I read an article recently about caregiver stress. Many of us have no need of an explanation for the term; we’ve experienced it. For the rest, live long enough and the chances are–you will, too. That’s not meant as a complaint. There is a lot of love invested, and caregivers often feel that what they do for a loved one is rewarding in and of itself. But, there is no denying that it can be stressful in a variety of ways.
It demands so much of one’s time, patience, and understanding. The desire “to just be there” for a loved one and the personal commitment to try to resolve every problem and meet every need “by myself” guarantee that eventually something gets sacrificed. In our family, I know that we could not be the full-time “perfect” parents to our two healthy children while being there for the one who wasn’t. We couldn’t be the perfect couple and we couldn’t be the perfect Christian servants and we couldn’t be the perfect … in a lot of ways.
We were fortunate to be surrounded by a network of caring people in the church, at the hospital, and in the community where our children attended public schools. Which is not to say that we always availed ourselves of help that was offered–sometimes with good reasons and sometimes, maybe not so much. But even so, our support team kept us just on the positive side of sanity. Our marriage survived, as well as our faith and our love for the Lord and His church. In time, we learned enough to recognize when we were being overwhelmed. Things like…
24/7 It’s all any of us have. But when in the role of being the full-time caregiver, a lot of that 24/7 is justifiably allocated. Everything else that once made 24/7 seem like it wasn’t enough time is now compressed into less time! In no time at all, you begin to feel like you have no time at all.
Relationships All relationships have to be tended to, but suddenly it just doesn’t seem possible. A spouse or a child can begin to feel as if they no longer matter. We were shocked when a hospital counselor told us that about 98% of marriages end in divorce with the death of a child. We immediately thought that was crazy; and, if the numbers were accurate, it just meant that they weren’t healthy relationships to begin with. Of course, we hadn’t yet begun to feel all the pressures that were going to be a daily part of life for a long time. How do you take time for your other children or your spouse when you’ve got to take care of (fill in the blank)?
Role Reversals We didn’t have that issue in 1989; but looking ahead, it’s a likely scenario for at least one of us. Being the child, now turned adult, who cares for the adult parent, now more childish in needs, has to be difficult. Financial decisions and daily hygiene and grooming can’t be ignored but not what any of us bargained for.
Personality Changes Again, not something we had to experience, but so many who’ve seen their elderly parent or a spouse fall victim to some form of dementia experience this daily. How to continue loving a person who is no longer the person you’ve always loved has got to be one of the worst kinds of stress. A friend shared with me today her hurt as she talked of a man she once loved who was left a quadriplegic in a recent automobile accident. He can do nothing for himself. An aging mother has to. Stress.
Finances It’s impossible to understand the stress of mounting bills for absolute essentials in caring for someone whose health is failing. Savings are depleted, retirement funds are cashed in, and hours at work are cut back. It’s a vicious cycle.
Decisions No Monday morning quarterbacking now. No “Well I know that if it were me, I would have …”. No one gets to make THE decisions—and you HAVE to. If you aren’t in the situations I’ve just described, you probably will be at some point. You definitely know someone who is. We absolutely have brothers and sisters in that role in our congregation at this moment. It brings a whole new perspective to the command to “love one another” (Jn. 13:34; 15:12,17; Rm. 13:8; 1 Thess. 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 Jn. 3:11,23; 4:7,11,12; 2 Jn. 5).
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016