Care for a disabled or dying loved one strains us in many ways. It sometimes interferes with our own battle plan for life. Yet, respecting God’s gift of life by practicing sacrificial love telegraphs to the world you have a hope that exceeds beyond what this world can offer. God cares for those who care for others.
While it may seem like an endurance test it is, in fact, an instrument God uses to strengthen us and communicate a hope that others can see. Perhaps someone may ask you how you do it and why you do it. That is when you can tell them about what Jesus did for us (1 Peter 3:15).
A caregiver assists those who find it difficult to perform basic day-to-day activities. Those in need of caregivers’ help can include but are not limited to, the aging, the disabled, or those suffering from chronic or degenerative health conditions or mental disorders. A caregiver can take care of a loved one in varied ways involving their health and wellness needs, such as with personal care issues, decision making efforts, financial and/or legal concerns, housekeeping assistance, errand running, healthy living support, medication administration, transportation needs, appointment tracking and scheduling, food preparation, shopping, and companionship, to name a few examples.
Here’s a snapshot of a family caregiver in the United States. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, the number of caregivers increased in 2020 to 9.5 million. Nearly one in five Americans (19%) provide unpaid care for an adult with health or functional needs. Most are female (61%), and the majority of caregivers work (61%) – the financial impact within the family unit occurs in 45% of cases. Most caregivers care for an adult relative (89%), typically a parent or parent-in-law (50%), spouse or partner (12%), grandparent or grandparent-in-law (8%), or adult child (6%), though 10% provide care to a friend or neighbor.
Caregiving can come about in different ways, whether by choice, obligation, or circumstance. A primary caregiver might not even realize the role they’ve taken on – it’s sometimes thought of as simply helping someone important to them. The role can literally “sneak up” on a caregiver.
Another type of caregiving is the “crisis mode” situation, triggered by an unexpected major health crisis such as a cardiac event, stroke, or an accident, or the sudden realization that memory lapses are becoming dangerous.
First-time caregivers generally experience a time of adjustment in their essential role. To the extent possible, it is beneficial to start a care-plan before it is needed. Give some thought to the worst-case scenarios, who would do what, and what changes it would necessitate. This can relieve the stress that can be thrust upon first-time caregivers.
Remember, caregiving can be both fulfilling and challenging. It’s important to be prepared to face such challenges that arise in caring for a loved one – and still address self-care when it’s needed. It’s about finding that balance.
At times, you will likely need help from others, such as friends; family; your church, care committee, or parish nurse ministry; community agencies, and/or hands-on resources. Wisdom and discernment will be important as well. A robust prayer life can be especially important during these times. But, most of all, you’ll need God’s loving grace to help in fulfilling your role as a compassionate and effective caregiver. What does that mean? In your love shown to others, focus first on your relationship with God, the mercies he has shown, especially in your salvation through Christ. Frame caregiving as a reflection of the love you know God has shown to you in Christ. That sacrificial love was not earned or deserved by you but was God’s free gift. That is why we call it “grace” – an undeserved act of love and commitment for you from God. That is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote: “For Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Other practical tools involving time management, goal setting, caregiving transitions, health and wellness education, and communication can help reduce the stress, guilt, and anger in caring for another. Various resources to address these challenges can be found in your community, county, and congregation. You can also find valuable articles in periodicals and on websites that deal with aging and caregiving.
Caregiving also requires some “self-maintenance.” Caregivers should consider taking an occasional break for rest. That could involve seeking out respite care for your loved one. Respite care is temporary care of your loved one so that you, the caregiver, can take some time to recharge.
Every person wears multiple “hats” in life. A caregiver is no exception. They might be married, raising children, volunteering, working outside the home, or assisting with other family obligations. The role of caregiving adds a new identity to that resume.
Yes, along with the rewards of caregiving, there can be challenges, especially at first when you likely feel the least informed or comfortable in the new role. Unquestionably, there are many questions and concerns to deal with. Be aware that community resources might be available to help you in this role, such as child or adult day care programs, transportation, and home meal deliveries. A local aging resource center can be a great resource to obtain information, as well as suggestions to community resources and services. Find out what’s available for your loved one and you, the caregiver. Many communities offer a free referral helpline that links people to health and human services – dial 211 to reach out for information and support.
Remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one. There can be times when you just need to take a break. It’s important for your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. So, here are some suggestions:
Monitor your feelings on a regular basis. If you find you need extra support or an outside perspective, consider getting professional counseling, joining a support group, or connecting with an online community. A self-assessment survey can be beneficial in assessing your own well-being.
ANSWER: The simple answer is that God is not doing this. Bad things happen in our lives because of sin. The second and third chapters of Genesis remind us that God did not create us to be sinful. The sad consequence of human sinfulness is suffering and ultimately physical death.
The better question that you should ask is, “How should we respond?” An excellent example is recorded for us in John 9, which tells the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus for a logical explanation as to why this man was blind. Using their human reason, they concluded that either the man or his parents had sinned and blindness was the punishment. Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). According to Jesus, the focus is not on the physical ailment but rather on the response to the condition.
We can’t fully understand God’s plans, but we can do our best to glorify God in every situation. Your father’s illness will cause physical pain, but it might serve as an outlet for others to demonstrate their compassion. His condition might scare away some of his friends, but it could draw him closer to his Savior. His disease will lead some to say that his life is no longer worth living, but you and your family can provide a Christ-like example of unselfish love.
The next time someone asks, “Why would God do this?” you can respond, “So that my faith can be strengthened and His name glorified!”
Daily life is abundantly stressful. There are the job, family, church, and other responsibilities. For those who care for a loved one, the stress can be even more overwhelming. Not only is the caregiver responsible for many physical and supervisory tasks, but he or she is also expected to offer emotional and spiritual support to an aging loved one.
Sound exhausting? It is! The day-to-day care can be a seemingly endless routine of personal care, medical regimen, worry, and questions. Caregivers themselves invariably deal with a host of emotions: anger, discouragement, resentment, guilt, fear, anxiety, and/or sadness. Burnout is common when a person’s time and energy are constantly demanded of them. Yet God offers the true comfort and the assurance that such trouble will not overwhelm a caregiver.
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF CAREGIVING
Trust me! This may be painful but it’s for the best! God tells us that when you pass through the fire, you will not be burned. He wants us to remember that though fire burns, it also purifies. The Refiner wants believers to look at the positive aspects that caregiving offers:
WAYS TO COMBAT CAREGIVING FATIGUE
Patients and caregivers are often confronted with the question, “Why?” God’s Word provides an answer to that question. Our hardships can provide the avenue for God’s name to be glorified and for his mighty power to be displayed.
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:10).
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3).
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Remember, you can serve as a Christian witness which, in some situations, will lead to opportunities to share the love of God and the plan of salvation with unbelievers.
Sometimes your opportunity to provide care may involve someone who does not yet know Jesus as their Savior. Your patient, loving, and sacrificial care for them may present the opportunity for you to talk about your source of hope in the salvation earned for us by Christ.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)