Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Man-Card Must Be Defective

And some people wonder why I'm still not married.

Today is supposed to be "International Women's Day," a time to recognize the significant contributions females make to every aspect of life as we know it on this planet.

Oddly enough, I haven't heard when "International Men's Day" is officially, but I've been told that we domineering chauvinists get to celebrate it every other day of the year.  After all, ostensibly, we control everything - especially women, according to feminists.

So if that was indeed the case, and that women still have to fight tooth and nail for a modicum of the recognition and respect they deserve for all of their innate merits, is dropping a token event into our calendar the best way to encourage us brutes to cut women some slack?  Are men who don't value women going to be swayed by being cajoled into a superficial acknowledgement of the value of women in society?  

To feminists, the lack of civil rights for women in many Muslim-majority countries represents ample justification for a day like today.  Yet we're here in North America.  Meanwhile, how tolerant are most people in Muslim-majority countries regarding the equality of women?  How many Muslim women advocate for their own rights?  Or how many Muslim women participate in the perpetuation of age-old standards of male domination because of their religious upbringing?

Indeed, on this "International Women's Day," consider the plight of foreign nannies in Arab countries who consider not just their male employers, but also the wives of their male employers, as capable of heinous offenses.  On that score, apparently, Muslim women might be considered equal to Muslim men.  When it comes to nannies, employed by many prosperous families across the Persian Gulf, some Muslim women "can be extremely jealous of young, innocent foreign women suddenly appearing in their house," explains a person who runs a safe house in the Arabian Peninsula for nannies fleeing abusive employers.

And speaking of women in the workplace, particularly in the West, the false narrative of unequal pay for equal work continues to find an audience.  Actually, it didn't used to be a false narrative; several decades ago, men were routinely paid higher wages than women for the same exact job.  Yet today, many studies skew their results to include comparable (not exact) jobs between men and women, which distorts what men and women actually earn.  While it remains true that women tend to hold fewer higher-paying jobs than men, it is hard to find a study that actually pinpoints instances when men are paid a higher wage for the same exact job a woman does, with all else (experience, education, etc.) being equal.

This past election cycle, America saw a women get the closest any woman ever has before to the presidency.  And some people considered it a huge blow to feminism when Hillary Clinton ultimately lost the electoral college to Donald Trump, just another WASP male.  Yet in all seriousness, if having a woman in the White House is the ultimate shattering of the proverbial glass ceiling, how many feminists would be happy with somebody the likes of Hillary being the woman to do it?  She's played off of her womanizing husband her entire political career, which is hardly the paradigm of legitimate feminist accomplishment advanced by so many liberals.

Not that Hillary isn't an accomplished woman, or that gender discrimination doesn't exist in the workplace, or that many men no longer hold chauvinistic attitudes towards women.  It's just that men usually don't rise to levels of prominence without the influence of women on their behalf.  And, as Hillary's life proves, many women benefit from the influence of at least one man in their ambitious lives.  So really, isn't it unhelpful to pit the sexes against each other with superficial platitudes?  Besides, it's not like all women are virtuous, just like all men aren't virtuous.  Not all men eagerly seek the suppression of women, and not all women live under patriarchal oppression.

Of course, I'm an evil man writing this, a ruthless demeaner of women and a privileged exerciser of so many powers over women I'm not even aware of them all.

Which, of course, might be somehow plausible if I was married, or an employer, or a father, or even a co-worker...

But as it is, if we men are supposed to be so superior, and considering my own status in life, I must be wielding my man-card all wrong.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Briarwood Vice: Mall Cops Dorky No More

Forget Miami, or Chicago, or Detroit.

There's a huge crime problem going on in Birmingham, Alabama.  And no, it's not the entire city of Birmingham that's going to hell-in-a-handbasket.  It's one of the city's largest churches.

Briarwood Presbyterian apparently has become so exasperated with their criminal element that they're petitioning the state for the right to create their own police department.

It's vindication time for much-maligned mall cops everywhere.

Briarwood is a large, wealthy, and mostly white congregation affiliated with a conservative Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.  In addition to its church activities, they sponsor a Christian school and a seminary, all of which, according to church officials, combine to host approximately 30,000 events annually on church properties in two counties.

