September 16, 2013

Caring for the Caregiver

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.

Spiritually
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.

Emotionally
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.

Practically
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

6 comments:

  1. Love this post. Right to the point yet understanding how people differ. Thanks for distilling this so well for us.

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  2. I have not been a caregiver, exactly, but we spent many months "shut in" after we adopted our youngest child. During that time, I can attest to the value of a simple phone call from another adult woman who remembered that I was alive. Since my own situation has improved, it's easy for me to forget those who are drained by constant care-giving. Thank you for the timely challenge!

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  3. Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting info.

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  4. Very good....coming from someone who has cared for my disabled husband (closed head injury from car accident) for 36 years. As he gets older and me too, he needs more and more help and I get less and less sleep and ability to get out. Those who help the most are those who just do and don't ask what to do. Biggest help is coming to visit or coming to sit with Larry while I go sleep or just go away for a short period of time. Reaching out to others who are hurting is the best God gives me ways to help others.

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  5. This is a great article. Thank you for sharing. As a care-giver to our disabled son, I often find it difficult to ask for help, sometimes because I feel overwhelmed and it's hard to think of anything, and sometimes because I'm sinfully proud and think that asking for help shows weakness. When people listen to stories we tell or ask genuinely "seeking" quesitons and then offer a way to help, it is like a breath of fresh air. It takes a burden off of me to think of "one more thing" for someone to do. I know that people like lists and specifics, but honestly it's hard to think of them sometimes. I like how you listed some specific things that can be tried and then expanded to each family! I enjoy running, and it's really hard to run with my kids. Not impossible, but not my preference. Occassionally women have come and just played with my children so I could go for a run (and take a shower!). When I realized that this was a way that they can show Christ's love to me and my children, it was much easier to accept their help. I love the body.

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  6. darnly and CristyLynn,
    I appreciate your examples of sacrificial love in caring for a loved one. Your kind of caregiving is even harder when you have to sustain it over many years. My God give you the grace to continue in pleasing Him and may you have Christians in your lives who care for you in special ways.

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