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.