Often, family caregivers find themselves caring for aging family members who helped raise them through their most formative years. This is Grandparents’ Week, and throughout history, grandparents have played an invaluable role in raising their grandchildren. This was not my experience since my grandparents lived far away, and I saw them infrequently. Chris’s grandmothers were both very involved in his early years. In fact, his entire extended family was very close and gathered together as often as possible. All the adults helped, in some part, to raise the children. Our three children have a wealth of knowledge and instruction gleaned from time spent with older aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmothers alike.
Our families shape us in many ways as we grow from childhood into being an adult. How many of your values, morals, and spiritual beliefs have their foundations in lessons learned on your parents’ or grandparents’ knees? What life principles were discovered around the dining room table, or while you played in the yard while older family members sat in the shade and swapped stories? Whether or not you embraced all those wise nuggets, they helped mold you into the person you are today. Face it, you are made up of all those memories, experiences, wet kisses, and bear hugs.
Family caregivers are usually caring for people they love. Some provide care because they have no other choice; others step cheerfully into the role and greet each day with courage and hope. Whichever of these descriptions best fits your particular circumstance, one thing is true for both. There will be days when the family caregiver and the aging family member who needs care simply don’t like each other very much.
The pain point might arise over resistance to care or disagreement about how things should be done. Irritation can spark over the simplest of differences when pain, discomfort, fatigue, or even boredom are present. Being a family caregiver can feel lonely, unappreciated, and overwhelming. Add to that an uncooperative or defensive aging loved one, and the situation can quickly get out of hand. Words spoken in anger can leave invisible wounds not easily healed.
This is when caregiving becomes a labor of love because love overcomes all things!
As the Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Cor. 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” Being a great family caregiver is, above all, dependent on love! And our God IS LOVE. When things get tense, take a deep breath and cling to Him. Maybe you need to step away for a moment (if it is safe to do so) and pray for patience, calm, and healing. Try to change the subject if possible; we call this redirecting when dealing with dementia. Most of all, regain your balance and help your loved one do the same. The moment will pass, and tomorrow is a new day. Love will win out over angry words when given a chance.
Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about caregiving as a labor of love.