By Shelly Beach
Most of my childhood, I hung out with people who were caregivers.
My mom took care of her mother with dementia, her mother-in-law who came to live with us, Mom’s best friend who died of cancer, and her sister who was bedridden with arthritis. In addition to these loved ones, Mom and Dad cared for widows and elderly people in our community, driving them to appointments and church, tending to their home maintenance and yard chores, and “calling on them” regularly with special treats.
When missionaries came home from caring for people in foreign lands, my mom often took the wives shopping and indulged them with gifts of beautiful lingerie. When I asked her why, she told me that people who served others needed to be treated with gifts they would hesitate to buy for themselves.
What did this teach me?
It’s our privilege and responsibility to care for others.
Scripture tells us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Eph 6:2). Bearing burdens means we must first know and care about one another enough to recognize each others’ burdens and to know how best to “bear” them with those we love.
Caring for others is one way of showing our love for God.
“God…will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Heb 6:10). I’m not loving God if I’m not loving His people in word, attitude, and action.
Caregiving should be our natural, heartfelt response to others.
All people deserve dignity and respect.
love as we desire to be loved.
Caregivers often spend money on themselves last.
They frequently defer their desires for the sake of their loved ones. If you know a caregiver—and you do—take a minute to think about how you could make their life a bit easier and brighten their day.
- Pay someone to help with yard work
- Make sure their car receives regular maintenance
- Bless them with gift cards for groceries and gas
- Offer respite care to and spend time with their loved one
- Offer your hot tub, pool, cabin, or basement apartment as respite space
- Read with their loved one once a week so they can get a break
- Spoil them with a manicure, pedicure, or spa day
- Take them out for lunch
- Call them regularly and let them talk
- Make sure they are included in social activities and make sure their loved one is taken care of
- Offer to pay for grocery delivery
- Ask them what support looks like to them and how you can help
- Learn about their loved one’s illness and how to interact meaningfully with them
- Remember their birthday, anniversary, and holiday—especially if their loved one cannot
- Learn how to advocate for your caregiver friend and their loved one
- Listen with compassion and empathy and without the need to provide easy answers
- Bring groceries or pre-made meals
- Help create a circle of support
- Pray for your friend and their loved one
- Be faithful in love and persistent in kindness
Most importantly, be a faithful friend who advocates for YOUR friend’s health and welfare. Encourage them to take care of themselves and make healthy choices. This will mean taking time for much-needed respite. It will also mean encouraging them through moments of false guilt and sitting with them as they grieve seemingly endless losses.
Don’t forget that the most important thing you have to offer is you.