Monday, July 30, 2012

Other Life Lessons Taught by Caregiving

In my last post we talked about some of the life lessons taught by caregiving. There are so many lessons a caregiver can learn through his or her experience with caregiving that it can not be contained in just one entry. I am sure we could fill many posts talking about life lessons learned while being a caregiver.

Caregiving by its nature teaches what is important and what is not important. It teaches that frivolous material things are NOT important. Family and relationships ARE important. As a caregiver I also was reminded that my treasures did not lie in earthly things but it heavenly things. My faith in my Lord God and my relationship with Him was and is alone of supreme value. Caregiving because of its challenges and sometimes heartaches further often tested my beliefs between what I said I believed and what I really believed in regards to my faith in my Lord.

Caregiving also teaches us that knowing the “why” of why our loved ones became ill would not take away the emotional pain of watching our loved ones suffer through the effects of their illnesses. Some things are just too difficult for our human minds to understand, and some things just have to be left in God’s hands.

Another important truth learned from caregiving is that God is good. Circumstances may be bad, but God is good. God is the very definition and essence of goodness. He proved that by sending His son on the cross. Thus He can help and guide caregivers who are struggling to make their way through the maze of making impossible and confusing decisions about their loves one’s care. He can help caregivers who are struggling to keep emotional and spiritual equilibrium in the midst of the heartaches of seeing their loved ones decline in their health.

Caregiving further teaches that joy can coexist in the midst of the heartaches and grief that often accompany caregiving. This is because joy is not based on circumstances which are favorable or perfect. Rather it is based on a relationship with the Lord.

Finally caregiving teaches that God is sovereign and in control. Nothing happens to a Christian caregiver or his or her loved one that is not filtered through His love. This is true even in the heartbreaking events which often accompany caregiving. This is a hard truth to accept. When this truth is accepted, however, it a soft place to land when overwhelmed with caregiving difficulties or life’s difficulties in general.

Today, July 30, 2012 would have been my husband’s and my 41rst wedding anniversary. Caregiving and watching my husband decline in his health and then his death in January of 2011 has been one of my life’s most difficult tests. Knowing I could trust that God loved me and was in control in the midst of the confusion and grief of it all made and continues to make all the difference in the world. Dear Christian Caregiver, never forget that the Lord loves you, and He is good. He is in control.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Valuable Life Lessons Taught by Caregiving

Caregiving by its very nature tends to teach valuable life lessons. In many ways caregiving is a grief process for caregivers, as they see their loved ones continue to decline. Caregiving is a difficult process and experience. As a caregiver for my husband for over four and one half years I also found the caregiving experience to be a great teacher, however.

I think caregiving and its challenges teaches us that God uses even the difficulties and heartbreak of caregiving for ultimate good. Caregiving and life in general is often difficult. That comes from living on this earth. Yet we know that God does not waste our sorrows. When we think of Jesus dieing on the cross we know that eternal life came from that death on the cross. From something so awful as Christ’s crucifixion came the best thing that could possible happen namely our salvation. So very good things come from very bad things. The cross illustrates that to us. In the same way God brings ultimate good out of the heartbreak of caregiving. He uses caregiving to build our characters, draw us closer to Himself, and in a host of other ways. God never wastes our sorrows.

I think caregiving also teaches us that life is always out of our control. We live in a fallen world. Hence, seeking self-sufficiency is a terrible place to be. Delusions of strength and self-sufficiency will in fact hurt us. Caregivers are often great organizers and great advocates for the loved ones under their care, but they also soon realize that they are not sufficient in themselves. The job of caregiving is too big for them in their own strength. Realizing their need for their dependence on the Lord is essential. I know when I was a caregiver if I had not known that the Lord was with me, I would have folded under the pressure. Acknowledging one’s weakness and dependence on the Lord is a good thing. It is a valuable lesson to learn. Caregiving often teaches that lesson.

In the whole caregiving scenario it is good whenever possible to accept and enlist the help of other people also. This help could be emotional encouragement or physical help in the care of the caregiver’s loved one. Accepting or asking for help never comes naturally, but we must be humble enough to accept it. Hence, humility is often a lesson taught by the caregiving experience.

For a variety of reasons, however, sometimes others will let us down and not be there when we need them. That was surely my experience as a caregiver. The Lord, however, will never let us down or betray us. He really is the only One who can get into the caregiver’s head and understand all the emotions and heartaches that he or she is feeling. He alone is the One to whom we can go and pour out our hearts, and also allow Him to speak to us. The Christian caregiver can speak to the Lord all through the day at any moment. Caregiving and it’s difficulties allows the caregiver an opportunity to pray like never before. As I said before, I do not know what I would have done without the presence of the Lord in my life during those difficult caregiving years.

