The place I live is best known for its beautiful beaches and thrilling theme parks. Because of its yearlong warm temperatures, it is also a popular place for retirees and the elderly. Neighborhoods are springing up with homes built specifically for multigenerational families. Families are living under the same roof with their parent(s) and, in many cases, are caring for aging and ailing parents.
Taking care of your aging and ailing parent(s) is complicated. Whether your parent(s) is in your home or a nearby care facility, you have numerous details, decisions, and emotions to navigate. Here are seven reminders I pray you will find encouraging and helpful:
- You are not alone. While the day-to-day weight you carry may make you feel isolated and lonely, remember you are not alone in your season, your struggle, or your pain. In the middle of what may at times feel hard and impossible, in the middle of what may feel like a storm, Jesus promises His presence, His power, His peace, and His provision. You are not alone. Lean into the embrace and comfort of the Father.
- Every situation is unique. For many, caring for an ailing parent is a constant struggle; for others, it is a mixture of both blessing and pain. One thing is certain, every situation is unique. Resist the urge to compare your situation with others in a similar season.
- Take care of yourself first. If there was a way to make this statement land firmly in your heart and mind, I would do it. Taking care of yourself is of utmost importance in general, but especially when you are a caregiver! This means being intentional about caring for your body, soul, and spirit. How are you caring for your body? Are you making healthy food choices, drinking enough water, and exercising? What are you doing to care for your own soul? Are you resting, playing, laughing, reading, and enjoying nature and stillness? How are you nurturing your spirit? What habits, patterns, and rhythms do you have in place to connect with and encounter God? Caring for yourself well will give you the physical and emotional stamina you will need for the journey ahead.
- Give yourself space to grieve. This is especially important if your relationship with your parent(s) is complicated. In our culture, we do not give adequate attention or space for lament and grief. If your parent(s) is ailing, then you are experiencing loss on many levels. Gift yourself with a few sessions with a counselor who can help you navigate the varied emotions you are experiencing in this season. A counselor or mentor can help you process the role reversal you are experiencing. Once upon a time, this person was caring for you; now you are caring for him/her.
- Find a mentor or support group. Is there someone else in your church, your workplace, or your neighborhood walking the same or a similar path? Reach out. Sit down together and process your experiences. If you don’t know anyone, enlist a trusted friend who is a good listener (not a fixer) who will hear your heart as you off-load the weight of what you are carrying. Galatians 6:2 encourages us with this: “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
- Take advantage of services in your area. Are there services in your area that offer support? Is there an adult day-care or hospital program you could utilize to give yourself a break? Do your research: there very well may be low cost or free resources or services that offer varied assistance. You cannot do this alone! Let me say that again: You cannot do this alone! This is too heavy for you to carry alone, so utilize any and every option available to help.
- The care you give is worthy and noble. There is certainly biblical precedent for adult children caring for their parents through the end of life. The middle eastern culture of the Bible is communal and familial. As Jesus hung on the cross, His thoughts turned to His mother. Who could He entrust to care for her after His death? John 19:26-27 says, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” This is such a tender and beautiful moment. The care you are providing your parent(s) is worthy, noble, and reflective of the heart of Christ.
Two years ago, my husband and I moved his mother from Texas to Florida to a memory care facility. We wanted her near us so we could care for her. She is healthy otherwise, but her mental state is declining rapidly. It is a long, slow goodbye. It is a privilege to care for her, but it is also very painful. These seven reminders are not randomly given; they are tried and true. If you are in this season and finding it difficult, I am so sorry. Chances are you are experiencing a wide range of emotions. There are most likely days when you can’t stop crying and moments that make you laugh.
You are not alone.
Thank you for every act of love and sacrifice. Your service to your mom and/or dad is sacred. Allow me to speak a familiar blessing over you, “May the LORD bless you and protect you; may the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through Lifeway Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. “I was a wounded, lonely Midwest farm girl until the Divine Romancer swept me off my feet. I want to steward my story well so that others can find Him in their stories and be fully satisfied.” Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live on Florida’s West Coast and are both on staff at Bayside Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the Lifeway resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.