Many of us are caregivers for our parents. My mother is 95 and has been living in close proximity to me for 11 years now. She is now living in a nursing home after a terrible fall in February, 2008. I visit her almost daily. She is diabetic and has dementia. I have become quite knowledgeable about both diseases. Learning how to be a giver of care, understanding what not to do in trying to be a good one, I continuously face challenges. It has come by trial and error, reading, sharing information with others who are in a similar situation. The basics of caregiving are done in the same way whether one is a believer or a nonbeliever, though, as a Christian we desire to take a path close to the heart of God in our obedience to His call.
‘You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.’ Leviticus 19:32 NIV
I want the best for my mother. I want her to be comfortable and cared for. The LORD has truly blessed us with a nursing home where she is truly cared for and about. Yes, we have had our issues, but I have learned how to approach the concerns in order to get things handled. Yes, they are short of staff regularly, overworking many making the turnover rate high, but those who stay know Mom and love her. They also know me well. They have come to know that I am a Christian as I willingly pray with some of the residents, offer assistance when I can without overstepping the family/staff boundaries, and hug and/or touch many. I am not afraid of these elderly folks who once had a vital life. I ask questions to know more of who they are. I am willing to give those much needed hugs, and, pointedly, to the ones who have no family visiting them. They become family for me. The responses always amaze me. A touch, a hug, or an “Hello, Mrs. …”, “Mr. …”, can often bring a sweet head on my shoulder, a smile or laughter, a hand that won’t let go of mine. Talking about the outside world, even my world, with Mom’s table mates during a meal … they need stimulation and fellowship. They need love and joy.
Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 NIV
As Mom goes through terrible phases of dementia such as anger, jealousy, hatred, rebellion, hallucinations, false accusations, she is still my mother. She is the one who bore me and raised me. She loved me and still does. I love her and honor her. I treat her as my mother, not as a child or someone who acts weirdly. The others who suffer an illness, have had a stroke, have a mental illness, are growing older and need people who will accept them the way they are today. This verse in 1 Timothy moves me by the last three words: “with absolute purity”. There is no better way to treat them then from a pure heart, a heart wholly of God.
Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4 NKJV
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death. Psalm 48:14 KJV
The Holy Spirit will teach me if I listen, keeping my heart-ears and eyes wide open for His word, for what He desires of me. He also reminds me in these two verses that God will take care of my Mama. He assures her that He will be there for her until the very end of her life here on earth.
As we care for these precious ones, they are God’s children, too. They are to be seen from the inside outward as God knows them. He knows them intimately. We may be exhausted from years of care, whether it is mostly physical care, or emotional turmoil due to dementia or Alzheimer Disease, or both, or watching and caring for one who is slowly losing abilities. By treating them with godly wisdom, with godly love, with godly peace, God will allow us to know His children. He will walk every step of the way with us, if only we will remain under His wing.
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21 NASB
LORD, may I walk in Your way, the way You have predetermined for my life. This caregiving has been tough at times, pleasant at times. It has never been easy, but You have always been with me and directing my steps. I am sorry when I have done things my way. Forgive me, LORD. You have given me strength for each day, a temperament that has endured through struggles beyond my imagination, love that could only come from You. I thank You for giving me these eleven years with my mother close by. I am here with her for however long she is on this earth. Thank You for teaching me how to give care, how to love unconditionally, how to be gentle and kind even when Mom or someone else is not either of those qualities. Thank You for loving me and upholding me even when I am not worthy of Your love or Your arms. Thank You for my doctor who could see my heart on the outside, how it was breaking and weary. Thank You for his experience in a similar situation of his own that he would understand and be able to guide me in and around some rough corners. Thank You for Mama’s doctor who understands palliative care. I thank You for my incredibly understanding husband (who also spent years giving care to both of his parents). I am truly blessed. Amen.
Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.Deuteronomy 5:16 KJV