Most congregations have at least one member who is serving as a caregiver of a loved one. Many caregivers are women. The single mom who puts her child with cerebral palsy in daycare so she can work. The woman who is rearing her teen aged daughter and her daughter's daughter at the same time. The wife who had to put her husband in a nursing home after his stroke. Most of these caregivers stagger under spiritual, emotional, and financial burdens that few people understand. The church has an opportunity to help them.
At church, the caregiver hears of God's unfailing love and feels the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The fellowship of other loving believers is a manifestation of God's care, too. Ministry women can encourage church attendance and make it possible.
Simple things to do: Offer rides to church. Volunteer Sunday morning respite care. Visit the caregiver who can't attend church with uplifting news and a synopsis of the sermon.
Take it to the next level: Sit with the caregiver in church. Pray corporately for her and not just for the one in need of care. Treat her like a special guest by opening doors and getting a cup of coffee for her.
Keep in mind: A caregiver may feel guilty or angry about what happened to her loved one and may be inclined to flee from God.
In order to have energy for caregiving, these women need to recharge their emotional batteries. This looks different for different personalities. Ministry women can initiate some stress relief, based on the caregiver's preferences.
Simple things to do: Listen to the woman and make mental notes. Alert other women who may have similar interests and ask them to include the caregiver where appropriate.
Take it to the next level: Facilitate any measures that contribute to the caretaker's adequate sleep, nutrition and overall health. Give quality time to the caregiver, letting her rant, cry or share her fears, without trying to solve anything.
Keep in mind: The caregiver may feel that the world is happily going on with life while she is alone in her pain and unable to participate in group activities.
The complexity of health insurance rules, the financial drain and a sense of loss can overwhelm a caregiver. Understanding the choices and navigating obstacles takes much time and resolve. Ministry women can provide concrete help to free up the caregiver for tasks that only she can do.
Simple things to do: Offer meals. Provide financial guidance. Connect the caregiver with trusted experts in law, medicine and social work. Do errands for her.
Take it to the next level: Invite the caregiver to your home or a restaurant so that she can get out of the house. Deliver disposable paper goods and other convenience items to her home. Make photocopies of important documents for her.
Keep in mind: The caregiver may feel a loss of control over events and may want to select what type of help she accepts. In addition, caregivers may feel misunderstood and judged when simple solutions to complex problems are offered.
Ministry women should be prayerful and proceed slowly. Caring for caregivers is a needed, but delicate, undertaking. "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:10