My Nursing Thesis Published!

September, 1998 – New England, USA

After I completed my thesis in graduate school, my advisers encouraged me to submit an article summarizing my research findings for publication. The unwieldy title of my thesis was, “Coping Strategies of Successful Caregivers of Nonambulatory Family Members”. Nonambulatory means that the person is unable to walk.

My parents and one of my patients that I had followed as a visiting nurse inspired me to do the research. After my mother had a major stroke which left her paralyzed on one side and with the mind of a ten year old, my dad stepped up to the plate and cheerfully became her full time caregiver. He had to assist her in the shower, dress her, learn to style her hair, do the grocery shopping, cooking, driving, and pay the bills. Prior to her stroke, my mother was an avid artist and gardener. She grieved that she could no longer do these hobbies. The Lord took her home to heaven to be with Him five years after her stroke. I thanked God that she was no longer suffering.

“…Death is swallowed up in victory….But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:54, 57

My parents were my inspiration for my research.

Another patient I visited at home was an elderly lady who was paralyzed from the waist down from a blood clot that went to her spine. Her husband faithfully learned how to provide all her care and purchased a van equipped with a wheel chair lift. He struggled at times with sadness over his wife’s loss of many abilities, but he did all the household tasks and driving. Other patients with similar disabilities ended up being admitted to a nursing home because their caregiver simply couldn’t cope with all the extra responsibilities.

During my research, I interviewed nine caregivers of family members who were unable to walk and then summarized their problems and coping strategies. I repeated similar research that was done with caregivers of home hospice patients to see if they had the same problems and used the same or different coping strategies. Comparison of the two groups showed they only had one problem in common (stress) and three coping strategies (social support, cognitive reformulation, and respite). I developed an educational handout for nurses to give new caregivers of family members who were unable to walk.

I submitted my research article to The Nurse Practitioner journal and was thrilled when they accepted part of it for publication.  They condensed my year of research and 48 page thesis into THREE paragraphs. Such is the world of publishing… They included it under Practice Pointers and named it Lending a hand to caregivers.

If you need to counsel a caregiver of a family member who has recently lost the ability to walk, use these suggestions to ease the load. First, tell him not to try to give care alone, but to ask for and accept help from family, friends, and health care professionals. To relieve stress, suggest that he try exercise, massage, eating out, music, prayer, reading, and napping.

Make sure he asks a physical therapist for assistance in choosing a wheelchair, if his family member can use one. Suggest using cordless and cellular phones, a lifeline necklace, and a pager to communicate with his loved ones when the caregiver is out of the house.

Finally, when traveling, recommend the caregiver pack a travel kit with a list of medications, provider phone numbers, straws, wipes, and other supplies.”

Reflection

I can’t recall the last time I saw a lay person use a pager, and cordless land lines are disappearing rapidly. Cell phones are commonplace now, but they were rare in 1998.

After I entered the full time work world as a nurse practitioner, life seemed to become too busy to continue to do research. However, I have participated in the Nurse’s Health Study 2 since 1989 conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health. Their findings collected from surveys every two years of thousands of nurses have contributed significantly to women’s health. http://nurseshealthstudy.org If you are a nurse and you were born after 1964 and live in the USA, they are looking for participants to join Nurse’s Health Study 3. I hope you will do so and continue this wonderful research that was begun in 1979!

Blog Update – May, 2017

“For I am the Lord, I change not.” Malachi 3:6

“…He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5-6

This past year has been a whirlwind of change for me during my first year of retirement from nursing. In the midst of all the changes, God was my solid Rock, the only One who never changes. The Lord laid a desire on my heart to try and learn Spanish so I could minister to Spanish speaking people here in the USA and in other countries. I knew some survival Spanish from my travels and took one semester of Spanish at the local college many years ago. I have wanted to be fluent in another language for many years, so God gave me peace about selling my home in New England, getting rid of most of my belongings, and putting the rest in a storage container while I went to full-time language school in the USA near the Mexican border. I made some progress there, but the extreme heat exhausted me. My professors suggested I would make more progress through immersion.

So the end of December, I moved to Central America to attend another language school. I enjoyed the school there and was doing well learning Spanish, but I found the culture challenging. The home stay with a family was not acceptable, so I moved to a tiny studio apartment after ten days. Several students were robbed at gunpoint near my apartment, and another student was stabbed in the park in front of his children last year. Thankfully, none of them were seriously injured, but it took an emotional toll on them. Sadly, the drug cartels are taking over Central America as they have most of Mexico.

After seven months of full-time language school which consisted of 4 hours of class every morning and 2 to 4 hours of homework every evening, I was so exhausted that I could no longer concentrate. I also felt very isolated since I had to lock myself behind iron window bars and gates with electric razor wire every evening from dusk to dawn. I had to walk to and from school with my pepper spray in my hand in case I was attacked by people or stray dogs. After praying and talking with the school counselors, God gave me peace that it was time to return to the USA.

I have now resettled in the southern USA, unpacked my container, and am getting settled in a lovely rental home. I hope to resume my Spanish studies with a tutor in a few weeks. I have met a number of native Spanish speakers at several churches I have visited and enjoyed chatting with them in Spanish.

I now realize that there are degrees of “fluency”. One missionary who lived in Panama for five years said, “You never really become fluent.” I wish I was further along than I am with Spanish, but I have to realize that I have age working against me. My brain just doesn’t function quite as quickly or remember new words as readily as when I was younger. One teacher told me that your vocal cords are set at the age of 12, so it’s extremely difficult so sound like a native speaker if you learn a language after that. For any of you who are parents of young children, I definitely recommend having them learn another language at a young age. The first opportunity I had to learn another language was when I was a freshman in high school, 15 years old, which is way too late to begin in my opinion. I’m thankful that the public schools in the USA now often offer foreign languages in elementary school. For any of you who desire to learn a language as an adult, download the fun free app called Duolingo. They have over 15 languages available there and use games to help you learn.

So I have unpacked my journals and am getting my office organized. I plan to resume writing about the final 18 years of my nursing career next week. Thank you for your patience as I repeated the early part of my blog while I was busy in school. I will close with a few photos from the past year.

Sand dunes along the Gulf of Mexico

Port Isabel lighthouse, Texas

Great blue heron

 

Orchids in Central America

Hummingbird at work