Ostensibly, the church figures that running its own police department would improve safety, although it's unclear how much crime has taken place at the church that has overwhelmed the resources of Birmingham's conventional police department.  It's also unclear how Briarwood would save any money by sponsoring its own police department, since health insurance alone for peace officers likely is far more expensive than it is for pastors, or rent-a-cops. 

Even more unclear is how large their proposed police force is going to be.  One report says they're only talking about employing one full-time cop.

That ought to have the criminal element quaking in their boots.

Meanwhile, questions abound regarding a drug bust on the Briarwood campus back in 2015, and whether parents of kids involved in that incident are pushing for ways to cover up such juvenile indiscretions.  Church officials say they'll play judge and jury regarding the oversight of their proposed police department's activities, and will only need outside help if they ever determine somebody they catch needs to be locked up.

After all, it would look pretty bad for a church to have its own jail.

Of course, it would also look pretty bad if a church and its police department had a convenient arrangement to cover up any allegations of child abuse, or other sexual abuse on campus.  It's not like churches don't already have a problem with pedophilia, and who would report to whom if, say, a youth volunteer was accused of a felony?  And that youth volunteer was a heavy tither to the church?  Yes, in a civil police department, quid-pro-quo exists, but not as readily as it would in a clubby church setting.

The funny thing - or maybe it's not so funny - is that the Bible says nothing about churches running their own police departments.  Actually, the Bible indicates that churches are supposed to be where the criminal element can go to find healing from their brokenness.  And actually, even though all sins aren't crimes, at least according to our penal codes here in the United States, all sins make us criminals in God's eyes.  Which is why we need a Savior, Who is His Son.

So let's suppose a member at Briarwood has committed a sin and broken the penal code - will that member be able to go and repent of that sin to a Briarwood pastor and enjoy professional confidentiality of pastoral privilege?  Or will the pastor have to summon Briarwood's staff cop and bust the congregant then and there?  Technically, according to the Bible, anybody who breaks a law is subject to the ruling authorities regarding any punishment, so maybe having a church police department will help congregants tow the line when it comes to 'fessing up when they park in a handicapped spot at church.

Briarwood tries to argue that they're no different than a college or school district that runs its own police force.  But yeah, there is a difference.  For one thing, many colleges that have a police force also have some sort of criminal justice degree program, graduation from which their student cops are being trained.  And school districts generally try to keep their kids separate from bad influences in the surrounding community, which includes the often altruistic objective of creating some sort of buffer between hardened criminality and adolescent delinquency.

The church should be separate from the world in terms of the actions of its people, yet in terms of its witness, what good is a church if its members spend so much time there that they're not demonstrating their faith while interacting with the world around them?  Perhaps Briarwood's quest for its own police department isn't as much indicative of its importance in the broader Birmingham community as it is its detachment from it.

As far as anybody knows, if Alabama's governor agrees, Briarwood would be the first organized church in modern times to have its own police department.  Yet "the Sheriff of Briarwood" somehow has a strangely familiar ring to it, doesn't it?

Even if nobody is robbin' the hood.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Give the King Your Justice, O God

I've gotta be honest:  I don't know who my audience is anymore.

When I started this blog, I figured I'd get some readership from a variety of audiences.  Soft liberals, for example, who don't generally attend evangelical churches, but don't discount the existence of God, or at least a "god."  I figured I'd get more readership among conservatives who regularly attend church and have a fairly accurate understanding of Who God is.  And for a while, I used to have a small but loyal following of hard-core Christ-followers who appreciated the challenges I brought to our faith table, even if they didn't always agree with me.

These days, however, in the Era of Trump, my blog's only reliable Audience is the only One that's ever really mattered anyway; the One for Whom I've tried to most honor since I started:  the holy, sovereign God of the Bible.  The God Who has told us not to put our trust in war and weapons of war (Psalm 33:17-19).  The God Who is supposed to be our confidence, not a nation's might (Psalm 20:7).  The God Who does not keep us from harm, but protects us from anything that would be outside of His providential will for us (if you need a Scripture reference for that, perhaps you should start with the entire book of John).

My God is the One Who tells us to forsake houses, family, and property for His sake, even if the only thing we get in return - as if we're actually sacrificing anything of ours in the first place - is eternal life in Heaven with Him (Matthew 19:29).

I'm not being sanctimonious here, or pious.  I'm just trying to be faithful, and to be that, I have to be truthful, and the most truthful I can get is Scripture.

