Caregiving can be a very lonely place to find yourself. If the one you care for has limited mobility, it’s hard to get out and run errands or even just escape your all-too-familiar environment. If communication is also impaired or challenging because of hearing deficits or dementia, you might feel isolated and overwhelmed. But words have power, and words give life. The Bible speaks of this dynamic power in the first book of the Old Testament. In Genesis we read that God spoke all creation into being. In Genesis 1:3 we read, “And God said, “Let there be light” and from there He spoke seven more times, each phrase bringing more detail to life in the world where He made us. The Word is personified in the Gospel of John. In John 1:1-5 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
Words, spoken or written, have the power to bless or to curse, to encourage or discourage. Because we are made in God’s image, we have the power to give life through our own words. Family caregivers desperately need to hear or read words of encouragement often to help them get through each and every day as they pour out themselves in care of others. Oftentimes those around you don’t even know where to begin when searching for the right words, to offer hope and encouragement that will lift you up and carry you through difficult times. Words seem empty when an observer perceives as impossible your burden of caring for an aging parent, spouse or loved one. As the caregiver, you must help other family members and friends understand what you need to hear, and how they can build you up with their words. Make a list and share from it when someone offers to help. Don’t be reluctant to let others see your struggles; after all, even superheroes need refuge and support from time to time!
Offers of help, invitations to get together for lunch or coffee, even asking how you are doing and then being quiet and listening to your honest answer are all ways to support and strengthen you when you are struggling to stay afloat. An offer to pick up groceries should be responded to with a list of what is needed. When someone tells you that you are doing a great job, don’t downplay your own efforts. Here’s a great list of things to say to a family caregiver from caregiving.com. For those caring for someone in the hospital or with a traumatic injury, brainline.org gives additional questions caregivers need to hear.
During these long months of social isolation, every family caregiver knows that at the end of the day there’s so much more we could have done, but you are using the wrong measuring stick if all you see is what you didn’t accomplish! Instead, look at everything you DID get done. Make a list, and I think you may be surprised by all the tasks you completed while caring for another. Those written words are small victories that happened as you went about living, and when you review them those words will give you a little endorphin boost. Give yourself some self-love and a pat on the back. You did your best, and that’s enough for today.
Chris and I hope you will join our conversation this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about the power of words in your life.