that to. Today’s podcast has been brought to you by Hope for the Caring Heart Journal. This is my newest book and it’s actually a 90 day journey designed to uplift, inspire, and support you who are in a season of caring or anyone who is in a caring field. With a unique blend of scripture, prayer reflection and gratitude. This journal offers a structured path to spiritual resilience and emotional wellbeing. I’ve designed it so that each day you have the opportunity to discover new strength through scriptures of hope. Engaging in meaningful prayer, delving into reflective questions, that challenge and comfort you. And acknowledging the blessings through some gratitude journaling. It’s really crafted to be your faithful companion and to be revisited three times. So you can see your past answers and see the growth and all that God’s been doing in your life over the 90 day period. Whether you are someone navigating life’s ups and downs, caregivers seeking solace, or simply a child of God looking for a way to deepen your faith and gratitude practices this journal has been created for you. I really would love for you to be able to pick up a copy. It’s only available at my website at www.Aseasonofcaring.com.

[00:14:40] Now let’s get back to my conversation with Susan.

[00:14:44] So you’ve already shared a few stories of just how God showed up for you. Anything else come to mind of how he showed himself in your caregiving season?

[00:14:52] Susan Stern: I think he helped shaped how I look at being grateful for things. I really have learned how to be grateful for the little things and the big things. He’s helped me with my perspective. And I, I think just kind of rewiring. You know, like we talk about with brain, just rewiring it for a more positive mindset.

[00:15:17] And, and I think that’s really been a gift that I’m just very grateful to have had. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:15:40] Rayna Neises: more we see them. And I’m not a believer that we say it’s going to be true so it becomes true. I’m a believer that we just See it.

[00:15:48] It’s always been there and we’ve never noticed it before. I love the story of when you buy a new car, you think, Oh my gosh, I have this car then all of a sudden you’re like, there are cars just like this everywhere. How have I never seen that before? And it’s not because there are more of them around. It’s just that. It’s because we suddenly become more aware of them. And I love that gratitude works the same way. The more that we spend time looking for things to be thankful for, the more we see all the things that there are in our lives to be thankful for. Definitely a important tool to helping us keep our faith and helping us to be resilient in this caregiving season.

[00:16:28] Susan Stern: Exactly. I mean, for me, it’s been a coping strategy for stress. It was like, you know, leaning into gratitude for what’s going well.

[00:16:37] Rayna Neises: Because there always are things. Definitely.

[00:16:41] So you have any one last nugget of wisdom you’d like to pass along today?

[00:16:45] Susan Stern: Yeah, not trying to plan it all out. Right. And I think that’s what faith is, is just believing that God is with us. He knows better than we do and trusting in his will. Because otherwise we can get caught up in what people’s opinions are. And so just being, you know, focused on his will. And in having faith in that, because otherwise that crystal ball doesn’t exist.

[00:17:11] We can drive ourselves crazy trying to look for it. So it’s getting more comfortable living in the gray area and not knowing how it’s all going to play out.

[00:17:21] Rayna Neises: Yeah, that’s so wise. It’s so hard to do, isn’t it? I don’t know if it’s just all humans or just my friends, but I just, we’d like to be in control, right? I mean, we like to know what’s coming. I have jokingly said most of my life, if you ever see my billboard that says Reina, say Reina, something, love God, make sure you let me know because I’ve asked him for it over and over again.

[00:17:48] Just give me a billboard, Lord, just tell me what I need to do or tell me what’s going to happen. And I think that’s so much a part of just human nature maybe, but it is part of walking caregiving of just learning to let go And take the next step and when knowing that when the next crisis happens that I can take the next step that he’s here with me guiding me each step of the way and that I don’t have to know where I’m going and I don’t have to have in control or think I have control of every little thing.

[00:18:19] It’s tough.

[00:18:21] Susan Stern: said though, exactly. Yeah,

[00:18:24] Rayna Neises: Well, thanks so much, Susan, for being with us today. I really appreciate you sharing just about mom and this journey that you’ve been on and just how faithful God’s been to you.

[00:18:36] Susan Stern: Oh, thank you. Thank you for this opportunity to share. I enjoyed talking with you. Okay.

[00:18:40] Rayna Neises: Thank you listeners for joining us today for stories of hope with Susan. Just a reminder, a Season of Caring Podcast has been created for Sharing stories of hope for living content, loving well, and caring without regrets.

[00:18:53] 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

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.

Would you like to be a Guest?  |  Email Rayna

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Rayna Neises: A Season of Caring