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I settle into my seat in church, often a few minutes late. I try to pat my fly away hair into place and straighten my clothes. This morning has been rushed again. Of course, you barely know me. We exchange smiles.
I try to calm my rapidly beating heart. My husband is seated next to me. He looks fine. His clothes are in place. The last I looked, that wild spot on the back of his head wasn’t sticking out…yes, it is finally lying down!
Sunday mornings are often wild! We get up extra early on Sundays. 7:30 AM! That’s very early for us. I take my shower and wash my hair the night before, but he doesn’t. His pace was always slow and deliberate. Now it is even slower! Combine that with forgetful and it can take a very long time to get ready to go anywhere. If I am out of the room when he is getting ready, he takes the opportunity to lie down again. He is always tired and often forgets he is getting ready for church…or whatever event we happen to be preparing for.
I need to stay on my toes. The time flies and if I don’t keep checking on him, he will be back on the bed, asleep. As the year has gone by since his stroke, this is one problem that has not improved…some days it is worse!
Interacting with my family member at church encourages and support this caregiver as well as him.
One way you can offer support is to interact with my family member. In my case, my husband was a pastor. He was used to being busy and needed on Sun
One way you can offer support to this caretaker, is to interact with my loved one. Click To Tweetdays. It is not easy for him to be sitting around on a Sunday morning. He likes to have something to do.
In our case, we welcome people once a month often at the main door of the church. Sometimes, it involves giving out some bulletins as well. We hold doors open for people as they come in, make sure they feel welcome, and guide them to the places they may need to go before they sit down. Ron has one man he searches out each week to make sure he feels welcome. He sits way off to the side. Ron tends to look him up even when he isn’t an official welcomer.
I mention this because anything we can do to help our loved one interact with others at church and have them interact with him is very positive! There are some people who are mostly shut-in except for Sunday when they struggle to get out to church. It is important that we make a point of talking to them and to their caregivers because this is that rare time when they get out of the house. Finding out if they need help with anything, asking how they are…and giving them time to answer honestly. These are things we need to make a point of doing. (I’m preaching to myself now as well!)
I have noticed recently that Ron has done so much better as he has gotten to know more men in a men’s small group. Now they greet him and visit when they see him in the common areas at church. He comes home brighter and more alert rather than worn out and ready for a nap right away!
What are you looking at when you see the people we care for?
Realize that what you see in many people with drooped heads is not so much dementia, but either Parkinson’s (which gives more of a wooden look to a person’s face with not much expression) and/ or depression (which also takes away a lot of expression as depression gets more extreme causing flat affect). You won’t know until you talk to someone whether they are severely demented or not. At that point, they may not be talking, but they still may understand your words and attitudes. Kind words, a touch (when they aren’t always used to it) are blessings. Conversation from a different source is another one.
What team do they follow? What is their favorite TV show? What books do they enjoy? They are still the people they were when they were healthy, they just look different on the outside. Find the areas of commonality and work from there. Find ways to join them for those games. Your family can bring popcorn or an appropriate food, for their favorite team they watch and cheer them on. You can get together to watch that favorite TV show one night and bring a snack they are able to eat. It will cheer up the caregiver and their loved one. This goes double for a child who is sick.
Your ability to visit with them personally vs. visiting with their caretaker and talking about them in the third person, will be much more respectful of them even if their processing or speech is slow. I have found that people who have neurological issues tend to be more sensitive, not less, to how they are treated. They pick up quicker on the impatience of a person, the lack of interest in wanting to wait for their slow ability to speak or respond. Anything we can do to indicate we are willing to wait for them is helpful. For example, sitting at their level, getting closer so we can hear them, not paying attention to outside distractions and in general, focusing in on them!
Yes, I know we are talking about caretakers in this series. But what can be more encouraging to a caretaker than to have someone come to visit her loved one, who he loves having visit! It’s a win/win for all of them. Sometimes those bridges are built at church, even after the person’s illness has started. It’s not too early for your children to learn to greet some of these people and become friends with them. This kind of thing will happen with their grandparents someday. It will help them to have known others who have been ill along the way. It is part of life. They can learn how to love and care for them too.
Praying for us
Another way to offer support are to pray for us. Letting us know you are praying is encouraging too. When I know the people who pray for us, I can mention things to them that I wouldn’t normally mention to everyone. The mention that you are praying for us is no small thing!
As you pray for certain caretakers and their loved ones, ask GOD to show you some specific, tangible ways you could show your care for them. I’m not good at coming up with these ideas in a vacuum, but somehow, when I focus on a specific person or family, GOD brings lots of ideas to me.
There is nothing worse than sterile prayer. When all you hear is that someone prayed for you, but you never hear from them or see them, it feels very sterile. I encourage you not to be sterile in your prayers for caregivers in the past.
Visiting or going out to visit with us
Depending on the situation, make time to visit outside of church or church meetings. Not all caregivers are involved all the time. We can often get away for lunch or coffee, or if we have to be at the house, you can come by to visit during times when the person we are caring for is napping and we can have a cup of tea or coffee. It is a great time for the caretaker to have a nice visit about something other than what she is doing all the time there at the house. You may discover that she has an interesting hobby as well.
Finding or giving assistance with skills she needs to learn
Often, especially if the caregiver is spouse of the sick one, she must learn new skills because he can’t do things he once was able to do. Sometimes, they can be paid for (like a lawn service, etc.) but for other times, the cost may be quite a bit more, such as someone to come and manage all your finances. once you are aware of a need, you may not be able to fill the need, but you may be able to find someone who can help teach it.
Caregivers are going through their own stages of grief
Keep in mind that all caretakers are going through some stage of grief. That’s why they all seem to be coping in such a variety of ways. The stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. That gives quite a range. Yes, a person might have come to acceptance…or they might be in denial. Usually, people bounce from one stage to another, back and forth and back again. It is a process that is not at all static! If you bear that in mind, you will have more understanding of why your caretaker friend is so up and down in her emotions.Caregivers are going through grief, including: denial, anger, bargaining, depression or acceptance. Click To Tweet
Grief is an emotional process. Superimposed on it are the demands of the health condition of her loved one. She may also be stressed by financial demands as well as having to learn new skills to live her new life. So today, she is in denial, tomorrow, depression, the next day anger. If you are her friend, hang in with her and realize it is not personal. Just feed her truth and love her. As time goes by, she will get through it…by the grace of GOD!
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
***This is out of order. I had some technical difficulties that won’t get sorted out fully until tomorrow, so I had to punt and write a whole new post! I was not happy, but I survived to live another day…once again!