From the Rector…
I am not a great caregiver. It is one of my many faults. I don’t have a lot of patience with dependency. I don’t mind being dependable—but I am hesitant for someone to depend on me. Steve can attest to this. The past few weeks he has been healing from hip replacement surgery. The surgery went very well as has the healing process. Steve has done a great job focusing on his recovery. He has done everything the doctor and physical therapist have told him to do.
I’ve done my part schlepping ice hither and yon and even tie his shoelaces, but it is hard to be a caregiver. I’ve only had to do this for a few days, and it wasn’t that hard—cook meals, keep up with meds, change the ice out. I think about those who are caregivers for loved ones over extended periods. As my mom cared for my dad and his needs became more and more demanding, her attention to her own life and business began to wane. She grew weary, even hopeless at times. Her joy was lessened. Even though I know how much she loved my father, the demands and challenges of taking care of him in those last few months were almost too much. It is easy to see how caregivers can become so overwhelmed.
It’s not simply the physical toll caregiving can take on a person, it is also the mental and spiritual health that becomes at risk. Caregivers can suffer from physical strain in the amount of lifting, bending, etc required to care for someone who cannot do for themselves. But the amount of care someone else requires of a person can have detrimental effects on the social, emotional, and intellectual state as well. Caregivers can struggle with feelings of guilt, isolation, loneliness, depression, anger, even suicidal thoughts. And they often do it silently. What we don’t think about or often realize, is that caregivers need to be cared for too.
There are places for professional help when these negative effects of caregiving begin to weigh a caregiver down—support groups and counseling are great ways to talk about the challenges one faces in caring for another and help to reshape a caregiver’s perspective. A caregiver can also lean on friends and family for help and comfort. The caregiver doesn’t want to be a burden to others and so they don’t ask for help. They may even turn down an offer of help because of this concern. Offer anyway and try to be specific. Too often caregivers don’t even know what they need anymore as they are so attuned to the needs of whoever they are caring for. Instead of offering to help in general terms, make a specific offer that might attend to a need you have noticed. It might be as simple as washing the dishes or helping with laundry. It might be a run to the grocery store. It doesn’t have to be big, for most people the offer simply assures them that they are not alone. It may also help them to feel “seen” as the burdens in their life are legitimized by your offer to make them less burdensome.
Though there is not a specific prayer for the caregiver in the Book of Common Prayer, there are some very good prayers that can be slightly edited to pray for caregivers. Pages 458-461 have a plethora of prayers for the sick that can easily be adapted to prayers for those who care for the sick. Praying for caregivers is as important as praying for the sick. Even better, send the caregiver a note letting them know you are praying for them. The notes and texts and calls I have received over the last couple of weeks have been restorative to my strength and a boost to my endurance. Knowing I am cared about by so many, helps me to be a better caregiver to Steve. Thank you for that.
Steve is well on his way to a full recovery. He has gone back to work for a couple of hours each day and just started driving again. I feel a bit of the weight of his recovery has lifted from my shoulders and can attend more fully to the church and my personal life again. I don’t resent caring for Steve—I actually like spending more time with him—but I also know that caregiving is not one of my gifts. I am great at praying for the sick and I have prayed a lot for Steve the last couple of weeks—fortunately God has affirmed those prayers of healing and I am most thankful for that—but make me change a bandage or deal with blood, stitches, or anything of the like and you might want to look for someone else to help. Fortunately, I haven’t had to do too much of that this time. We have made it through in large part thanks to a church full of people who have lifted us in prayer and kept us well supplied with food and flowers, kind notes and thoughtful gifts. You have attended the sick and cared for this caregiver. Thanks Church of the Ascension for your love and support.
Light and Life,