Gratitude, Green, & Pink

Thanksgiving is quite possibly my favorite holiday of the year.  If the interstate traffic is any indication, people are well on their way towards their Thanksgiving activities.  While we’re bumper to bumper today, tomorrow gives us reprieve from everyday struggles.  Thanksgiving is the time of year where all of the admittedly difficult, bad, and unjust things are consciously put aside as we focus on the Good.

It’s easy to lose ourselves in the everyday shuffle of life and lose perspective.  Homecare can be a difficult journey, and often one we seemingly face alone.  We brave the edges of the map, wondering what to do next or if we can give enough.  It’s easy to be consumed by the trails and hurdles.  However, I think back to a lesson I learned in high school that transformed the way I view the world.

I was feeling overcome by the frustrations and hopelessness that many young teenagers face during those formative years.  Why is everything against me?  Why is it so hard? You know the all-too-familiar story.  In walked a dear friend and, seeing my exasperated state, offered some advice.  He told me to spend the next minute looking intently around the room and identify everything green–that I would have to close my eyes and recount as many objects as possible.  I spent the next 60 seconds finding the green pen, lime-green stickynote, the choppy blades of grass on the sunflowers border wallpapered around the room, and countless other green things.  I had a long list, one that I was committing to memory.  However, when it was time to close my eyes, he asked me to recall the things that were pink.  Pink? I stumbled through a few things I figured would have pink on them, but my list fell short.  He then began to list all of the pink items I had overlooked in my adamant search for green.  Pink was sprinkled all around, but I had been so focused elsewhere that I didn’t even see it.

Isn’t this how it is in life?

Sometimes we find ourselves in a green room, and the green seems overwhelming.  Mounting medical bills.   Caregiving and managing a full-time job.  A terminal diagnosis.  But the truth is that no matter how evident the green is, there is always some pink if we condition ourselves to search for it.

This Thursday, I hope that you will take pause from the hustle-bustle of life and search your world for pink.  Perhaps it’s the big stuff: loved ones, health, shelter.  But I bet it’s in the little things too.  These are the things that get taken for granted and overlooked as we hurry through life.  Maybe it’s the sun glistening through the fragrant blooms of your neighbor’s rose bush.  Or perhaps it’s the way your favorite chair feels as you collapse into it at the end of a long day.  Good is everywhere.  It’s in your climate controlled house, your computer that enables us to communicate digitally, the very fact that you can read.  It’s the freedom to strive for greatness in every day, and the satisfaction that you do work that matters as we care for our elderly and disabled loved ones.

We have so much to be grateful for.

In past blog posts, we’ve covered ways you can Be The Good in the world and even jump-started a list of 45 things our readers can be thankful for as they reflect on their homecare journey.  Where is the pink in your life?

Know this: we are so incredibly thankful for you.  It is an honor to serve a community so dedicated to the wellbeing of their loved ones, and we are grateful for the opportunity to support you as you stand on the front lines of homecare.

May you enjoy the holiday with your families and loved ones and find the Good that surrounds you.


“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

3 Steps to Addressing Incontinence Insecurities

What’s better than spending time with family over a big meal, watching the game on TV, and browsing inserts for Black Friday’s top deals?  Doing all of that without worrying that you’ll have an accident due to incontinence.

Next week, people across the country will load into their cars and travel to visit family and celebrate Thanksgiving.  Whether you’re going across town or across the country, you want to be comfortable and secure, having the appropriate protection to suit your lifestyle and needs.

Don’t let the social stigma of incontinence prevent you from seeking help and getting the supplies you need to address it head on.  We hear sad stories from customers whose loved ones essentially stopped leaving the house for fear of leaks and embarrassment.  With the right products, you can maintain your daily activities with confidence and get back to doing what you love—like going to your cousin’s house for Thanksgiving and having a hearty laugh with friends.

