Caring for the caregiver

I receive a daily devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries. Today’s devotion was on caring for the caregiver. It really got me to thinking about all the people that have offered help on various occasions and those that actually come into our home on a regular basis to offer their time, encouragement, food, muscles…themselves. Here are some of my reactions to today’s devotion:

I, too, am finding myself on the path of being the caregiver. I am 40, my husband, 39, and we are now at the 2 year mark of his ALS journey. According to statistics, we are 2/3 of the way through this journey ending with my husband meeting Jesus long before we ever would have thought.

With three young sons in the house, ages 13, 11, and 10, there are constant drains on my system. The boys are constantly on the verge of falling off the cliff. My husband’s condition requires constant care – he is no longer able to do anything for himself. The paperwork to be done could create quite a large size bonfire! All this on top of what would normally be happening in our house anyway: two boys entering puberty, three school schedules, homework loads, sports, church, and so on. So what is the first thing to go? daily housework, homecooked meals, care of myself.

Suggestions of bringing meals to someone are wonderful, but might I add one thing to be careful of? We have had a never ending stream of sweets come into our home. I am truly appreciative for all the people that are bringing meals on occasion, and those that are helping to care for my husband are true saints. However, I don’t want to end this journey 20 pounds heavier than when I began. This isn’t to say a wonderful chocolatey dessert would never be welcome – just it’s hard to have sooo many sweets constantly lurking around my countertops! At this moment in time, we have two containers of cookies, a pan of bars, an apple pie, a plastic shoebox full of various goodies, and a bag of M&M’s.

Please use caution when choosing what to bless a family with. Everyone thinks that a plate of cookies, or a pie, or a pan of bars is just what we need. Truly, I would rather someone come with a case of toilet paper or a jug of milk. Showing up and asking where the all purpose cleaner is and “Point me to your laundry room.” would be welcome words. And sometimes, just offering to help with a “Call me sometime” isn’t enough. Actually calling me or emailing me and setting up a specific time will guarantee that you will be able to help. If it’s up to me to call you back, chances are, it will never happen. I have so many other things to keep track of. It actually becomes more work than it’s worth to have to remember who to call back.

And one last thing about helping a caregiver – serve without expectation of repayment – even in the form of a thank you. Just yesterday, two different families brought meals for us to church to pass on to us in the morning. One man mentioned that his family had brought something for us and told me where it was. Before I left the church a couple hours later, I had (and still have) completely forgotten who it was that brought that meal. We will be eating it tonight, so thank you to the family that brought us this casserole – though for the life of me I can’t remember who gave it to us!!

Just a few tips as you consider how you might be able to care for a caregiver. Wherever you live, you can look around you and find a few people that could use a break – whether you help clean their house, cook 10 freezer meals for them, sit with their loved one so they can take a nap or a shower, run errands for them or whatever other creative ideas you find. May you find a blessing in what you do to help someone else. It’s a guarantee they are receiving a blessing by your help.

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