A gentle and helpful article from guest contributor Sally Perkins
Looking after an elderly loved one is without any doubt a labor of love. While the love aspect goes without saying, it is all too easy to fail to give the word “labor” enough attention. Being a carer is physically hard work and spiritually draining, particularly if you are witnessing the mental or physical deterioration of a loved one.
As a caregiver, you are neither being fair on yourself nor on the person to whom you are providing care if you fail to look after your own spiritual wellbeing. Many carers find themselves struggling to find the time to pray, attend their place of worship and call on the other support aspects of their faith, right at a time when they need it most.
With this in mind, it is essential to make use of the help and resources that are available. While the wish to take full responsibility for your loved one is understandable, the fact is that more seniors enter long term care because of caregiver burnout than because of their own deteriorating condition.
It is therefore essential to find the right balance between caring for your loved one and taking the time to maintain your faith through active prayer, social interaction and other activities, to keep your own batteries fully charged.
So how can you avoid becoming another statistic? Here are some tips:
- Find out what services are available in your local area to provide the help you need.
- Make a habit of taking time for your spiritual wellbeing, through prayer, music or fellowship. Attend your place of worship as usual, no excuses!
- Listen to other family members and accept their help and support. They offer it because they want to give it, do not shut them out.
- Have a regular schedule, particularly when it comes to mealtimes – that means you, not just your loved one!
- Plan ahead, and include enjoyable pastimes in your schedule.
- Monitor your own health and take regular exercise, even if it is just a walk round the block.
- Focus on the positives. There will always be times of adversity, but by meeting the challenges head on and with a smile, you and your loved ones will come out with strength and grace.
- See things from the other side. How would you feel if someone was caring for you? Chances are, you would be horrified if you thought your carer’s spiritual health was suffering.
Faith and courage
Taking care of an elderly family member with deteriorating health can be one of the most painful and difficult challenges, yet is is something all of us face at one time or another. This is a time when your faith and spirituality is more important than ever. Meet the challenge with faith and courage, to make sure those final years are filled with memories that everyone can treasure.