by Teresa Bell Kindred
Meeting the needs of a chronically ill person, or an elderly person requiring regular supervision, is a big challenge. When care giving is done on a daily basis, those challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Think of it this way; what if you were an avid mountain climber and every morning for the next five years you got up and climbed a mountain? After so long, no matter how much you loved mountain climbing, the task would become more difficult. You would get weary and be in need of rest. If you became discouraged enough, you might just decide to sit at the bottom of the mountain and let someone else climb it for a change! And that might not be a bad idea.
Being responsible for someone else's health and safety is a tough job; just ask new parents! Often what happens is that caregivers are concentrating so hard on "giving" that they forget their own needs. Just as a car won't run forever on a single tank of gas, a caregiver can't continue to give unless she or he replenish her or his own resources!
Here are some tips to help these important people do a very important and sometimes impossible job:
No matter how badly you want the person you are caring for to feel better, be younger, get stronger, whatever, there are definite limits on what you can do. On the other hand, there are no limits to what God can do. Imagine for a moment you are carrying a heavy package. Let's pretend it weighs about 40 pounds. Now imagine you take that package and walk on an ice covered sidewalk. More than likely what will happen? But what if you walked on that slippery sidewalk without your heavy package? Would you feel safer? Would you be you less likely to fall?
- Take at least one day off every week, more if possible. If not a whole day, then a half. Find someone else to be in charge of your patient and do something fun or relaxing. Sit beside a brook and listen to the trickle of water. Read a book. Stroll through the mall. Go for a long walk to clear your head. The important thing is to get a change of scenery and recharge your batteries. Even God rested on the seventh day, you need to do the same!
- Share your responsibilities with others. In our area, Home Health programs offer services for the elderly. Three days a week these wonderful ladies come and bathe my grandmother and care for her other personal needs, like trimming nails and washing her hair. It helps my grandmother and it helps me by relieving me of a few responsibilities. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce or call the nearest hospital and inquire as to what services and support groups are available. Speak with your minister about your needs and concerns and see about other possible resources. Some congregations have programs to support caregivers.
- The power of prayer applies to caregivers too! Pray about the person you are caring for and don't forget to pray for yourself. You need strength, stamina, and patience. Follow in Jesus' footsteps and study how He ministered to those in need. He understands your needs as well as those of the person you are caring for. Ask for His help and wisdom as well as asking for the prayer support of others who know your situation.
- Don't be afraid to laugh. Laughter is truly the best medicine and whenever possible we should use it to lighten our load. Of course, we have to be sensitive to those to whom we are ministering, but they need laughter even more than we do! My grandmother is 89 and she often confuses the television remote with the telephone. She laughs when the phone rings and she answers the remote and so do we. A house without laughter is a cold house indeed. When possible, warm up your home and your hearts with bright smiles and the sound of laughter.
- Realize that you are only human and Jesus is the great physician... not you. You cannot be the healer in the household. No one can carry that burden. You are there to give support, love, help, and host of other things, but you do not have the power to heal - that is God's job, so don't try to take it from Him.
Scripture reminds you to "Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (Psalm 55:22) Give Him your burdens - you can be honest with Him, He already knows your needs and your heart. So really lay down your burdens with your Father in heaven. Your load will be lighter. Your path will be safer and He won't let you fall.
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Article ©2002, Teresa Bell Kindred
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