It's not that President Trump discourages me.  He does, but not nearly as much as the fact that, aside from God, the rest of my audience generally seems to get a lot of their theology (or their impression of Christian theology) from Breitbart, Drudge Report, and Rush Limbaugh.

So I feel like I'm left with an Audience of One.  Maybe I forgot that my audience should have consisted only of Him all this time.  It sure is easy to slip into a mindset and attitude of feeling like I need to convince mere mortals like myself.  But God cannot be convinced of anything.  He knows everything.  A pastor delivering the eulogy at a funeral recently claimed that Christ took a risk by coming to Earth.  But that's heresy, isn't it, since Christ can't risk anything.  Risk involves an element of the unknown, but what doesn't Christ know?

Of what does God need to be convinced?

You and I, on the other hand, think we know quite a bit.  We hate being wrong, we hate being corrected, we hate appearing weak, we hate being fearful.  But when we're afraid, in what or Whom should be our confidence?  In a politician?  In capitalism?  In our standard of living?  In our family, or our spouse, or our job, or our military?

If I am not willing to pursue the matters of life from a starting point of God's supremacy over everything, then I'm starting off on the wrong foot, and the journey will veer off course as long as my focus is off-center.

It's not that I'm not afraid.  I have many personal fears, both with my chronic clinical depression, and as a result of bad decisions I've made in my life.  I also fear the terrorism that may come as a result of radical Islam.  I fear losing my already lower-middle-class standard of living.  I fear getting old, and what maladies might rack my body and my brain, especially since dementia has ravaged my paternal lineage.

Some might say that, because of my lack of children, my own home, and a sizable financial portfolio, I have a lot less to lose than other Americans.  So maybe that explains why others see ambivalence in what I consider to be my altruism regarding religious freedom.  Still, if I'm afraid of anything of consequence, since I have so little, shouldn't I at least be genuinely fearful of a repeat of 9-11?

Yet 9-11 didn't deprive any American of their Constitutionally-protected freedoms.  It deprived us of a sense of security and safety, but not even the Founding Fathers elevated national security to a position of greater importance than free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures.  Check out the Bill of Rights to see that I'm correct.

Yes, radical Islam indeed represents a threat against our nation, but here in the United States, at least, individual human beings remain innocent until proven guilty.  Yes, it's a delicate dilemma in times like these that requires careful parsing of rights and responsibilities.  And yes, it's something our government has gotten wrong plenty of times in the past, but should it be something which professing Christ-followers so eagerly want to see repeated?  Yes, God has given us common sense, but that common sense needs to operate on a spectrum of Biblical integrity, including the Fruit of the Spirit.  Not so we Christ-followers become exploitable, but so we bring glory to God by respecting His authority, and trusting His providence, even if our government acquiesces to neither.

After all, even President Trump cannot escape the Apostle Paul's mandate in Romans 13:1-2:  "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

Notice that the word "authorities" is in the plural.  And as a grateful American, I acknowledge the clever tripartite system of government our Founding Fathers established for us, which includes the judicial branch, which acts as a check and balance against both the legislative and executive branches.

If a law is made that could be considered unConstitutional, then even the president needs to let the courts decide, as they are doing now with Trump's immigration action.

But even if a law is legal, that doesn't make it right.  Look at abortion, for example.

As it is, I'm grateful to live in a country where I have the right to praise God for His truth, even when that truth conflicts with the way I want to live, or when that truth conflicts with the fears that pervade my life.  For, you see, the freedom that Christ offers in the Bible isn't a political freedom, even though many Americans mistakenly believe it is.  Christ's freedom is greater than anything Trump or our military can secure for us.

May He judge us poor people with righteousness and justice (Psalm 72:2), whether that's the politically incorrect thing to do or not!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
- Text: Edward Mote, 1797-1874

Friday, January 27, 2017

My Shortest Blog Essay Ever

You know the adage; "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything."

That's why I haven't written a blog entry since January 13.  Today is January 27.  May God give me grace to adjust to America's new reality - if indeed, we are to adjust.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Don't Let Washington Rule

Oh, the essay's I've written that you haven't read!

I've muddled through a couple of different posts for my blog this week that I never finished, and therefore never published.  They were dripping with sarcasm, and heavy with despondency.  They would have probably been well-received by some readers, yet summarily rejected by most.  And it's not like I mind controversy, or holding an unpopular opinion.

