Aging Loved One
Caring for an Aging Loved One
Larry Link, Minister to Boomers & 2nd HALF
First Baptist Church Arlington, Texas
All of us know that our parents, spouse and other family members will eventually grow old and face the inevitable health challenges. We even understand that sickness and death are part of living in a fallen world. But we are never quite ready for these realities to hit our own loved ones – especially when a debilitating disease gradually robs them of a once active life or seeps away their memories.
For almost 20 years my wife and I had responsibilities with our parents who were dealing with dementia and failing health. We were among the forty percent of caregivers with children still at home, and understand the stress and heartache this family season brings. For many, it becomes necessary to back out of nearly everything else in order to fulfill our primary calling to “be Jesus” by serving an aging loved one during their final days.
If you find yourself facing a similar situation, whether with a parent or a spouse, you can take steps to become proactive by understanding some of what this season will bring, including…
LINGERING GRIEF – Long before an aging spouse or parent takes their final breath you will experience an underlying grief as you observe their loss of vitality, strength, mental faculties and other traits that make them the person you love. Mixed with the physical and emotional exhaustion this season can bring – you may even feel yourself slipping into depression. Seek help to avoid allowing these feelings to overtake you, but recognize that such emotions are normal and testify to just how valuable the person you are losing has been.
SPECIAL GRACE – The most common duties caregivers handle are transportation, grocery shopping, household chores, help with medications, and assistance with bathing and dressing. Despite the humble nature of such activities, the majority of caregivers use words like “rewarding” and “happy” to describe the care giving process. Clearly, God gives a special grace to those who humble themselves to serve the aging and ailing. In many instances, other decisions must be made for their care.
CHANGING ROLES – The care giving child gradually becomes the parent. The care giving spouse is no longer able to rely on her husband’s strength or wife’s support. Primary caregivers can also encounter strained relationships with other members of the family who may expect input on or question difficult decisions. In one way or another, expect these relationships to change as a loved one’s health deteriorates.
FAMILY STRESS – For those who are married and raising their own children, caring for an aging loved one can add tremendous stress to the family dynamic. There is less time, less marital energy, less patience with childhood irresponsibility, and less ability to give everyone the attention they need. That’s why it is important to involve the whole family in the care giving experience. Everyone will need God’s special grace, so be intentional about giving them opportunities to participate in what can be described as the ultimate family service project.
If you are in the midst of this season, our prayer is that God will give you the strength and grace needed to face the prolonged grief and quiet sacrifices required.
Dear Lord – please come alongside those of us called to care for an aging or dying loved one. Help us to “be Jesus” like we’ve never been before! Amen.
Pastoral insights from Kurt Bruner, The Center for Strong Families
GOING FURTHER – Resources
Helping Your Aging Loved Ones by Jim Hughes
Presents detailed advice for basic care giving, caregiver stress, your team of helpers, housing alternatives, etc.(Available to check out in the FBCA Library)
Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones (from Focus on the Family)
Offers very practical advice to those trying to navigate the many decisions and issues associated with caring for an aging spouse, parent or other loved one.
www.CarePages.com is a free online tool used to give status updates to friends and family when a loved one is facing a sickness or injury. Those across the country can go to the site and get updates day or night without interrupting the loved one’s rest or adding to the caregivers “call me” list. It can also be used to inform local friends and family of current needs.
GOING FURTHER – Church Support
Our Boomer Ministry, led by Larry Link, will assist you in discovering your mission in this new stage of life, grow in relationships of people in this same stage, and learning more about how God has designed you to live for these next few decades!
Periodic programming is offered for caregiving. A seminar will be presented on Tuesday – November 4, 2014 for the purpose of advising how to have advanced planning in order.