Practical Ways to Care

Becoming a full-time caregiver of a parent, spouse, disabled child or foster children is life-altering at a minimum. For many it can be the most demanding, difficult job they’ve ever done as they lay down their lives to love, serve and care for the needs of another. Today I want to offer some practical ways you can be a minister of love, hope, and encouragement to these special people.  I’m writing as a daughter, a respite care provider for my parents, as someone who has been a foster parent.

When my dad was about 60 years old, he developed a rare brain disease that began with things like not being able to tie his shoes and all too quickly took his ability to speak and use his hands and arms. My mom was thrown into processing all the changes that were occurring with my dad, taking care of him, making financial and business decisions, doctor’s visits, and care of the home and property. For several years, Dad could not be left alone, and taking him anywhere was an enormous challenge.

Suffice it to say that, for many, caregiving can be very isolating. Caregivers often struggle with exhaustion and being able to take care of themselves, as well. Their lives can feel totally out of control and they need help and compassion.

There are many ways that you can breathe life into their situation.

  • Visit: Ask when it’s a good time to come by. Bring them news of the outside world: what’s happening at church, your job, the community. Please, tell a good joke. The Bible says that laughter is good medicine. One of my dad’s favorite hospice nurses would carry on and tease and make jokes about the awkward things that would happen when she was caring for him. Don’t forget a hug or touch for the disabled, even if it’s awkward when they can’t respond. They still know.
  • Listen: Caregivers need to be able to tell someone about how hard it is and if they’ve had a particularly bad day.
  • Meals: A healthful and delicious meal is a God-send.
  • Holidays: Offer for them to join you at your house, or ask if you can bring the food to them and do the dishes.
  • Remember: Send texts, a thinking of you card, or call. Pray with them.
  • Help: Offer to help with yard work, pick up groceries, or stay with the home-bound person while the caregiver gets out for a while. My uncle kept my dad once a week while my mom went to lunch with friends or a doctor’s appointment and ran errands. These friends and this help from my uncle were life support for her.

Body of Christ, we have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need. 2 Corinthians 9:12 says,

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here. 

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One thought on “Practical Ways to Care

  1. This is so good! I know I needed the reminder.

    I’d like to add a few comments.

    First, listening could be the most important thing you can do. Listen even if it’s uncomfortable, or if you think you’d feel or do things differently if it were you.

    Next, don’t think you have to be an expert to be helpful. You don’t have to be a nurse to sit with someone to give the caregiver a break. You don’t have to be a fantastic cook to provide a meal. A box or bucket of chicken or some other take-out will be appreciated.

    Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that “she’ll call me if she needs something.” Don’t assume that other family members can (or will) provide all the help needed (they likely have other obligations such as families or jobs). Don’t assume that someone else is doing what needs to be done. Don’t assume that the person’s health insurance is paying for all their needs to be met (highly unlikely). If you want to know what kind of help is needed, ask!

    One more thing. Before providing a meal, it’s a good idea to ask if there are any dietary restrictions, food allergies, or strong preferences. You could also ask if there is anything in particular that they want; while any food is appreciated, bringing something they especially like or have been wanting is an extra blessing.

    One last comment. People who take in grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren, are also caregivers. Caring for children when you think you are past that stage of life can be difficult and demanding, too. Their needs may be different but they need support, too!

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