5 Steps for Successful Caregiving
Try these helpful steps as you navigate your own way or help the women in your ministry take on the new role of caregiving.
1. Practice Empathy.
There is a paradox in the family dynamics of caregiving—the more you do, the less you may be appreciated by a dependent loved one, while the less your siblings do, the more they may be appreciated. A parent may be attempting to rationalize lack of attention from one child by picturing that person in a rosier light than is realistic. Try to put yourself in the shoes of your aging parent. Practice empathy. It is difficult to show consistent compassion and understanding in a family setting, but exercising those muscles is the key to strength and flexibility.
2. Work with What You’ve Been Given.
Regardless of how family dynamics manifest themselves in the caregiving process, work with what you have been given. Tap into your deepest reservoirs of strength by putting on the full armor of God each day and praying with all kinds of prayers and requests in the Spirit (Eph. 6:10-18). Model love in action rather than mere feeling. Try to maintain a healthy balance between work and recreation, between time for your parents and time for your children, your spouse, your mental health, your spiritual health, and your physical health. Look for family to bring unique and wonderful gifts to the process, and forgive family members and siblings when they do not live up to your expectations. You may need to be forgiven too.
3. Ask for Support.
Empathy and support take many forms, but sometimes you have to ask for them. Use e-mail, telephone calls, cards, letters, and personal visits to keep in consistent touch with siblings and other family members. Reach out to family and friends with a hug, a handshake, and a helping hand. Don't be ashamed to ask favors from relatives, even if they seem busy—busyness can be a smoke screen for feelings of helplessness. People will often wait, wishing to be asked, wanted, or needed. Don't be too proud to receive support when offered. Allow others to share in the fulfillment of caregiving.
4. Share Lessons Learned.
As you share responsibilities with family, share your common stories, too. Recall old times to yourself and to your brothers and sisters. Tell your children the lessons you learned from the hard times. Let the memories flow—both good and bad. Everything you have experienced together has made up your particular family history. That continuity between generations provides a context for an emotionally secure old age for the elderly.
5. Be Joyful.
Make joy your goal in the family dynamics of caregiving. Remember, joy never excludes sorrow, distress, or pain. Joy rises from a deeper place and permeates the saddest of times or grimmest of circumstances. Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances; rather, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Even in difficult caregiving situations or in weighty decisions that families must make, peace is possible when we let Christ be Lord of our concerns.