But I'm so, so very much over this election.  I'm so over Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, and especially Donald Trump.  This season of politics has been the most disappointing one of my entire career as a member of America's electorate.  Not just because of who won, or of who lost, but because both of them managed to get nominated by their respective parties in the first place.

The problem with America right now isn't the politicians we elect, or even nominate.  The problem with America right now is us - the electorate.  Most of us are so selfish, myopic, and fearful, we exploit whatever we can in the name of freedom to construct our own little fiefdoms.  Fiefdoms not just of geography, or even economy, but of religious viewpoint, sexuality, education, race, and even healthcare (or lack of it).

Some religious political conservatives gloat that Donald Trump has been chosen as God's man for this appointed time in America, but they fail to realize that, by the same measures they use to rationalize their claim, Barak Obama was God's man for the previous eight years in America's history.


Then we have liberals with potent voices - such as Hollywood stars and the mainstream media - lamenting the horror of a Trump presidency, even as they ignore the anger within the electorate that propelled a total political neophyte of Trump's caliber into the White House.  Donald Trump is many things, but one of the biggest things he is right now is a solid refutation of the past eight years, an epoch that liberals generally enjoyed, and obviously drew a false sense of purpose from.

Meanwhile, precious few people actually seem interested in balancing extreme viewpoints.  Compromise has become a four-letter word on either side of the political aisle.  It's a lot easier to create a snicker-inducing meme and post it on social media than it is to research - for one's self - various sides of the same issue, and evaluate facts independent of partisan bias.  It's more fun to make fun of people we don't like than even consider the possibility - however remote - that we ourselves might be wrong.

So I start writing something, and before long, I've broken so many of my own rules that I impose on myself about trying to remain objective, and refraining from personal insults.  Believe me, if I wanted to be a super-popular blogger, with hundreds of thousands of loyal readers, it wouldn't be hard for me to simply parrot the platform of whichever side I wanted to consistently promote, and ridicule anybody who's not standing on it.

I could be cute, or snarky, or bullying, because those things aren't hard to be.  And they create buzz.  They trigger emotional responses.  What's hard is trying not to insult somebody else, especially when I deeply disagree with the things for which they're advocating.

After this past election, I hoped the national mood would simmer down a bit.  But that hasn't really happened.  Instead, everybody seems to be either bracing for all you-know-what to break loose and sink our ship of state, or they're bursting with anticipation for all you-know-what to break loose and totally sink Washington DC's standard operating procedures.

And yes, while many things in our Washington bureaucracy need fixing, it's like just about anything else we mortals create:  200-plus years of government-building can't be efficiently undone by presidential fiat, or four years of swamp-draining.

Of course, for people of faith like me, the Sunday School answer would be prayer.  Praying for everyone in leadership, those leaving leadership, those opposing our new leadership, and those excited for our new leadership.  And yes, I've done some of that.

Yet I have this nagging doubt that just because Trump won, which Christ-followers would say indicates that God has anointed him to lead our country, that doesn't mean the good times will start rolling.  If, indeed, the past eight years weren't good for the folks who didn't support the man Trump is replacing.  Even a basic study of the Old Testament kings who ruled Israel proves that just because God allows something, it's not necessarily enjoyable for us.

Trump's ways are not Washington's ways.  But more importantly, God's ways are not our ways.

I'm trying to turn my gaze from Washington to God.

Are you?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Humble Strength

I'm no ultimate authority on anything.  But the Bible is.  I believe it's the ultimate authority on everything.  So maybe you don't take the stuff I write seriously, but if you believe the Bible is literally God's holy word, then you can't ignore what it says, can you?

As we lurch ever closer to Donald Trump's imminent presidency, perhaps now more than ever, you and I need to be preparing ourselves for how we should represent Christ when the media - mainstream, social, left-wing, right-wing, and otherwise - strips the final prudence filters from our nation's narrative. 

So, let's remember some truths that won't change like the political tide:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
  - from 1 Peter 5

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have... You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel... You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.  You adulterous people!

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God... Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
  - from James 4

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
  - Proverbs 16:18

"In quietness and in trust shall be your strength."
  - from Isaiah 30:15

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated... Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have... Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace... Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
  - From Hebrews 13

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.
  - 1 Peter 3:8

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dementia: When is Home Care Not Enough?