Here are 3 essential steps to overcoming incontinence insecurities

1.  Understand Your Options

Embarrassed to talk about your incontinence issues?  Don’t be.  Your physician can help you assess what may be the root cause, such as diet, disease, or even just a gradual loss of control.  Do some homework on incontinence treatment options and products that are appropriate for the types of activities you do.  Different lifestyles have different needs, so a person who is bedbound will benefit from a different incontinence product than someone who uses a wheelchair versus someone who is mobile.  Learn the differences in briefs, pads, and special underwear designed to accommodate liners.  Compare brands and styles.  How do they score for absorbency?  Are they designed for easy application if you have dexterity issues?  How thin are they?  Your local home medical equipment supplier can walk you through your options and offer experienced advice, as can countless online review sites that evaluate product performance.  Find what works best for you.
2.  Know What Fits

A properly fitted incontinence product goes a long way in ensuring your protection and preventing complications like skin damage and breakdown.  Avoid the common “bigger is better” misconception since it won’t absorb more—it will only be baggy, cause friction on your skin, and have issues wicking away moisture.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how it should be worn.  Manufacturers will provide sizing information, instructing you where to take measurements and providing application tips such as not touching the interior part of an incontinence diaper.
3.  Plan in Advance

As with many other areas of life, it pays to be prepared.  Plan in advance for your trip, bringing extra incontinence supplies so that you can regularly change them as needed (this also helps avoid prolonged exposure and minimizes odors).  Pack a change of clothes so that you have something to change into should an accident occur.  Not sure what to do with the incontinence products once they are soiled?  Bring a few scented disposable bags so that you can discretely dispose of the them.  Be mindful of the times in which restrooms will not be as accessible, such as while driving, and moderate fluid intake the 30 minutes prior, and be mindful of using diuretics.  (Of course, please stay hydrated!)  You may also want to bring a portable male or female urinal should you not have easy access to the bathroom.  A proactive approach to planning for your trip will empower you to deal with incontinence in a productive way.

The right absorbent products will help you manage incontinence, reduce risk of wound complications, and minimize risk of accidents.  By following these three steps, you are on your way to a fuller, more confident lifestyle.


Being the Good

Admittedly, we lead busy, chaotic lives, and it’s easy to let everyday stressers overshadow all we have to be grateful for.  A popular meme online uses the “first world problems” tagline for all of the gripes we say throughout the day without realizing how fortunate we truly are.

“My car is so old & commute to work so quick that I don’t have time for my car to heat on my way there”

“I just used the last Pandora skip, but this next song is even worse”

Yikes.  We’ve all been there at some point.

A few weeks ago I met with the logistics coordinator for Wheels for the World, a program of Joni & Friends that takes used wheelchairs, repairs them, and distributes them to disabled individuals in 3rd world countries.  He described the living conditions these people are in and how without the chair, they are drug around on scraps of cardboard by family members unless they’re lucky—and rich—enough to be able to afford to buy a wheelbarrow to haul the person around.

I think of these people and what their daily lives must be like.  I have so much to be grateful for.  Even now, I sit in a climate controlled office, sipping iced tea from the neighboring Chinese restaurant, and typing away on an expensive machine as I effortlessly communicate to a digital world.  There is so much we take for granted in our everyday existence.  I want to practice mindfulness.  Gratitude.  Grace.

In a couple of weeks, we will gather around a table of food among people we love most and spend a day acknowledging all we have to be thankful for.  The following day, we will get up hours before sunrise to add to our material collection.

What if, instead, we set aside November as a month of appreciation for all we have and shared our abundance with others?  At Lambert’s, this concept was the inspiration behind our BE THE GOOD campaign.  To see the good in the world, we must be the good in the world.

Homecare Advocate Blog by Lambert's Health Care  Be the Good Uniform Drive

Lambert's Be The Good Uniform Drive

Each November, we run a uniform drive at Lambert’s, collecting gently used scrubs from our medical community and donating them to medical missions and charities that work with those less fortunate in rural Appalachia.  Donors get coupons in exchange for participating.  It’s our way of helping others Be The Good as they pay it forward, giving their excess a second life and benefitting those less fortunate.

