Burdens & Blessings - Caring for Another
What does it take in terms of time and energy to care for another when they cannot care for themselves? Should we take it upon ourselves to actively help those who have lost the ability to remain engaged with community due to physical, emotional, or mental issues? And most importantly, when faced with situations like this, do you have the time and skills and, yes, the patience to care for another who can no longer care for themselves?
My wife and I have been face-to-face with these questions. Both of our mothers reached a time in their lives where constant care was needed. We willingly and prayerfully decided we can do this. My wife’s mother was the first to be welcomed into our home. It was a huge, life-changing time for us and for her. But we soon found ourselves in a “new normal” that allowed for life to move forward. Was it easy? I would be lying if I said yes. It was a challenge. My wife’s mother has since passed away.
Soon after, my mother needed our care. We welcomed her into our home. Again, we needed to find our “new normal.” It has been two and a half years now. She is 97 years old. Despite her poor eyesight and hearing, she is relatively healthy. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes skill. But by working together, we have found that it is doable. And it is a blessing!
As Stephen Ministers for our church, we use as a foundation for this ministry a wonderful verse from Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” To love and care for one another is one of God’s many commissions to us. It is a premise for living a good Christian life. In reality, this is not an easy task.
God never said loving and caring for another would be easy. Life is not easy. The challenges we face day to day can sometimes seem insurmountable. We barely have time for ourselves. Caring for another can be a huge challenge. It can be lonely, overwhelming, and frustrating. How can one find the time to care for another? But, as “striving” Christians, how can we not care for someone in need?
Here is the good news! By keeping our care God-centered, by allowing His love to be present, you can reap huge blessings from your care. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be placed into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Life as a caregiver is not easy. The challenges are real, and they are ever present. Taking care of an aging loved one is draining, both physically and emotionally. And it often seems thankless. The blessings are there if you delve a little deeper. There are silver linings in your clouds.
An article in Aging Care talks about 6 Reasons to Appreciate Your Job as a Caregiver
Accomplishment Providing care for another person is uncharted territory. Most people are unprepared for this role. There are no courses on how to be a good caregiver. There is no textbook on what to expect. Somehow, you figure it out. You learn everything you can, get creative when you must, and do your best. Caregiving is a huge personal accomplishment, and you should be proud of your resourcefulness, flexibility, and determination.
A Rewarding Experience Even with a difficult parent, caregiving can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It is easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind of providing care, but when we adopt this short-sighted perspective, our efforts do not seem very rewarding. Looking back someday, you will think that the time spent with your loved one was incredibly gratifying. When you are feeling overwhelmed, try to take a step back and think about the big picture.
Being There One of the biggest fears that people have about illness and death is going through these events alone. Because of you, your loved one will never have to face that. Whether they are of sound mind or struggling with the effects of dementia, they will understand on some level that you are with them when they need you most. Your time, effort, and attention provide comfort and have a profoundly beneficial impact on your loved one. This is a priceless gift.
Precious Moments Like life, caregiving is full of difficulties. They may be very rare, but when special moments come along, they make your heart sing. A moment of recognition from a loved one with dementia, a heartfelt “thank you” from someone who is usually ornery, a long-lost family story and a shared laugh are all treasures for caregivers to cherish. These high points can also function as fuel to keep you chugging along if you let them. Looking back on your caregiving journey, you will remember those tender moments.
You are Forever Changed Caregiving changes your perspective on life. This experience will help you realize what is important to you in the long run and what your goals are for yourself, your family, and your own golden years. Even under the most challenging circumstances, taking care of someone you love can have a powerful influence on your outlook, your relationships, and your life.
Making a Difference Never underestimate the impact you have on others. You are not going to get an award, and you may not even receive any acknowledgment for what you do or what you sacrifice. But always remember you are making a difference in someone’s life every day. That is what life is all about.
These rewards can be found in any caregiving situation. Whether caring for a grieving or lonely friend, an ill neighbor, or a family member who can no longer care for themselves, the challenges are similar. But the rewards can be plentiful. With God as your foundation, you will find that you do indeed have the wherewithal to perform this wonderful ministry.