For some basics on dementia in general, click here.
If you have a dementia patient in your family, there may come a time when you will be forced to grapple with this question:  Is it time for professional memory care?

My family has been forced to answer this question twice; first with my Dad, and then with his sister.  I've also talked with a number of families at the memory care facility where Dad lived for ten months.  So, if you are facing this situation, the information you'll read below isn't merely theory or supposition.

For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to assume that your loved one isn't currently living alone.  I can't really imagine a loving scenario in which a person who has been diagnosed with dementia is allowed to live by themself.  If your loved one has lived alone up until the point of their dementia diagnosis, they will need to either be moved into the home of a loved one who will become their primary caregiver, or someone will need to move into their home to act as a caregiver.  Remaining alone is not an option.  Dementia is going to demand big, significant changes from people who most love the patient.  And living arrangements constitute a major part of this disruption.

Granted, depending on the degree of dementia being displayed by your loved one, at least in their early stages, perhaps it won't be necessary for them to have 24/7 care.  But that scenario will likely not last very long.  You see, it is not fair for people with dementia to be intentionally left alone when there's a risk that they could wander off, accidentally burn themselves, or otherwise harm themselves or others.  In many cases, it would be akin to leaving a two-year-old alone at home for hours on end - and a caregiver who allowed that to happen would likely be charged with abuse.

So now, you've arrived at the point where keeping your loved one at home is not just a burden, or a sacrifice, but it has devolved into something else.  Something that appears to be demanding from you a level of resources that your body, your brain, and your emotions seem far too taxed to meet.

If you are fortunate enough, and are able to patch together the finances to pay for professional memory care, here is when that care might be timely:

1.  If your loved one consistently displays no recognition of their current surroundings, it may be that placing them in professional memory care will be less distressing and disruptive to them than you think.  Of course, this applies mostly to dementia patients who are currently living in an environment they should otherwise recognize, such as their long-time home (longer than a couple of years), or even perhaps in the home of a relative that they've visited for years.

If they've lived in their current environment for only a couple of years, it's to be expected that they won't readily recognize it.  Remember that a hallmark of dementia is the gradual loss of memory, and that loss is measured from where they are today.  It's called "short-term memory loss."  The shorter the memory, the quicker it's lost.

If they can't remember how to find their way around a home in which they've lived for only five years, or even ten, that may not be as significant as if they can't find their way around the home in which they've lived for thirty years (which is how it was with my Dad).

And, if they keep saying they "want to go home," and they're still at home, chances are they'll keep saying that if they're in a memory care facility.  "Home" to them likely means someplace familiar to them from their childhood, not anyplace they've lived recently.  If they are particularly religious, "home" can also come to mean Heaven, or whatever constitutes eternal reward in their religion.

2.  If your loved one is consistently belligerent or combative to the point of trying to physically fight with a caregiver, it might be safer for you - and for your loved one - to be in a facility where trained staffmembers know how to better avoid things like flying fists or gnashing teeth.  Verbal abuse may be emotionally draining for you and other caregivers, but when the abuse becomes physical, things become far more dangerous because it likely means your loved one no longer can distinguish between proper acts of frustration and baser impulses of aggression.

It's not that professional memory caregivers wear body armor or are incredibly nimble, but they have more experience at recognizing warning signs of aggressive behavior.  They also have the ability to summon assistance quickly - something you probably don't have at home.

3.  If your loved one has lost the ability to talk, or clearly communicate basic needs, then it could be that you miss important signs that they are suffering from something compromising their quality of life.  Most memory care facilities will likely require you to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" waiver when you place your loved one in their care, so this isn't about extending their life.  But quality of life - however tentative and ambiguous that may be at this point - remains important.  Things like pain and other internal discomforts might be more easily detected and monitored by professional caregivers.  Having different staff members in different shifts working with your loved one also creates a broader base of evaluation and trouble-shooting, another benefit you likely don't have at home.

4.  Most reputable memory care facilities will invite prospective families to visit during mealtimes, so you can see for yourself in real time how the staff interacts with their residents.  The facility where my Mom and I placed Dad encouraged us to share a meal with him as well, but he was actually in the hospital at the time of our exploratory visit.  My point is, however, that if your loved one can eat a meal in the dining room of a memory care facility, and eat their meal along with a room full of other dementia patients, they're a likely candidate for professional care.