What ways can you practice being the good in your own life? Here are 5 activities you can do to Be The Good:

  1. Donate your time. Find a cause you believe in and give them a couple of hours of your time.  Senior programs like Mobile Meals rely on volunteers to survive.  Know a caregiver?  Offer them some much needed respite care by offering your services for the afternoon.
  2. Connect. You know your sweet Aunt Judy who lives alone?  Drop by and visit; it will make her day.  Call & offer support to your neighbor who is about to have his first holiday since his wife’s passing.  Write letters to your friends, letting them know how much their friendship means and how you admire them.
  3. Purge. We all have perfectly good stuff that isn’t being utilized at home.  The pretty sweater that’s too small.  The art that once adorned your halls that now sits in the closet.  The stack of CDs that you don’t use now that you use mp3s instead.  Partner with a charity like Mission of Hope that will pair these items with a needing recipient.
  4. Contribute. Put your money where your heart is.  Sponsor a senior through programs like those offered at the Wesley House.  Donate to programs like PAWS that pair seniors with adoptable pets from animal shelters, giving them loving companions to share their lives with.
  5. Live DAOK. Practice daily acts of kindness.  Help the elderly lady to her car, pay the parking fee at the hospital parking lot for the person behind you, donate blood at a blood drive… you get the idea.  Be kind.

No matter our jobs, our schedules, our hobbies, and our obligations, there are things to be grateful for and ways to Be The Good.  My 94 year old grandmother reconnected with an acquaintance from childhood recently, and the positive benefit from these simple phone calls is immeasurable.  What can you do, where you are today?


“When you hear the word ‘disabled’, people think immediately about people who can’t walk or talk or do everything that people take for granted.  Now, I take nothing for granted.  But I find the real disability is people who can’t find joy in life and are bitter.” –Teri Garr, actress with MS

The Scariest Part of Being a Caregiver

When one first begins the caregiving journey, it often takes awhile before self-identifying as a caregiver.  “I’m just helping Mom with groceries and meal preparation” and “I’m just picking up Dad’s meds and sorting them for the week” becomes a gradual awareness of the new role and responsibilities you’re taking on long-term.  It reminds me of when my grandfather moved in with my parents—the suitcase stayed out in his new room for the first year as he told everyone he was “just visiting”.   While everyone else could recognize that he would never be able to live alone again, it took him awhile for him to realize and accept it.  Likewise, it takes caregivers time to own their new title as one who provides care for their loved ones.

As time goes on, responsibilities often increase.  Perhaps Dad needs more help with his activities of daily living, Aunt Teresa becomes increasingly fragile and forgetful with age, or your sister’s battle with cancer takes a turn for the worse.  As caregivers, we rise to the challenge like a frog in a pot of water with the temperature slowly rising.

Inevitably, a day will come.  As you will lay awake in bed, thinking about the To Dos and Could Haves and What Ifs for your loved one, a troubling question comes to mind: Can I give enough?

This is perhaps the scariest part of being a caregiver, not knowing if we can rise to the challenges we now face, no matter how desperately we want to make things better.  Countless surveys and studies have told the same story: people prefer to remain their homes instead of an institutional setting.  For most, home provides better health outcomes, increased quality of life, and more affordable health care options as a cost-effective health care model.  The desire to remain at home is there.  But as you lay there in bed thinking of all of the needs your loved one now has, you have to be honest with yourself.  Can you find resources so that you can provide or coordinate safe care for your loved one?  Do you have a sustainable plan in place so that you don’t suffer from the detrimental effects of caregiver burnout?  What are your expectations; are you mentally prepared to accept the natural progression of your loved one’s health issues?

Each caregiver has to come to terms with these daunting questions at some point, and the answers are as unique as the individuals themselves.  Thankfully, you don’t have to be, give, and do everything on your own.  There are more options than ever before.  Google may become your best friend as you search for solutions to keeping your loved one safe at home.  Your physician, home medical equipment company, family, and church may be a resource for new ways to meet the needs of your loved one and for yourself as a caregiver.

Tough roles require that you ask tough questions, and it’s important that you work within the reality of your loved one’s situation.  Identify weaknesses in your current plan so that you can begin finding a solvent solution that truly satisfies your loved one’s needs.  Consider hiring outside help for supportive services and respite care.  Learn which medical equipment may help with the challenges you face, be it transferring your loved one from bed, making the bathroom accessible, or something else all together.  Talk with health professionals to determine the course of care and whether or not its curative in nature.

