Caregiving

When I was a child I rarely considered what it meant to become elderly. I certainly didn’t think life would become more difficult when someone I loved needed caregiving assistance in her elder years. Now that I am a senior myself, I see how complicated life can be.

A caregiver is defined as “an individual who provides assistance to someone who is unable to care for his or her responsibilities and needs.” This might include help with finances, health care decisions, funeral arrangements, shopping, moving from a home to assisted living or to a nursing home, Power of Attorney for finances and health care, along with numerous other challenges. I find myself involved in all of these matters.

 

As I researched what caregiving is and how it affects the caregiver, I found some staggering statistics. Sixty-nine percent of caregivers assist one person, about 50 percent of those help approximately eight hours per week, 17 percent of those assist for 40 or more hours per week.  The average length of caregiving is a bit over four years. My involvement with my loved one has been going on 14 years, and for a while, I was caregiving for two family members at the same time.

 

There have been times when I have been resentful and perhaps unloving regarding my caregiving responsibilities. When I find this happening, I take myself to Scripture to see what God has to say. Here are a few things I’ve learned: first, the person I am caring for (and myself) is made in God’s image Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:4-8; and second, the person I am caring for has a body, heart, and soul Genesis. 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7; John 3:6. These aspects must be foremost in my caregiving. For me this means checking my emotions, thoughts, motives, and actions to be sure they are meeting God’s standards. I need to be aware of my temptations, such as anger, fear, and indispensability. I have learned to ask myself questions about who I am angry at and identify false statements such as “I deserve better than this,” “There’s no way I can do this for the long haul,” and some of my favorite ones, “Nobody can do it better than I can,” “No one cares about me except…,” and “If I don’t do it, nobody will.” There have been times when I feel God has put more on my plate than I can handle, so I also ask God every day for wisdom and power through His Spirit 2 Peter 1:3.

 

Burnout is potentially a big problem for caregivers. Almost everyone is prone to it, some more than others. It can sneak up on you without you even knowing it happens. It is defined as “a feeling of emotional or physical exhaustion, which comes after we have had prolonged responsibilities with people and work situations that demand our time, strength, and energy.” Some of the indicators are: detaching self from other people, headaches, tiredness, sleeplessness, depression, forgetfulness, and relational challenges. We need to make sure we guard against it.

 

Here are a few things to remember as you go through caregiving’s ups and downs:
SUSAN E. BUTCHER

SUSAN E. BUTCHER

Susan is a certified life coach through the American Association of Christian Counselors, grief counselor and freelance writer. Additionally, she is a seasoned speaker and Bible teacher. She lives in Milwaukee, WI.

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