Nearly three years ago, my husband and I took on the role as caregivers to a family member with dementia. As the dementia worsens and the behaviors become more and more bizarre, our stress levels have risen and we are spending more and more time caregiving. Because we both work full-time, we have had to step back from some activities and say “no” to a lot of good things. Thanks to some cameras strategically placed in our home, we are able to get out weekly with friends with whom we can laugh and have a few hours of respite, and for this we are beyond grateful.
But after a particularly rough day recently where I just couldn’t answer the same question for the 20th time in five minutes without snapping, I went to bed, early and discouraged, with thoughts like: I say I’m a Christian but if anyone stepped foot in this house, would they even know it? She doesn’t know that she’s doing anything wrong; Why am I getting upset with her? I’m blessed beyond belief. Why are I complaining about taking care of someone? In most countries it is just expected that they will take care of their elders, so what’s my problem?
Although I’m not a big fan of Facebook, it struck me that maybe I can find a group of people on there who know how I feel, and I found that group: a group of caregivers who are Christians. Although I did not post to the group and possibly never will, as I read the posts from other caregivers I felt a great weight lift off of me: there are so many others out there like me who are caregiving Christians, who are also frustrated and tired and burned out, yet doing their best to love and take care of their family member and glorify God.
And then it hit me again: there’s also someone else who sees and knows what I’m dealing with: God Himself. He sees me, he understands my frustration, and sees every tear when I mess up again. And He loves me anyway. As I write this, the day is beginning and I’m praying James 1:12 over it: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” Was James referring particularly to caregivers when he wrote this? No. But I do know from scripture that God wants us to remain steadfast, and with His help I will do so, day by day, and it is my prayer that you, too, will remain steadfast in whatever trial you are facing.
If you are a caregiver for a family member, I hope that you, too, know that you are not alone. If you are not a caregiver but know one (note: I’m not talking about myself here, honestly!), see if you can help them in any way, as appropriate: cook them a meal. Rake their yard. Ask if they want a hug. Send them a card, or even a quick text. Let them know they are in your prayers. Showing a caregiver that you care can turn a discouraging day into a delightful day, and you can be a part of that!