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Carter says the “Energizer” bunny symbolizes their determination to keep pushing forward.


Freda Stiles, diagnosed with advanced Dementia, fl ourishes under her daughter’s dedicated care.


Taking personal time to write is a great source of comfort and joy to Carter.


“I have always been so sure—too sure ... But now I am very humble and I say like a little child: ‘I do not know...’” - Hercule Poriot in “Curtain - Poirot’s Last Case” (1975)


Hallucinations, which are a common symptom of Dementia, increased. Claims of a little girl vis- iting in the night and people emerging from the woods spurred Stiles’ agitation.


“The hard part is the agitation, because whatever you try to do will be misinterpreted so you can’t re- ally please them,” Carter says. “Just remember it’s the disease not the person speaking, because they can say hurtful things.”


Stiles’ condition reached the point where she couldn’t be left alone. Over time, Carter’s own health began to spiral. She developed hives, a stiff neck, stomach pains, chest pains and mouth sores due to stress and lack of sleep.


“I was strong in spirit, but my body was being neglected so I had no time to recover both emo- tionally and physically,” Carter says.


The time came for Carter to make the diffi cult decision to place her mother in a nursing home. Carter says it took two years for her to recover her own health and for her mother to pass through the “angry” stage of Dementia.


Tough Decisions


As her mother became more docile, Carter real- ized she didn’t want her to die in a nursing home. Four years ago, she found peace in her decision to bring her mother back home.


“This is not an easy, painless thing to do, but it’s so meaningful,” Carter says.


Carter says many people are uncomfortable with visiting. For some, the person is not who they re- member. For others, the incoherent mumblings get on their nerves.


“My thing is that if more people would quit thinking about their inconvenience and their dis- comfort and put themselves in their place, they would realize this is still the same person who has loved, lost and worked hard just like they have.” Carter’s two biggest challenges with the transi- tion have been encountering isolation and not be- ing able to earn income. “So many times this caregiving business turns into, ‘it’s all about me and what I’m giving up,’”


Carter says. “The fact is I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be at this time.” According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Carter is one of 212,324 unpaid Alzheimer’s and Demen- tia caregivers in Oklahoma. The monetary value of that care is estimated at almost $3 trillion. Larry Hicks, friend of Carter and board director for Red River Valley Electric Cooperative, cared for his mother toward the end of her life. He claims the care Carter gives is worth more than gold. “I think it’s a shining example of what people should be doing with the elderly,” Hicks says. “I know it is confi ning and it seems so long at the time, but when you look back it’s so short.” Carter confesses when she fi rst brought Stiles home she did not think she would live another year. Now Stiles is not just surviving; she is thriv- ing.


Honoring Heritage Carter often fi nds inspiration from the old En-


ergizer bunny; it keeps going and so do they. She says she fully expects her mother will live to see 103. “There are many different ways to honor our par- ents, and that doesn’t mean everyone must bring their elderly parents into their homes,” Carter says. “But I do believe we have the responsibility to see that our parents are well taken care of.” Carter, a professional journalist and writer, shares her experiences to encourage other caregiv- ers of those who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves. In addition to her mother, she also has experience caring for her father-in-law and aunt as they encountered aging. “Boundless Grace: Devotions From a Caregiver’s Heart” was published in 2010 and documents her journey with her mother through the stages of De- mentia. The book inspires readers to meet their challenges head-on.


“Here’s the clincher for me: Dementia runs on my dad’s side and my mom has lost two sisters to dementia already,” Carter says. “But I’ve still got plans, and I have no doubt I’ll see them through.” Carter hopes to fi nd opportunities to continue


MAY 2012 21


writing. Eventually, her dream is to travel the world doing international missions. For now, she advises other caregivers that navigating emotions is a full- time job.


“You don’t want to be thick-skinned because if you put up such a shell that you can’t feel pain then you can’t feel the joys,” Carter says. “You can harden your heart, then you’ll harden yourself to everything.”


As Stiles’ favorite character Hercule Poroit once proclaimed, “Who is there who has not felt a sud- den startled pang at reliving an old experience or feeling an old emotion?”


Perhaps for now there is no key to unlock the mystery of Dementia and aging, but Carter is a liv- ing example of advice for the present: Never forget how to feel joy, encouragement and, most impor- tantly, grace.


To preview or purchase a copy of Carter’s book, visit www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore.


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