Gail's Love for Beverly
Meet Beverly and Gail
Gail’s story of her mother, Beverly, is one that is very dear to me. You see, Gail and I grew up in the same small, farm community in southern Minnesota. As kids we didn’t know each other all that well, but like all small towns back then our families were connected. Gail was in my brother's grade. Her family attended the ELCA Lutheran Church where my father was the pastor. Her mother was active at the church, and my father confirmed Gail. Her mother has long been friends with my best friend's mother in-law. (You get the picture.)
Recently, I was fortunate to cross paths with Gail again. While catching up, I learned that her mother, Beverly LaVonne Thate, is living with dementia in a memory care facility.
Gail agreed to meet with me again and tell me more about her experience as the primary-family caregiver for her mother, including her challenges and what has helped her through her journey.
As Gail shared her story with me over coffee, I was struck by her calm demeanor and spirit. Her eyes are steady and strong, even when showing emotion. I interview a lot of caregivers, and it is clear that Gail is committed to her mother and fulfills her caregiver role with steadfast love and strength.
Beverly herself was a life-long caregiver. Growing up she helped her mother care for her siblings when their father passed away. In 1960, Beverly married Walter Thate and together they raised three children, and have two grandchildren, Tyler and Katie. Beverly worked alongside Walt on their farm, and loved to bake, entertain and socialize. She was active in the First Lutheran Church of St. James, where she gave her time and talents to church circle, christian women, Bible study, Bible school, and in leadership of church projects. Today, Beverly loves flowers, including growing and caring for them and giving them to others. She was a member of the Garden Club and continues to care for the flower box at Temperance Lake Ridge where she is living.
Gail's Caregiver Journey
In addition to being a family caregiver for her mom, Gail also looks out for her father who still lives on the family farm. Gail does this while living three hours away, caring for her own family, and managing a professional career.
Beverly moved into Temperance Lake Ridge four years ago, and although she was upset at first with the move she has never tried to escape.
Gail remembers the most difficult day. It was when she moved her mother into the facility. They had to lie to her about the move. Then the staff took Beverly's hand, and told Gail and her family to leave the facility and not contact her for three weeks. Sadly, they couldn’t even call Beverly.
The care facility has been a good one. Although, like most long-term care facilities, there never seems to be enough staff and there is continuous turnover. This makes it challenging for the care team to know Beverly’s specific needs and desires. In addition, Beverly’s dementia is progressing, and some days she doesn’t want to communicate. It can be quite difficult for Gail’s father to understand the changes. To help him, Gail asked the staff to explain to her father where Beverly is at in the “stages” of dementia (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages). They helped him and the rest of the family understand these stages, and provided tips on how to communicate and understand her behaviors.
Lisa Lange, the Executive Director of Temperence Lake Ridge, who has been in the long-term care industry for 30 years, shared some additional advice for family caregivers - ask for and accept help.
"I have seen so much caregiver burnout because the caregiver believes that if they "really love" their mom or dad, that means they have to do all of the caregiving and they actually feel guilty if they do not. What ends up happening is the caregiver's psychological and physical well-being suffers. Chronic stress impairs their immune system and brain function by worsening pre-existing health conditions, increasing the risk for mental health disorders and stress-related diseases, and advancing age. I have seen a lot of caregivers end up in the ER or hospital because of the chronic stress caused by caregiving without support. When they hit burnout, they end up looking for emergency placement for their loved one. A lot of the time, they are not able to find placement or their loved one ends up being placed far away from them or in a place they would not have picked if they had more time. I strongly encourage caregivers to connect with local resources. To start with check out their local Area on Aging. In Minnesota, a resource is the Minnesota Board on Aging at http://www.mnaging.org/. I encourage the use of adult day care programs, short term nursing home stays, support groups, eldercare locators, and asking for and accepting help from friends and family, which is the biggest piece of advice I have."
Gail can feel her mom slipping away, and she knows she is continuing to lose her. She said, “I am so excited when I am going to see her, then I will cry on my way back. She is starting to forget who I am.” The Temperance team shared this poem, which has really helped Gail:
Do not ask me to remember,
Do not try to make me understand
Let me rest and know you’re with me,
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept,
I am sad and sick and lost,
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me,
Do not scold or curse my cry,
I can’t help the way I’m acting,
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone,
Please don’t fail to stand beside me,
Love me till my life is done.
Thank you, Gail, for sharing your caregiver story, for sharing a piece of Beverly, and for connecting again. Thank you for being a caregiver, and doing the most important work in the world.
Gail (Thate) Cruikshank was raised on a southwestern, MN farm in St. James. She graduated from St. Cloud State University with a BS degree in management and an emphasis in human resources. Her family includes her husband, Tom, and two adult children, Tyler and Katie. Gail loves spending time with family and friends, growing flowers (just like her mom), and helping others.
Gail is the Talent Director for the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, where she works to attract, retain and expand the talent pool in the greater St. Cloud region. She collaborates closely with workforce stakeholders, including educational institutions, businesses, nonprofits and workforce partners to identify and address regional talent challenges.
Giving back to the community is very important to Gail. She is a strong advocate for Tanner’s Team Foundation, which provides support to Central MN families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. She holds the role of Board Member and Vice Chair.