November is National Family Caregivers Month, and it couldn’t be more timely. As a caregiver myself, this time of year often holds tensions of remembrance for me and my family. From celebrations to sufferings, the ups and downs of life’s unexpected have left me both wounded and weary. Throughout the years and seasons of disappointment, acute and chronic injuries and the ebbs and flows of military related PTSD I’ve endured alongside my husband, I’ve learned how to better care for myself in order to be a better caretaker for my family.
But how is that possible, caring for oneself in the middle of unpredictable chaos?
Often, our caregiving circumstances force us into a mindset and rhythm of tasking. We tend to do what’s right in front of us, neglecting the person behind the laundry list of responsibilities. So much so, we reach burn-out before we ever realize our need for outside support and help.
After many hard lessons learned, I’ve come to stand by this truth: caregiving is not sustainable without community. And that’s where you come in! Here’s what caregivers need the church to know.
Caregivers Need Community
Whether caring for aging parents, a child with a complex medical diagnosis or supporting a loved one battling addiction of any form, taking the time to care for themselves is nearly impossible for caregivers.
Not only do they lack the time or mental capacity to do so, but caregivers in the trenches are just that—in the trenches. Their only focus at the time is to keep their head, and people, above water.
In Luke 10:1, we’re reminded of the significance Jesus places on community, and its role of bringing hope to the lost and hopeless:
“After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go.” (Luke 10:1, CSB.)
Here, we see Jesus as the ultimate caregiver. He enters the world, and subsequently our lives, as the ultimate form of help and hope.
But before He goes out himself, He sends his people ahead of Him. Jesus chose to make Himself known in community, through community.
As a gathered people ourselves, we too are invited into this kind of living and serving. Jesus invites us to go forth and bring help and hope to those in the pits of caregiving.
Caregivers Need You to Show Up
Just as He sent His disciples out into the world, Jesus sends relief and support for caregivers in the thick of their circumstances.
Sometimes, we believe the lie that if someone needs help, they should ask for it.
But Christ shows us the opposite. Instead of waiting for people to come to Him, He went out and found the wounded, the abandoned and the isolated. Even more, He set a precedent for us to do the same when He sent out His own disciples ahead of Himself.
As a caregiver, I’ve had to learn to let my door swing wide open in order for help to flood in. It’s not easy to accept help, but it’s even harder to ask for it.
When we’re in a state of extreme fatigue, grief or isolation, mustering up the courage to be vulnerable and share pressing needs isn’t easy. And honestly, we may not even know what we need.
But through the Spirit, God is able to send help by way of His people. As we attune our ears to Him, prayerfully asking for eyes to see the needs in front of us, He will be faithful to show us where we’re needed.
Daily, we have opportunity to surround those in the throes of chaos with tangible support through things like:
- Grocery Delivery
- Encouragement cards
- Check-in calls or texts
Showing up in small ways are a big way to relieve stress for the caregiver.
Caregivers Don’t Want You to Give Up On Them
Taking care of someone else who’s grappling with an unexpected diagnosis, relapse or unimaginable trauma is grueling.
Unfortunately, most caregivers find themselves thrust into a role they are wholly unprepared for and ill-equipped to handle. The learning curve is steep and the pace to keep up feels crippling.
In regards to community engagement, caregivers will experience any of the following:
- Guilt or shame
Because what was once normal is no longer that, a caregiver may struggle to feel like they fit in. Although their world has been turned upside down, they’re very much aware that the world of everyone else appears to be moving along seamlessly. They may avoid social settings out of fear of too many questions, lack of capacity or just plain fatigue.
As a community of supporters, it’s important that you not give up on your caregivers. Speaking from experience, it can be very tempting to isolate and become an island because it feels easier.
That’s a tough place for both the caregiver and community to be because interactions may become strained as the dynamics of shared sufferings cease.
Instead of letting this become a reality, lean into the example Christ gave his disciples and go forth in multiples. No one, including those providing respite care, should be the only source of help for another. Establish a tribe of helpers to surround the wounded. Together, you can coordinate check ins, support one another through the growing pains of a unique season, and avoid burnout.
Caregivers Need Your Hope as an Anchor
Offering help for a caregiver will look different over time, but a community who helps to maintain and sustain a caregiver in the trenches will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Even more, your actions serve as a reminder of hope for their soul. They are remembered and loved. When you come alongside a caregiver in your church through tangible help and prayer, you become the hands and feet of Christ for her. You let them know they aren’t alone. And you bring hope they desperately need into their weary world.
Monet is a wife, momma, writer and entrepreneur living the messy, unspoken parts of life openly and imperfectly. With the help of coffee and courage, Monet helps women live purposed and embrace wholeness despite brokenness. After enduring seasons of hardship and grief, Monet launched Purposed Box, a monthly subscription box helping the everyday woman encounter Jesus in her every day. Find Monet on Instagram or snag one of her boxes here!