Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. - Isaiah 55:6

Caregiving: Christian Helping and Coping

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. You will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2 NIV)

Daily life is abundantly stressful. Theres 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 persons 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 its 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

    Number of American Family Caregivers

    The estimated number of American family caregivers varies from one study to another, mainly because the definition of a caregiver varies. According to an April 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of caregivers in the United States is estimated at 25 million.

    The April 2004 Caregiving in the U.S. study conducted by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving reports a much higher number: 44.4 million American adults (or 21% of the U.S. population) [44 Million Americans are unpaid caregivers," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 11, 2004]. It is safe to assume that the number of active caregivers in the United States is likely to swell to 35-40 million in the next 20 years [Source: David Levy, JD and Christine Nicholson, RN, American Association for Caregiver Education, Inc.)

    Other Statistics from the National Alliance for Caregiving:

    Nearly seven in ten (69% of caregivers) assist one person; two in ten care for two people. About half (48%) help a loved one eight or less hours per week. One in five (17%) assist for 40 or more hours per week.

    The average length of caregiving is 4.3 years.

    The typical caregiver is 46 years old, has some college, and spends at least 20 hours per week providing care to a care recipient 50 years of age or older.

    Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) care for a loved one 50 or more years of age (averaging 75 years of age). Twenty percent care for someone 18-49 years (average age is 33 years).

    One in 4 caregivers live with their loved one. Of those who do not live with a care recipient, 85% live within one hours distance; 74% say they see their loved one at least once a week.

    Overall, women give more hours of care and generally more intimate or intensive care than their male counterparts.

    Ways to Combat Caregiving Fatigue

  • Get into Gods Word
  • Just say, No! and ask for help
  • Dont 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 nor 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 o such loss is a major undertaking. The loss of companionship of a spouse, family member, or friend; independence, health, and/or strength 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 Gods children. 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 Gods 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 court 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!

    Other Websites

    National Alliance for Caregiving
    American Association for Caregiver Education, Inc.

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