I’ve known people who have 24/7 responsibilities for the care of a loved one. The obligations of being a caregiver (including those whose loved ones are in a facility) can make a person feel isolated, worn out, and stressed in ways that friends and family might not even suspect.
Our loving Father does not intend for caregivers to carry out their task by themselves. After all, God’s Word teaches, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV) You and I can be the wind beneath a caregiver’s wings.
I confess that I have often reflected silently and guiltily when I’ve seen an elderly wife or husband care for their disabled or ill spouse all by themselves. I felt bad and helpless when I see parents caring for a child with extraordinary needs and I didn’t know what to do.
You and I can be a big help and encouragement in small ways. I’ve learned to start with a thoughtful conversation with the caregiver. Before I start the conversation, I make a list of tasks the caregiver might need help with. I keep spiritual needs in mind.
Making a list helps me see little tasks that can take burdens off the caregiver, but conversation gives the caregiver a chance to be heard and understood. The list changes. Offering to mow their lawn is not a help when the caregiver looks forward to that activity. Sometimes the caregiver has needs they don’t want made public. The conversation also sets realistic expectations. I am not volunteering for everything on the list! I’m trying to understand ways that this family can be helped.
I look at the caregiver’s list and I pray about it. If I’m not good at recruiting, I talk to my spouse or my pastor to find help enlisting volunteers. Are there tasks which require special training or confidentiality? Special Ministries’ Light for Parents has resources to organize and train volunteers who are willing to help caregivers. Contact them at email@example.com. I think of people who might want to get involved. I share tasks on the list with them. I consider whether the caregiver has financial burdens which might be met through a congregational grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief.
Some items on the list may never get done, but the caregiver has felt the wind beneath his or her wings – the love of a church family that is willing to talk and help. It is really the Lord who lifts up that burden, but God does it with the encouragement and help of his people.
For the Christian family member or friend, caregiving may be a vocation to which the Lord calls us at some time in our life. I might have to care for my wife or she for me. That’s the thing about caregiving: many people become caregivers for a time. Since it happens to so many, let’s talk to each other and consider how we can help carry each other’s burdens.
Director, Commission on Special Ministries
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