A caregiver’s journey isn’t easy; it’s one of the hardest and most heart-wrenching roles you’ll ever love.  You become an extension of that person—you share their responsibilities and oversee their safety.  You become their advocate at the hospital and doctor offices and their voice when they have trouble communicating their desires.  That’s a lot of pressure on someone who found him/herself in a role without formal training and preparation.  What I’m not enough?

In times like these, I recall the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Neibur:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Bottom line: be flexible, be curious, and be honest with yourself.  As long as you approach it with your loved one’s best interests in mind, you will find the right answer to can I give enough? Perhaps you can and should, and perhaps you cannot.  Understand your capacity, your expectations, your loved one’s desires, and the natural progression of your loved one’s health situation.  And have hope.  The love that brought you into this role is the love that will see you through.  Although there aren’t always fixes, there is always room for grace and loving care, no matter the season of life.


Ecclesiastes 3:1– To Everything There is a Season
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The Heart of St Patrick

Homecare Advocate readers, we are pleased to bring you our very first post by guest blogger, Kate Damron.  She is part of our customer service team at our north Knoxville store, and she has a real heart for helping people.  Read on as she explains how the act of caregiving embodies the essence of Saint Patrick.

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Homecare Advocate Blog: The Heart of St Patrick

Yes, yes.  We all know we have to wear green on St. Patty’s Day to avoid being pinched. Shamrocks and tall green hats are shamelessly flaunted.  Some people use the day as a chance to go to an Irish pub to celebrate.  Stores observe the holiday with discounts on St. Patrick’s related items and fun promotions for all things green.

As we celebrate, let’s make it even more meaningful by remembering why Saint Patrick’s day is a holiday at all.

The Britain-born youth was captured at 16 in the late fourth century by raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland to a Druid high priest.  During the six years he spent in captivity as a shepherd, he grew stronger in his faith.  Eventually, he escaped and was reconnected with his family in Britain at about age 24.  Then, he felt God calling him back to minister to the people of Ireland.  He become a priest and returned to Ireland after only a few years.

Patrick is reckoned to have had an enormous impact on the conversion of many Irish from Druidism to Christianity and in organizing church leadership.  He also founded several monasteries.  Many of the symbols we see today including the shamrock and the Celtic cross are the result of syncretism as St. Patrick endeavored to help the Irish transition from pagan rituals to Christianity.  The shamrock we see everywhere is legendary for St. Patrick’s use of it to illustrate the Trinity.

It is an encouragement to remember that we celebrate this holiday because of the love that one man had even for a people that had enslaved him. So much so, that after he gained freedom, he studied to become a priest in order to return to that same people and change their hearts so they could experience freedom. His hard work and efforts profoundly changed the culture in tangible ways that we still see today!

As we care for our loved ones, we have the advantage of serving them out of love and out of a mutually meaningful relationship. The road may not be easy, but it is worth it when we see the joy in their eyes as they greet the ones they love each day and as they gaze upon the homes they have lived in so many years. The life they live at home does give them so much more freedom to continue to enjoy a good life and to impact the lives of others themselves. Sometimes, it may be easy to think that we don’t make a difference, but giving loved ones as much independence and dignity as we can is immeasurable and makes a difference in the lives of individuals and in our culture.  Thank you for your dedication and hard work as you take care of your loved ones.

:: Kate Damron ::

Snowflake Ball 2013

We had a wonderful time this weekend at the Snowflake Ball & Silent Auction, the annual fundraiser for the Senior Companion Program.  Lambert’s has been on the Advisory Board for the Senior Companion Program for several years now and was the chair of this year’s Silent Auction.  We are pleased to report that we raised a record-breaking $9603 at this year’s event!

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

The Senior Companion Program pairs volunteer seniors with low-income seniors who need help with activities of daily living, companionship, and services to maintain their independence and remain at home.

This program offers a valuable service to our community’s most vulnerable population and empowers active seniors to make a difference in others’ lives.  The funds raised at this year’s Snowflake Ball & Silent Auction enable the Senior Companion Program to provide 1,600 hours of free care this year!

