How You Can Care for Your Caregivers
Learning how to be on the receiving end of care during traumatic times is difficult at best, but it can also be a rewarding experience that greatly enriches the life of both you and your caregiver.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Most of us will need a caregiver at some point in our lives. Learning to navigate the new landscape of illness or physical challenges is difficult, and caregivers do the wonderful work of helping us. But even if you have the most skilled caregiver, the shift from caring for yourself to receiving care from someone else can be humbling and anxiety-provoking. I know, because although I am healthy enough to be able to take care of myself and my family on most days, this was not always the case. I spent a decade being mostly homebound, with friends, family, and paid “helpers” making up a brigade of caregivers for which I will always be grateful. Learning how to be on the receiving end of care during traumatic times is difficult at best, but it can also be a rewarding experience that greatly enriches the life of both you and your caregiver.
There is no guidebook to tell you how to navigate life when an accident or illness strikes. So there is nothing to teach you how to best interact with the caregivers who enter your life. Or is there?
The Bible is full of advice for how we should treat others, including those who are in our families or in our employ. If you have a caregiver, read these tips to discover the joy of ministering to someone who ministers to you. Even if you do not currently have a caregiver, you can benefit from the truths presented here.
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The Small but Powerful Act of Noticing
First, begin to recognize your caregivers by noticing all of the ways they help you. A caregiver might drive you to a doctor’s appointment or pick up your prescriptions. They might cook your meals, clean your home, or even help with your hygiene needs. A caregiver may be part-time or they may be living with you and helping every day. They might have a temporary place in your life, as you expect to recover the ability to care for yourself, or they might provide care for an ongoing health issue. A caregiver is oftentimes a family member or other loved one, but whether they are paid or not, they are often doing it as a ministry and an expression of the gifts they have been given.
If you recently began needing a caregiver, you have probably just experienced radical changes in your life. An accident or heart attack may have altered your circumstances. You might have been diagnosed with a disease, or you may live with severe chronic pain. Whatever caused your need for someone to help you, it is likely a difficult adjustment. You might even begin to envy those who are healthy, which can lead you to resent even those who love and care for you. The shock of losing your independence may open a door to self-pity or fear. It is difficult to deal with the feelings of loss that arise, and those who are close to us often bear the brunt of our frustrations. Pain, fatigue, and loneliness may have even ushered in the habit of chronic complaining. If we indulge our self-pity, and allow entitlement to take over, we may forget to treat others with kindness and love. If any of this has happened in your life, there is still good news! With God’s help, you can change unhealthy methods of coping. How can you change these patterns? Begin today by asking forgiveness for a complaining spirit or a demanding attitude. Ask God for the grace to take your complaints to Him, praying with thanksgiving even in this season of your life. Make amends to those who you have wronged by asking their forgiveness. It is not too late to start anew.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
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Trust That Changes the Heart
We may not be able to control our health issues, but we can always control our attitudes about them. When you allow difficult outward circumstances to dictate your attitude, it will always impact those who care for you. Suddenly, nothing they do for you is “good enough” because it does not fix the real issue: a discontented spirit. Friend, I understand this struggle all too well. It can play itself out in many ways. For instance, there have been times when a caregiver or family member mistakenly got the wrong items from the store. This simple mistake would lead to feelings of aggravation that had less to do with whether or not they got my preferred brand of rice cakes and more to do with my lack of control over my circumstances. Relying on someone to meet my wants and/or needs when I so desperately wanted to meet them myself was a stark reminder of my limitations. What I needed, really needed, was the contentment that comes from trusting God in the midst of difficulty. Your caregiver cannot deliver your contentment; it must come from Christ. He gives both the strength to endure and the blessing of contentment when you find it in Him. You may feel chained by your afflictions, but read what Paul wrote when he was in actual chains and needed help with his daily needs:
“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Philippians 4:10-14 NLT)
Paul served God even though he needed caregivers to help him, and you can do the same. Allow God to show you the ways you can continue to serve Him. Prayer is a ministry that can be done from a bed, even a hospital bed. You are lifted from your own pain as you petition God on another’s behalf. You might speak a word of encouragement to those who help you or visit you. This way, you can minister to those who minister to you. When you are not able to drive, cook, or even bathe, the focus has likely been on you and your care. But let me encourage you that even when you are bedridden or hospitalized, you can look for opportunities to be a blessing. Discipline yourself to go outside of your situation by reaching out to those who are reaching out to you. In doing so, you can begin to reclaim a measure of joy and meaning in your life.
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Here are 3 ways to care for your caregiver:
1. Express Gratitude:
Thanking someone who helps you may seem obvious, but the truth is that many caregivers are taken for granted. Whether the person helping to care for you is a family member or a paid employee, everyone needs to hear words of encouragement and gratitude. You might write a note telling your caretaker something you especially appreciate. Small acts of kindness can also show that you care about them. One time I bought a pack of purple pens as a “thank you” to a home health nurse who loved using purple pens. It was not a difficult thing for me to do, but it showed her that I noticed her, and that I was grateful for her care.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).
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2. Communicate Well:
Being bold enough to state your needs can be difficult, but if you do not express yourself, your frustration can lead to resentment. Allow others the blessing of helping you when you need help. Safeguard the precious relationship between you and your caregiver by clearly communicating your needs. Remember that there is a difference between barking out a command and letting someone know what you need. No one likes to be spoken to in a harsh manner, particularly when they are in the position of helping you.
“Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5 AMP).
3. Pray for them:
When I was going through cancer treatments, I had a wonderful caregiver who was a blessing to my family. She helped in many ways, but one of the most wonderful ways she gave support was by praying with me. I called upon her expertise for this article, asking what helped her to feel supported and appreciated when she was a caregiver. One of her answers was that I always prayed for her and her family when we prayed aloud together. You may be shy or timid about praying aloud, but there is so much power in praying together! If your caregiver is comfortable praying with you, be sure that you pray for them as well. Even if you do not pray together, you can always let them know you are praying for their needs. Most people are quite touched that you care enough to pray for them. They are helping you in your struggles; perhaps God wants to use you to help them in theirs!
“Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:30).
We are accountable to God for how we treat those who serve us during this time in our lives. God placed your caregiver in your life to help you. But have you thought to ask God why He placed you in your caregiver’s life? You still have gifts to offer others, and your caregiver may need the encouragement and faith-building that come from the ways you demonstrate your care for them.
“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
Andrea Herzer has spent the past two decades enduring life with multiple illnesses, including Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, so she is intimately acquainted with the hardships that accompany debilitating health issues. She writes devotionals on her Facebook Group (Abundant Life for Abundant Illness) to help others who are in the midst of pain and suffering. Andrea is currently completing her first devotional book, The Way Through Illness. Andrea lives in Texas with remarkable husband Mark. They have three nearly-grown children, Carly, Sarah, and Zach. She can be reached here for speaking engagements or interest in her book proposal.