There are many different types of caregivers, and each need their own type of individualized care and support. Consider the following examples and support options available to you.
Jamie is a twenty-five-year-old whose mother died when she was born, and her father was just diagnosed with stage three cancer and is entering hospice. Jamie spends all of her time, outside of work and graduate school, taking care of her father.Instead of socializing or attending functions with her friends on the weekends, she is preparing his meals, organizing his medication, and tidying his home since he does not have the financial means to hire someone. Instead of taking the opportunity to date so she can marry one day, she has decided to spend any free time being there for her father who is desperate for company during this trying and painful time.
Cindy is a forty-five-year-old whose husband was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease years ago. Because of this unfortunate genetic diagnosis, they opted not to have children. Instead of having the support and legacy of children, like she so desperately desires, Cindy spends most of her time working from home and being her husband’s full-time caregiver. Seeing his physical, emotional, and cognitive decline has been particularly painful for her.
Bryan is a thirty-five-year-old and has always had a heart for caring and being there for others in their most desperate hour. He opted to become a full-time caregiver for someone he does not know because he has a heart of service and compassion.
Whether he is caring for someone in their late eighties who is dealing with dementia or someone who is sixty-five and dealing with multiple sclerosis, it pains him to see them struggle. His heart is tenderhearted, and he likes to read classic books to them, make their favorite meals, and be there during their most trying hours. He has always gone above and beyond for the people he has cared for.
Caregiving has many different forms. Whether it is full-time or part-time, being a caregiver is choosing to set aside your flexible social schedule and alone time to care for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of someone else.
It may be cooking and cleaning for your loved one. It may be helping with washing and toileting and other not-so-glamorous jobs. It may be advocating for someone at their doctor appointments. It may be saying the difficult things and doing the challenging and complicated tasks around the clock. It may be watching the love-of-your-life become sicker and weaker by the day, causing further grief to your heart.
Caregiving will never be one-size-fits-all. – Nancy L. Kriseman
Caregiving can differ from person to person because every patient is different, and obstacles will vary. Each diagnosis brings about its own challenges. Every person suffering has their fair share of emotional and physical turmoil and obstacles that must be overcome. Seeing this unfortunate progression takes a toll on the caregiver.
It does not matter if you are a family/friend caregiver or an employed caregiver – you sacrifice your time and use your talents to care for the needs of someone else. You are there for them on the gloomiest of days.
Regardless of whether it was your choice to become a caregiver, or it fell into your lap because there was no other alternative, you are an instrumental part of someone’s life. You are their sunshine on a cloudy day. You are the mood-changing song that brings energy to a quiet room that makes someone want to stand up and start dancing.
You are their advocate, voice of reason, and the rainbow after a torrential downpour. Augustine said, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Matthew 5:16 reminds us, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
When you help others, you are also serving Christ. You can care and help someone else as an act of worship to God. Whether you are changing someone’s bandage from a bedsore, working on exercises from their physical therapist, or praying over them – it can all be an act of worship to God.
So, if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed by caregiving today, I encourage you to pause and talk to God. Voice what you are feeling. Voice when you are tired and need the strength to carry on. Tell Him when you are struggling as you watch your loved one become weaker. Find hope in knowing that He provides hope and life beyond our time on this earth.
1 Peter 5:10 says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Important Steps for Different Types of Caregivers
- While you support your loved one or work as a caregiver, you must find and maintain a strong support system.Surround yourself with other caregivers who may be facing similar struggles of feeling physically and emotionally depleted. You need a support system on the days when you feel mentally and physically exhausted, wondering how you are going to face the next day and do it all over again. Online support groups, socializing with another caregiver, or just having someone to encourage you via text on the tough days are all great options to consider.
- Mental rejuvenation is another important aspect of taking care of yourself, the caregiver, so you can be at your best for the person you are caring for.Take time to journal, take a quick day trip to your favorite spot, or find time to sit in a peaceful place and watch the sunrise. It is important that you take opportunities to give your mind and heart a minute to reset and refocus, so you are maintaining emotional heart-health. Try to let go of the guilt when you need a minute to reset. When you are at your best, the person you are caring for is in the best hands.
- Take care of your physical health.While caring for the physical health of someone else, it may be all too easy to neglect your own. Caring for yourself physically with exercise, scheduling your annual wellness visits, adequate water intake, rest, and nutrition are all important for being at your best physically. Do not neglect yourself as this will wear you down more physically and emotionally.
- Ask for help when you need it.Spend time with your friends and family when you are able. There will be overwhelming days and days of struggle. Do not fret or overthink the need to ask someone for help. Ask someone to run to the grocery store for you or to help with a few tasks around the house.
- Have difficult conversations and know when to speak up.If you are caring for a parent or spouse, talk to your boss if you need more flexibility at work. Is there the potential to do some work from home on a difficult day? Explain the situation and have a heart-to-heart. They may be more than willing to offer some assistance or flexibility when it is needed.
- Take time for prayer and attend church.Taking time to talk to God and fellowship with other Christians is important for your spiritual health and support system. As believers, we are called to serve and love one another. Do not miss the opportunity to have and be there for other believers to encourage and support one another.
Support a Caregiver
If you know a caregiver, remember to check in on them. Send an encouraging note, take them a meal, ask if there is something specific you can pray for. It is quite easy to undervalue the beauty and strength of supporting one another, but it is truly a game-changer in this journey of life.
Scriptures on Strength for the Difficult Days
I encourage you to write these verses down on post-it-notes and post them all around the home of the person you care for or around your own home (if you are not an in-home caregiver). They can serve as constant reminders that your strength comes from God and He will not abandon you when you are feeling overtired or defeated.
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him. – Nahum 1:7
…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. – Isaiah 40:31
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely, I will help you, surely, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:13
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. – Isaiah 12:2
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ – Jeremiah 29:11
Support for Different Types of Caregivers
If you feel overwhelmed with the endless demands of caring for someone else or feel bogged down by your current circumstances, know that you do not have to do it alone. A counselor is available to support and encourage various types of caregivers through this time, even via online counseling if it suits your schedule better. Do not try to navigate these waters alone. We are stronger together.
“Family Outing”, Courtesy of Kevia Tan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stethoscope”, Courtesy of Marcelo Leal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tiny Fingers”, Courtesy of Aditya Romansa, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Taking a Walk”, Courtesy of Dominik Lange, Unsplash.com, CC0 License