Here are some photos from this year’s event:

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

We appreciate all of the local businesses and artists who contributed to the Silent Auction such as Collage-A-Pet, Jeffries WoodWorks, Aud Pod Pottery, among others.  It means a lot to us at Lambert’s to be able to give back to our community and to find kindred spirits who have a passion for helping seniors like we do.

Here is some of our Advisory Board members who attended the Ball:

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

If you’d like more information on receiving services by the Senior Companion Program, volunteering your time as a Companion, or making a financial contribution to the program, please send an e-mail to and tell them you heard about the program through Lambert’s blog.  They’re a wonderful group of people, and they are here to serve you.


5 Ways to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr

Homecare Advocate Blog Post: "5 Ways to Honor MLK, JR"

Today is a special day where we pay our respects to one of the great leaders and defining contributors to American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He stood for equality, compassion, nonviolent activism, and holding stead-fast to your principles.  As we celebrate him today, here are 5 ways that you can honor him and his legacy.

1.  Get involved.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The elderly often feel forgotten and left behind.  As they age, their world gets smaller, and they hold tight to their closest loved ones.  Life is busy, schedules are chaotic.  But ask any grandma living alone, and she all too well remembers all the days that passed without any visitors and how slowly the clock ticked on by.  She yearns for someone to think of her, her ears ache for the phone to ring with a familiar voice at the other end.  Reach out to seniors who are less fortunate; spend time with those who live solitary lives.  Be present in their lives.  Show them love.

2.  Speak out.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Get involved in the issues that impact senior citizens.  Speak to your elected officials about the value of homecare, and educate our leadership about developing policies that empower the elderly and disabled to maintain their independence at home.  Not sure where to begin?  Talk to a senior about what would increase their quality of life, what it means to them to choose their own health provider, and how we can help them live more comfortably and safely at home.  Be their voice.

3.  Do small things with great love.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Every role is an opportunity to show love and make a difference in the world.   Whether you’re the delivery technician, the therapist, the neighbor, or the plumber, you have the chance to make a meaningful impact on the person you’re helping.  It’s quite possible that if you’re assisting a senior, you may be the only person she/he has spoken to that day–or even longer.   Acknowledge the person you are serving, take pride in the quality of your work.  Give them assurance that you are here to help them and that you care about their well-being.

4.  Put living in life.

“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.” Lambert’s co-owner, Elizabeth, once eloquently said “life is living!”  Her words remind me of Dr. King’s warning of no meaning, no purpose, no life in our lives.  It is not enough to survive for the sake of getting older–we want to fill that life with something worthwhile.  Seniors are more active and capable than ever before with the advancements in medicine and technology now available.  Invite a senior on a day-trip to the mountains; take them to feel the sand in their toes.   Instead of defaulting to “I can’t…” or “he won’t…”, talk to your loved one’s physician and medical equipment supplier about what options there are.  For example, our oxygen patients can fly with FAA-approved oxygen concentrators, an option that wasn’t there years ago.  Ask your loved one about his/her bucket list, and you’ll be surprised at the precious new memories you can still make together.  Help them feel alive.

5.  Breathe in, and begin.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” We often hear from boomer-aged children who are trying to figure out how to care for an aging parent.  Their parents’ needs are changing, and they are unsure what it will take to keep them safe and happy.  Can they stay at home?  Can we make this work?  The realization that you are going to become a family caregiver may be daunting.  Overwhelming.  You see your loved one’s needs, and you wonder if you have what it takes for the long-haul.  Fear not.  Begin where you are, doing what you can.  Talk to others about how they can contribute, and seek advice from the family physician on resources available to you.  You can do this; you are not alone.

Wishing you all dreams of brighter tomorrows and the courage to create a better future.


Secrets of Being a Good Caregiver

As our Homecare Advocate readers know, Joni & Friends is near and dear to our heart at Lambert’s.  We participate in Joni & Friends activities and mission trips, and we recently sent our ATP Wheelchair Specialist to Guatemala to assist in distributing appropriately fit wheelchairs to those in need via their Wheels for the World program.