Finally, caregiving teaches the need for the promises of the Bible to sustain us. As a caregiver I found that it was essential to try to begin every day in God’s Word. God’s Word contains so many awesome promises of His care, guidance, and presence. Hence, I found the promises of the Bible comforting and necessary in my duties as a caregiver. Caregiving is so very emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. Without the promises of God’s Word I do not think I could have survived my caregiving days. Dear Christian Caregiver, read God’s Word, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and internalize it.

So dear Christian Caregiver, lean on the Lord and on His promises in the Bible, and trust that He will bring good out of the chaos of caregiving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Too Much For Me?

Dear family caregiver, have you ever said to yourself, “This is too much for me! I can not handle the stress and emotional burdens of caregiving one more day!” I know I thought those thoughts when I was a caregiver.

One day in the middle of July of 2010 I was feeling pretty discouraged. I was seeing some more serious declines in my husband’s health. The life expectancy after diagnosis of his rare neurological disease (multiple systems atrophy type c) I had been led to believe was six to ten years. Wayne’s declines were coming so fast, however, that I felt as if I was always a step behind in keeping up with them As it turned out Wayne only lived about four and a half years after diagnosis and about five and half months after that discouraging day in July of 2010.

On that day in mid July I found myself having a good cry. At that time I hardly ever cried, because I felt I had to stay so strong all the time. So this was a bit rare for me then. First of all Wayne had been spending a lot of his time sleeping away his days. Then we had experienced some rather difficult transfers from his wheelchair to the bathroom and back to his wheelchair the day before. I also had recently received some other discouraging news. I was feeling like I could not do this anymore. I was feeling as if it was all too much for me.

How different one day can make. The next day or so I received a card in the mail from my son from IA family. The front of the card read like this, “Nothing that comes your way is too much for you. No matter what it is, God is more than equal to it—you’re not, but He is and He lives in you.” Wow! Talk about a message from God just when I really needed it. Inside the card was written a personal message thanking me for all that I did for Wayne, my son’s Dad.

Earlier in that same week I had placed an ad in our local village ad paper for caregiving help for an hour once or twice a week in the evenings to get my husband to the bathroom and into bed. I thought I would be doing good if I received just one reply. Well, that ad paper came out that same day, and I received 5 replies. I was able to set up with one of these woman who responded to come in twice a week and later three times a week for an hour each at bedtime. The rates also were very reasonable. So that was another spirit lifter that day. This lady helped me the last months of my husband’s life. Also at the very end my local son was also able to step up and help me.

Those caregiving years especially the last months were very difficult and emotionally and physically challenging, but God was with me each step of the way. He paved the way. He will pave the way for you also, dear Christian caregiver.


Sunday, July 8, 2012


The emotional burdens that accompany caring for loved one can be heavy at times. This is especially true, if the loved one has a terminal illness. Turning to the Lord is really the only resource for these kind of emotional burdens. On July 12, 2010 in the midst of my days caring for my husband I wrote the following:

“I am seeking this month to replace carrying around my emotional burdens with consciously seeking to release them to God in prayer. Every time a negative emotion comes up and they have continued to come up, I have resolved to take a deep breath and release it or give it to God. Like one releases a balloon I want to continually release these feelings to God.

I am serious enough about this that I have even made a visual of this with my computer print program. My picture is of a kite floating in the air and also of a hot air balloon. I also have the names of emotionally negative feelings I want released from my life. So how well am I doing? I think it is helpful to have this resolve and word picture in my mind. I am consciously trying to release the negative emotions as they come up. I also realize, however that this will be a continual battle, because the negative emotions come up so easily and without warning.

When I think too hard about how far down my husband has declined in the last four years it is still easy to become sad. When I think about his latest transition downward, so that he requires my help every time he needs to use the bathroom and all the ramifications of that, it is easy to feel discouraged. When my husband’s spends many hours some days sleeping it is easy to feel lonely, trapped, and frustrated. When I wonder how long I can take care of him before he needs to go to a nursing home, I feel frightened and a host of other emotions. Caregiving is demanding enough, however, without carrying around the extra negative emotions. Moreover my God wants me to release them to Him. He wants me to trust Him

When I think about my picture I wonder if the kite or the hot air balloon is a better picture. It would seem the hot air balloon is a better word picture. With the kite I am still hanging on to the string trying to maintain control. Perhaps both are good word pictures. There are things I can and must do as an instrument in God’s hands in regards to my husband’s health care. Negative emotions and things beyond my control have to be completely released, however. In that instance, the hot air balloon is a better illustration.

So again, how am I doing? There are still many negative emotions and sad moments, but I am fighting the fight. I am seeking to release. I call that victory moment by moment. I call that falling down and then getting up again. I call that being a weak human with supernatural help from above, if I just avail myself of it.

Matthew 11:28-30 in the Bible has become a favorite of mine. It says, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'  I have been given the burden of my husband’s disease, but my burden of the negative emotions that accompany that can become light. All I have to do is release them.”

Dear Christian Caregiver, What emotional burden can you release today? With what can you replace that emotion? Give it to the Lord, dear caregiver.