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Caring for the Elderly

                                Barb’s Corner Blog, Caring for the Elderly, 6.8.11

Giving care to the elderly is a means of demonstrating Christlike love and concern.  It is a spiritual gift that can have special meaning for the caregiver and the person being cared for.  Yet it can be taxing, both physically and mentally (and even spiritually).  At times you will feel at the end of your rope.  You may be dealing with guilt – why is this so hard; why am I resenting the time spent with my relative or friend?  It is important to recognize, admit and acknowledge these feelings before you can really be an effective caregiver.  God will give you strength to care as He intends.  In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul declared that Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

For many, giving care to another person they feel close to fills their ‘bucket’ with joy.  This was the case for my neighbor.  For well over two years, he spent from morning until well into the evening at the assisted-living facility where he had moved his wife.  Prior to that, for as long as possible, he cared for her in their home.  He bathed her, fed her, helped her take whatever steps she could take, did the laundry, cooked, cleaned, and shopped.  During this time, though we would talk at times about how hard it was to watch her struggle and suffer, he never complained about having to care for her.  He did whatever it took to serve her.  His care for her was a beautiful picture of the love of Jesus, when He took on the garment of a servant and washed His disciples’ feet.

However, if you are acting out of guilt, frustration, anger or feelings of servitude (rather than servanthood), you will continue to struggle with resentment and anger toward the person for whom you are caring.

If you have a less-than-desirable relationship with a parent for whom you are caring, ask God for wisdom and His grace in resolving past conflicts as well as caring for your parent’s physical needs.  This is the time to decide to respond as an adult, rather than as a child who wants to be cared for.  Your parent, sensing the difference, may begin to respond to you more as one adult to another adult.  As a result, the two of you may help each other grow, and this new relationship may open opportunities for caregiving not previously possible.

Having a close friend or counselor to talk with may be helpful in dealing with caregiving struggles as the elderly person’s needs increase.

God who calls us to care, will also equip us not to ‘grow weary in doing good!’  We honor God by responding with love, grace, and care to the elderly living in our midst.  We do well to take instruction from the writer of Proverbs 3:1-3:   “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Caring for the elderly is one of the many ‘tips for giving care’ found in “Helping Those Who Hurt: A Handbook for Caring and Crisis,” by Barbara M. Roberts, published by NavPress.

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