When we came across this moving letter written by Joni’s husband, Ken, on the secrets of being a good caregiver, we knew we had to share it with you.  He titles this open letter, “Caregiving: A Cause for Christ“:

Lots of people agree: I have a beautiful wife. With her ready smile and engaging personality, most people hardly notice her wheelchair. And when they learn that she writes books, travels extensively, and leads a dynamic ministry to people with disabilities around the globe, they’re amazed. To most of the world, Joni Eareckson Tada doesn’t seem disabled at all.

After almost forty-five years of quadriplegia, Joni makes having hands and feet that don’t work look easy. I love that about my wife. I like that she doesn’t make a big deal about her spinal cord injury but simply moves forward into life, leaning hard on the grace of God. Everybody says the same: Joni seems “normal,” someone who is not defined by her disability.

I wish it were that simple. Actually, Joni does, too. Most people have no idea what it takes for my wife to simply get up in the morning. It’s nearly a two-hour routine that includes giving her extensive range-of-motion exercises and a bed bath, going through toileting routines, putting on her leg bag, strapping on a corset and getting her dressed, sitting her up in her wheelchair, brushing her teeth, and fixing her hair and face. And I’ve just described the abridged version. Plus, don’t assume that at night Joni simply jumps out of her wheelchair and into bed — it’s virtually the same routine as in the morning, except in reverse. Day in and day out, 365 days a year, it never varies—unless Joni becomes ill; then it’s more intensive.

Caring for Joni is something I gladly signed up to do almost thirty years ago when we took our vows on our wedding day. In sickness and in health, for better or for worse, I promised to cherish my wife and take care of her to the best of my ability. Since then, never once have I regretted my decision to marry Joni with her quadriplegia—even in the midst of the many nightmarish ordeals related to her health and the dreary day-to-day routines. I love my wife with a love that is anchored in Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t make it easy.

All relationships have their challenges, but when you add a chronic disability, the challenges can seem overwhelming. You could be a son caring for your father with Alzheimer’s or a single mother coping with your teenage son with autism. You could be the father of a little boy with muscular dystrophy or the wife of a husband who has suffered a stroke. Disability has a way of testing even the best of relationships with daily routines that never vary, social isolation, financial pressures, unmet expectations, and a life that is extremely atypical from most people. Without Christ firmly in the center of the suffering, a caretaker can crack under the pressure of loneliness, guilt, and despair. It is little wonder that the divorce rate in families affected by disability is nearly 80 percent.

I have witnessed the heartbreaking reality of that statistic. Every summer, Joni and I participate in our Joni and Friends Family Retreats. At these events, we have the chance to meet hundreds of families affected by disability; they come for the fun, fellowship, networking, times of prayer, and Bible study. (Next summer Joni and Friends will hold twenty-five retreats across the United States and fifteen in developing nations.) But at each Family Retreat, I’m always amazed at the number of single mothers who attend with disabled children. Where are the fathers? Again, statistics show it’s usually dads who bail out, even in the face of Isaiah 58:7, which says never to “hide yourself from your own flesh.” Ironically, almost none of these single mothers blame their disabled children for their misfortune. Instead, they describe those children as their “biggest blessing.”

After years of caring for my wife, I would say the same about Joni. She is my biggest blessing — especially as I was helping her through her recent battle against stage III breast cancer. The prospect of losing my wife to such a dreaded disease made all the “baggage” related to her disability seem minor. The major thing was rescuing her life. Thankfully, God gave me the grace to put my caregiving skills into overdrive as I stood by my wife through her mammogram, biopsy, mastectomy, recovery, and chemotherapy. I was the companion at her side for countless hospital visits and oncology appointments, as well as her counselor as we sought out second and third opinions.

Lots of people thought God was “laying too much” on Joni, a quadriplegic in her sixties who also deals with chronic pain. Privately, I sometimes wondered if it all might crush me. But once again, by the grace of God, Joni was able to make even cancer look easy. And for me? If anything, the long battle against her cancer strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ as well as deepened my love for my wife. Together, through every PET scan and chemo infusion, Joni and I were living examples of Psalm 79:8: “Let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.”

