Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. In all your ways acknowledge HIM and He will make your paths straight.
— Proverbs 5:3
— Proverbs 5:3
Eph. 4:26 “In your anger do not sin.”
Each week I post news that I think might be helpful for caregivers to read. Some of the articles are inspirational, some educational and some are resources that might be helpful. I don’t post about 20% of the articles I find. They are news about caregiver abuse; financial, physical or emotional that involve law enforcement.
Recently, there was local news of a murder/suicide involving an elderly couple that could not deal with their struggles anymore. There are caregivers that misuse parents money. Some are emotionally cruel. It is a sad state of affairs when caregivers loose it and abuse their loved one. It is a warning to all caregivers to be careful and diligent in their responsibilities.
Caregivers are vulnerable and can come to the end of their rope without proper self care. Some in our Christian Caregiver Support Groups appreciate the confidentiality and support we provide. They have a place to just dump their feelings and not be condemned. We acknowledge that caregiving can be very hard and stressful. Most of the problems in the press involve caregivers who do not have a support group. Some wallow in self pity and become unloving and selfish. Some isolate themselves and their care receiver. They just get lost dealing with their feelings and responsibilities.
Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. It is our mission as Christian Caregiver Ministry to seek those who can benefit from our support. We offer understanding, care and encouragement to support each other. We read in scripture feelings similar to what we are experiencing and receive a word to handle our feelings in a Christian manner. We pray for one another and share hope to manage the load.
It is amazing that almost 20% of news articles about caregivers involve law enforcement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this ministry in churches could make a significant dent in that percentage? If your church wants to begin an outreach to caregivers, I would be glad to help in any way I can. Contact me and we can explore your options. Dr. Tom Frommer - 913-732-0703.
Here is an interesting thought from myths about the brain recently released in an article in USA Today.
I quote: Myth #2: We see the world as it is
"We absolutely don't see the world as it is. It may be more accurate to say, as wise men have always told us: 'We don't see the world as it is; we see the world as WE are.' The brain receives incomplete information from the world and tries to complete that information. One example is that we actually only receive low-resolution flat 2D images through our eyes and our brain turns that into the high-def 3D world we take for granted. We really do live in the matrix. We see what we want to see, and we find what we expect to find."
“We see what we want to see and find what we expect.” It may not be what is real. But if this research is correct, we can’t trust ourselves to see the world as it is.
I remember the FOG of stage one caregiving. It was the assessment time of trying to understand the situation and plan what needed to be done. The most helpful and lasting learning for me came from the spiritual side of caregiving. Reading and hearing the words of Scripture helped me see more of God’s perspective of life. When Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” over and over again especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus is claiming He see things as God sees them; as they really are. He tells it like it really is.
Is there a Christian way of perceiving caregiving? I believe there is. While I received help from Caregiver SOS in San Antonio and am very grateful that they were there for me, it was my own leaning and trusting on God that made my caregiver experience a deep and personal walk closer to God. I think my spiritual walk made me a better caregiver for my mother. My spiritual walk helped me take better care of myself.
While understanding the progression of a disease is important, I believe there is a common spiritual walk that helps caregivers deal with many different disease situations. Those who fix their eyes on Jesus and ask for God’s participation will receive it. Scripture encourages us to draw near to God and God gives us the promise He will draw near to us. Our minds can get in the way and take us to that place of loneliness and hopelessness. I guess that is why Paul in Romans 12 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. God is the one who sees things as they really are. We can trust what God tries to show us. When our minds are connected with God’s point of view, then, as Paul says, we will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is.
With humility and dependency it is good to get together with other Christians going through the journey of caregiving. We just might learn from each other and see life and our situation more clearly; as it really is.
I remember some training I received as a pastor in dealing with the hurts and pains shared with me during pastoral counseling. I was to have empathy and listen intently but not make the pain and hurts my own. The picture I placed in my mind was to accept the story the other person unloaded and after they left, let the story move from me to the trash can especially if it was related to a sin. It was not a disrespect of their story. It was a way to protect myself from keeping the paid and hurt in myself. After all, I was there to offer hope and encouragement through the Christian teaching of the scripture.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
When I became caregiver for my mom after my dad died I found it harder to not take everything personally and move things to the trash. There was just so much to deal with and I didn’t understand it all. I didn’t understand that as dementia increased, my mom’s ability to think about what she was saying would decrease. She would say embarrassing things in public. She would become unhappy and irritated as her eyesight and hearing diminished. She would experience sundowners syndrome and do bizarre things. She would hold me responsible when she felt uncomfortable and was unhappy. She said things that hurt. These were things I tried to take responsibility for. I found it hard to separate what I could control and what I could not control. For example she wanted to get out of her assisted living facility but when I would take her for an outing she would complain that she couldn’t see or hear. She got sick and went to the hospital. In the hospital she looked me in the eye and said, “Tom, how could you let this happen to me.” That hurt. I couldn’t keep this from happening to her. The comment pierced my heart. I couldn’t move it to the trash. I was responsible, but I felt inadequate.
I tried to place myself in her shoes to understand where she was coming from. Her husband of almost 70 years had recently died. I had moved her from her home. I had to take control of her medicines. She was losing her independence. She was having difficulty experiencing the activities in her facility. She was being attended to by a variety of new and strange people. She was losing the ability to talk on the phone. Most of the family and friends had already passed on. She wanted me to replace my dad and leave my wife because she was lonely.
It took a while to gain enough understanding to formulate a prayer. In the meantime all I could do was trust in God. The more I thought about what she was going through the easier it became to understand all that was going on inside her.
It is hard to let things go. I am a pastor and I should be able to handle all this. She wasn’t leaving my office with some counsel. It was too personal. I am connected to and responsible for my mom.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It was not easy for me not to be anxious. Jesus teaches in Matt. 6:25 not to worry. Both of these feelings are a part of caregiving. My mom was trusting me for her care. I did not want to let her down. God heard my prayers as I learned better how to pray. It is not the words of a prayer that made a difference. As I prayed God taught me more. God changed my hurt to peace and acceptance. I thanked God for any blessing that brought peace, especially to my mom. Now that my mom has gone to be with Jesus, I can see things more clearly. My heart has survived and expanded into a concern for other caregivers. My experience hasn’t given me an understanding of every caregiver need. It has, however, given me a peace to share. I try to find and share any information that I think might help someone. My heart now goes out to caregivers and their care receivers.
Sue Brettmann RN has been devoted to Caregiving both in her career as an RN, Parish Nurse and caring for her aging parents through the last 40 plus years. She has experience in trauma, home care and hospice. Her strong faith walk and relationship with Christ has always been a part of her care and she is committed to helping others see the gift of Christ in their personal journey's.