Indeed, mealtimes in a memory care facility are not for the faint of heart.  It is quite distressing to watch grown adults struggle to eat, or protest eating, or having to be fed.  If your loved one can tolerate an environment like that, it's a sobering indication to you that the experience won't be as traumatizing for them as you fear it might be.

5.  Some other considerations include the degree to which your loved one tolerates interaction with others.  There were times when it seemed my Dad enjoyed being around other residents in his memory care facility.  A good facility will have coordinated activities and live music that are surprisingly stimulating, yet things you may not be able to regularly provide in your home.  My Dad's place also prioritized getting residents out of their rooms during the day; only the sickest were regularly kept in their rooms.  Carpeting helps minimize excess noisiness, but it also has to be kept clean for sanitary reasons.  If the flooring isn't carpeted, make sure it's not slippery.  There should be no trip hazards, like throw rugs, or furniture with legs or feet that protrude from its undersides.

Speaking of sanitation, make sure there are no trash cans simply left out in the open - dementia patients love rummaging through them, which is a big health hazard.

6.  For some dementia patients, particularly those whose families are struggling with the enormous monthly costs of professional memory care, it may become unnecessary to have actual memory care.  If your loved one becomes exceptionally low-functioning, bedridden, severely detached from their environment, and otherwise incapacitated, a regular nursing home may be able to provide enough care without the expensive memory care pricetag.  If you're fortunate enough to have an elder care specialist as your loved one's physician, your doctor will help you determine if or when you can forgo professional memory care.

Of course, remember that many nursing homes, for whatever reason, still do not provide the type of care to dementia patients that you'd think would be obvious.  A friend of ours had his wife, with full-blown Alzheimer's, in a highly-respected rehabilitation nursing facility after surgery to repair a broken hip, and the nurses there would put a platter of food in front of her - covered by a plastic bowl to keep it warm... yet the woman had no idea food was under the plastic bowl.  They'd give her a cup of yogurt or pudding as a snack, and not remove the aluminum foil top.  They'd even give her a plastic cup with a beverage inside, a plastic cap on top, and a straw, yet the woman didn't know how to drink from a straw.  At her memory care facility, none of those things ever happened, because the memory care staff knew what dementia patients can't comprehend.

7.  If and when you visit professional memory care facilities, ask whatever questions you have.  This is a big deal, so don't be embarrassed by treating it like one.  If you feel rushed by the staff, or if you get the sense they are being evasive, let those be red flags for you.

When you're walking the halls on your facility tour, does your host acknowledge residents and employees by name?  Does the place employ at least one full-time nurse?  Ask if any local hospice companies are on a black list of theirs - a memory care facility that is zealous about their residents' health likely will prefer some hospice companies over others.

Visiting during a mealtime won't be comfortable for you, but it will be an eye-opener, and you need raw honesty, not sugar-coated platitudes.  If the place smells, feel free to ask why.  Don't necessarily assume it always smells like that, because bodily function incidents happen constantly in these types of facilities.  But if every hallway smells, and the furniture smells, and the smell is more of a stench, those aren't good signs.

Look for how well exit doors are locked and marked.  Is there a fence around the property?  What is the front door protocol?  Is there a staff member stationed nearby to prevent a resident's "escape"?  Are there security cameras?  Dementia patients tend to fall a lot, as their sense of balance is lost; do they archive videos for family members to review after an incident?

I'm not sure what a good resident/staff ratio is, but at Dad's place, I believe it was 10:1, not counting office and kitchen staff, and that seemed adequate.  They aimed to give each resident three showers a week, but with people like Dad, who could be quite belligerent at shower time, Mom and I were satisfied if they could get him in for two! 

Whatever your family is able to decide, please understand that you will likely feel some degree of guilt.  That seems pretty normal and unavoidable among all the families I know who've placed loved ones in memory care.  These are stressful decisions that not only drain you financially, but also emotionally.  All I hope to do with this information is help you in the decision-making process, and perhaps give you some things to consider that maybe hadn't already dawned on you.

Hopefully, someday, perhaps before you or I get to be the age of our loved ones with dementia, a cure will be found, and our families won't have to go through what we are.  Until then, however, like one nurse told us, "you've gotta do what you've gotta do" when it comes to loved ones whose minds are being stolen by dementia.