Caregiving: Christian Helping and CopingBy Christian Life Resources Staff
When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2 NIV)
Daily life is abundantly stressful. There's 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 [w]hen 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:
- A closer relationship with God
- Trust in God
- A sense that others are watching your faith in action
- A more mature faith, purified by testing
- The ability to face and handle negative emotions
- Healing of previous hurts, especially involving family fallouts
Definition of a Caregiver
A family caregiver is defined as an individual who provides assistance to another individual who is unable to care for his or her responsibilities and needs. Family caregivers are unpaid family or friends who act out of love and concern for their loved one. Formal caregivers are employed by a service system. Caregiving in this article refers to unpaid family members or acquaintances caring for a loved one.
General Statistics on Caregiving from the National Caregiver Alliance:
- Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- About 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- The majority of caregivers (82%) care for one other adult, while 15% care for 2 adults, and 3% for 3 or more adults. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
- Approximately 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults (aged 18+) with a disability or illness or 16.6% of Americans. [Coughlin, J. (2010). Estimating the Impact of Caregiving and Employment on Well-Being: Outcomes & Insights in Health Management.]
- About 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. [Alzheimer's Association. (2015). 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.]
Ways to Combat Caregiving Fatigue
- Get into God's Word
- Just say, No! and ask for help
- Don't take on more than you can handle
- Learn to relax: read, listen to music, take a walk or a bath
- Stay healthy: eat well, get proper rest, exercise (Family caregivers often put their own healthcare needs aside due to the time, financial, or emotional constraints of caregiving and are at high risk for depression, chronic stress, anxiety, head and backaches and stomach/intestinal disorders)
- Pray (a majority of caregivers say prayer helps in coping with stress)
- Stay educated on issues: Internet, doctor, health professionals, reading materials)
- Turn to family, friends, loves ones for support and guidance
- Join a support group, if you wish
- Learn basic nursing skills (offered by the American Red Cross or other medical facilities)
- See a doctor if stress becomes overwhelming
- Pace yourself
- Plan for time off from caregiving
- Set limits
- Consider respite care or paid professional care to lighten the load
- Have a basic care plan checklist
- Know about your loved ones personal records such as medical directives, wills, bank information, doctors records (many insurance companies offer products to fit these needs)
- Learn about community services available to all parties
- Laugh more!
Understanding the Aging Process
Old age is not a disease but a life stage! An understanding of aging helps a caregiver to know what their loved one is experiencing. A caregiver, after all, cannot fix or control old age. Support becomes the important element in the care of a loved one at the last stage of life.
Loss in its many forms is a consuming part of life for the elderly and adjusting to such loss is a major undertaking. The loss of companionship of a spouse, family member, or friend; independence, health, and/or strength can cause devastating stress and sadness in some.
The elderly must learn to make adjustments in their lives. It is important to find new activities that match this new stage of life. Although life changes as a person ages, there is always the need to grow in faith as God's child. Just as Jesus completed his work to the very end, so our loves ones need to glorify God in all they do until their last day. Growing with integrity is much like God's description of a noble tree (Psalm 92:12-14):
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.
Spiritually speaking, an aging Christian person is still strong and green and accepts age as a blessing with a spiritual understanding that My grace is sufficient for you!
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