This Sunday I decided to send you (my fellow caregivers) a little voice of encouragement. [Listen here] In addition to that message, here is another note of encouragement for you today. It is difficult to connect with a situation you’ve not lived before, and caregiving is one of those experiences. I remember when my dad died years ago; as I went through the grieving process I would see people out in the world living their lives and silently wonder, “How can they go on as if life is the same? Don’t they know my daddy died?” Obviously, I didn’t expect strangers to grieve the loss of my dad, but the sentiment spoke to how vehemently your world changes when learning to live without a person you love. In the case of caregivers, accepting this divine assignment is fulfilling yes, but it is unwise to not face the impact it has on your life – your dreams – your plans – your finances – your hope. This is the reason I so firmly believe in the necessity of active faith in the caregiving journey.
There are three things I want you to remember on this journey:
You are not alone –
I’ve been a fulltime Alzheimer’s caregiver for a total of almost 5 years and I know from experience how lonely this world can be. Remember this number – 53 million. You are one among 53 million other caregivers in this country. Take a moment to investigate support groups in your area. http://www.caregiving.org/advocacy/international/
Your life is not over – It has been through my assignment as a caregiver that God has brought unique and clearer focus about my divine purpose. Yes, this role can be for an undefined period of time; however, in that time be encouraged that as bitter and sweet it is – your divine purpose will definitely expand through this season. Not only are you making a meaningful impact in your loved one’s life, you are positioning yourself to influence the lives of others by your experience. Changing your perspective will change the outcome.
Break the routine – I don’t care how you do it or how hard it is to leave, you must get distance. I know about the financial strain, I understand the hesitancy about being away for any period of time – but often this is fear talking and not faith.
You don’t need a lot of support. You need one person who loves you, whom you can depend on for 1-4 days (subject to the specific demands of your caregiving experience).
From one who knows from experience, a break in the routine and change of scenery restores my body and my emotions – doing nothing is highly under-rated. When you return you will be restored with more fuel to continue. Without breaks your brain becomes numb, your emotions overtaxed, and the risk to the health of your body will accelerate. Find a hotel, a retreat center, a bed and breakfast and force yourself to restore. Force yourself – it will give you back months of energy in a few days.
Finally, I know how hard this is but caring for yourself is critical in caring for others. It may be cliché and ridiculous when people say and don’t know the challenges but as a caregiver I am sharing pearls that make a difference in my life routinely. It’s not about being perfect – God never asked us to substitute ourselves for Him. Your greatest strength will come as you allow God complete control over the results.