Perhaps that’s the secret to good caregiving: a constant awareness of one’s desperate need of Jesus Christ and a steady reliance on Him day in and day out, like breathing in and breathing out. The fact is that when I’m serving Joni, I’m serving Christ, for Colossians 3:23 reminds every caregiver, no matter how difficult or demanding the routines: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” When my focus is on Jesus Christ, caregiving may feel extremely tiring, but the work doesn’t have to be tiresome. It’s for Him. I may get weary, but life doesn’t have to be wearisome— again, it’s all for Him and His glory. When I minister to Joni’s needs, I am serving the Savior. That fact is echoed in Matthew 25:33–42, where Jesus says that if we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe those in need, we are doing it for Him.

Other secrets to being a good caregiver? The enemy is not my wife’s disability (or even my wife when we disagree on things). The enemy is Satan. I’m constantly aware that Joni and I are in the midst of a spiritual battle. The Devil already hates Christian marriage, and if a wife or a husband has a disability, Satan no doubt feels he’s got the edge. But he’s wrong. Second Corinthians 12:9 assures us that God’s power has the edge when we are weak. Weak and needy people are usually more aware of how much they need the Lord. We also need each other — I’m not too proud to ask for help. Thank God for the girls who chip in to help Joni, whether at home or at the office. We couldn’t make it without them. Besides, to ask for help keeps me humble (and humility keeps the Devil at bay).

Another secret to good caregiving is taking breaks and getting exercise. While Joni was going through chemotherapy last year, I was so grateful that her sister flew out to help us. Kathy was able to give me little breaks in the routine so I could go work out — exercise really gets the endorphins flowing, clears the head, and cultivates discipline. Even a walk around the block brightened my spirits.

A key secret to enjoying my role as a caregiver involves friends. Throughout our marriage, Joni has always been supportive of my friendships with several key Christian men who hold me accountable. One friend lives in Oregon, but we pray and study Christian books together over the phone. Another friend lives nearby, and he’s always ready to get together for lunch, play a game of gin rummy, or invite me to the high desert for an afternoon in the fields with his bird dogs. Always, we’re mindful to keep Christ in our conversation, for my friends and I know that the King (as we call the Lord) is the key to genuinely close friendships between men.

One more thing: I have learned the secret of “praying without ceasing.” Caregiving can push you and your loved one into some pretty tight and uncomfortable places. That should be the signal to pray. Whenever nerves are frazzled or we’re ready to throw in the towel, one of us will invariably say, “Stop everything. We both know we’re in trouble. Let’s pray.” Before long, our spirits feel brighter. The air seems clearer and the atmosphere lighter. The burden has lifted, and whatever was harassing us just doesn’t feel as important.

Caring for someone like my wife epitomizes the heart of Jesus, who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NKJV). It is my joy to give my life in service to Christ by caring for Joni. For no greater love does a man have for another than when he lays his life down for that person. Sometimes that person may be your disabled wife.

-Ken Tada

What a lesson for us all.


10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

As many Homecare Advocate readers know, there is a controversial program being rolled out nationwide by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that has patient advocacy groups, economists, auction experts, and the homecare provider community up in arms. This program, dubiously called “Competitive Bidding” has been widely recognized as a poorly designed auction program that fails to meet Congress’ objectives of saving taxpayer money while fostering healthy competition among quality home medical equipment companies.  You can learn more about the problems of Competitive Bidding on our blog and here.

Homecare Advocate Post: 10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

However, we have good news!

Careful collaboration between expert auction designers, the HME Industry, and beneficiaries resulted in an auction program to replace Competitive Bidding, called the Market Pricing Program (MPP).

MPP complies with the original intent of Congress as a model that offers real, sustainable savings through market-driven competition while protecting beneficiaries.  The Market Pricing Program is budget neutral, saves Medicare & taxpayers money, finds the true market price of equipment and services, makes provisions for small businesses, and does not have the unintended consequences that Competitive Bidding is well known for.

10 key points of MPP include:

  1. Budget neutral, so it won’t cost taxpayers any more money
  2. Binding bids for bidders, requiring that companies bid real prices that they are held to
  3. Price set at Clearing Price instead of the Median Price of bid winners, so winning companies are not forced to provide goods/services at a loss
  4. Transparency and oversight of the program, allowing you to see how the program is being run and what any adverse effects are
  5. Smaller bid areas each bid 2 product categories, reducing the risk of mass business closures
  6. Use of lead product in category for pricing, thus eliminating potential for “gaming” of the system
  7. Designed by expert economists with input from industry and consumer groups, utilizing best practices of auction design for a solvent, sustainable, responsible program
  8. Same product categories, targeting the highest-cost areas of medical equipment
  9. Same protections for small businesses & rural areas, safeguarding these vulnerable areas
  10. Same timeframe, allowing taxpayers to see immediate financial savings

Congressman Tom Price introduced legislation in September to replace Competitive Bidding’s disastrous program with MPP as a budget-neutral, industry and economist-backed alternative, in the bill HR 6490.
Homecare Advocate Post: 10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

This legislation resolves the serious and consequential problems that Competitive Bidding continues to have in its current form.  This bill has explicit and detailed directions on how Competitive Bidding will be replaced and the Market Pricing Program (MPP) will be enacted.  Want more information on MPP?  Visit these informative sites here, here, and here.

So, we have a bill.  What now?

We need your help!  Contact your elected officials and tell them that you want them to co-sponsor HR 6490 to repeal Competitive Bidding and replace it with the Market Pricing Program.

Let them know how this will impact you as their constituent. Are you a Medicare beneficiary? Explain your concerns about access to quality equipment from your choice of local provider.  Are you a family caregiver?  Explain how going to a different provider for each piece of medical equipment is going to be difficult to manage.  Does someone in your family work for a Home Medical Equipment Company?   Explain your concerns for them losing their jobs–and for the entire business to close as result of Competitive Bidding.  And most importantly, tell them that you want their support and co-sponsorship of HR 6490!

For information on how to reach your elected officials and for a sample letter you may customize as you see fit, please visit this site.


Help for Caregivers: Dealing with Defiant Parents

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and we couldn’t be more proud of the selfless men and women who devote their lives caring for family members and loved ones.   Most caregivers can tell you, caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  Caregiving is a demanding job even in the best of circumstances.  A common question we hear is how a caregiver can handle someone who has become defiant, confused, delusional, angry, or even abusive.

Those negative behaviors can take an extreme toll on the caregiver, leaving them hurt, burned out, depressed, and perhaps guilty if they grow to resent their role.  In earlier posts, we’ve talked about the importance of caring for the caregiver and implementing specific, tactical measures to protect yourself and equip your family for the long-haul that caregiving can be.  This is critical since caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, for many.  It requires thoughtful and deliberate measures to keep the caregiver from feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Help for Caregivers, Dealing with Defiant Parents

Some great resources for caregivers dealing with difficult people include:

I came across a blog post earlier today by a woman frustrated with the responsibilities of caring for her verbally abusive parents.  She explained, “I will continue to be a good daughter and help as long as I can because I have accepted the fact that things will probably not change for me. But I do not want to act the same way they are acting when I get old. I read so many letters here about people with terrible issues as they try to handle their aging parents.  I do not want to be like that.

A thoughtful commenter wrote back, suggesting that she make a list of the behaviors she promises herself she will and will not do once she is older and receiving care. I love this idea because it uses these negative experiences as teachable moments for us to apply to our own lives and futures.  For example, who wants to be around Cathy, the Constant Complainer?  While Cathy is telling everyone what isn’t right, what hurts, and what isn’t good enough, she may fail to realize how she’s pushing everyone away.  If one hears Cathy’s complaints day in and out, we’re more aware of our own grumps and are mindful not to sound like Cathy.  Nobody wants to hear a Constant Complainer.  Likewise, we know not to be like Stubborn Stan, David the Disastrous Driver, or Ungrateful Ursula.

My questions for you today:

What kind of letter would you write?  What would you want to remember?  How do you want to be remembered?

As a caregiver, you’ve seen your fair share.  It isn’t always easy, and your contributions are often a “labor of love”.  We invite you to leave a comment sharing your list and any of your own tried-and-true tips for caregivers facing difficult parents.

Also, make a conscious effort to remember the sweet moments that make caregiving fulfilling. Unexpected gifts of banana bread, thoughtful clippings from the newspaper, laughing at memories from long ago and inside jokes that only family can appreciate all serve as reminders of the love and history you share.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise” (Philippians 4:8b).