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Caregivers Need to Care for Themselves as Well

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When caring for an aging loved one, do you ever ask, When is it okay to take care of myself? Or, How long can I go on like this?
Caring for an aging loved one is a labor of love, but it is labor. As your elder becomes more frail and needs more of your time and energy, you may find yourself giving up outside activities and vacations, saying no to friends, feeling distracted at work, and getting stressed at home. If you try to do everything, you risk neglecting your own health. To stay afloat, you will need the help of friends; family members; relatives; local, community-based organizations; and hands-on resources. You will need wisdom, inspiration, and discernment, because your many responsibilities leave little time and energy for self-care. Most of all, you will need God’s grace to help you stay faithful to fulfill your role as a caregiver effectively and compassionately.

Preserving Your Health and Well-Being

As a caregiver, it is critical for you to take good care of yourself ‚Äî even while you are taking care of your aging loved one. Finding that balance can be a challenge, but now is the time to establish some healthy goals and habits. If you already are nearing the point of burnout, it is time to identify the reasons and make some changes. Do you find yourself becoming chronically irritable? Too fatigued to eat right and exercise? Often depressed or hopeless? Feeling angry and guilty at the same time? These negative feelings are a signal that you need to take better care of yourself. Otherwise, your emotions will threaten your well-being, lower your resistance to disease, and make life miserable for you and your loved ones. The physical demands of caregiving can also affect your health, aggravating osteoporosis or causing bursitis or damaged discs. Bathing or lifting an elderly person, for example, can be physically difficult for a caregiver to perform; carelessness can lead to injury, especially if you are pressed for time. You need to admit that there are limits to what one person can do and then seek some outside help. The challenges of caregiving may seem formidable, and the consequences ‚Äî emotional, physical, economic, relational, and spiritual ‚Äî overwhelming. However, not everything associated with caregiving is difficult or stressful. Many caregivers gain a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from their role. Support and encouragement from others is also helpful. In fact, the caregiving pathway is lined with hidden blessings if you know how to look for them. Where you least expect it, hope appears. The Lord’s grace is tucked into hard places.

Caregiver Burnout

It is important for caregivers to have a support network in place for assistance and relief. Those who do not have emotional support may suffer burnout. Consider these statistics from the National Family Caregivers Association:
  • More elderly people enter nursing homes because of caregiver burnout than because of an exacerbation of their own condition.
  • Sixty-one percent of “intense” family caregivers (those providing at least 21 hours of care a week) have suffered from depression.
  • Three-fourths of all caregivers do not get consistent help from other family members.
  • Eighty percent of all home care is provided by family caregivers.
The happier and healthier you are, the better your loved one will be served. Try these 11 ways to keep the threat of burnout at bay:
  1. Determine services available in your area, and ask for the help you need.
  2. Make healing habits of prayer, Bible and inspirational reading, music, and fellowship.
  3. Model an attitude of respect for both children and the elderly in your family.
  4. Plan your schedule around predictable mealtimes.
  5. Look ahead and include fun family activities in your schedule.
  6. Anticipate health concerns; keep nourishing snacks on hand, exercise consistently.
  7. Don’t major on the minors with family members. (Save your steam for big problems.)
  8. Delegate household chores, but keep them simple.
  9. Listen well and learn to read between the lines with children or elders.
  10. Give yourself permission to enjoy hobbies. Take yourself out for a personal date.
  11. Don’t entertain “what-ifs” and “if-onlys.” Say, “I am doing the best I can.”
Most caregivers have not planned for the role, and although many accept it with grace, others are forced to assume it. Most do not feel prepared to address the many issues ahead of them. You might be grieving the fact that the person you once looked to for advice and direction is now increasingly dependent on you.

Be Anxious for Nothing

Faith in our trustworthy God helps to dissolve our fear and personal insecurities. If, as the old hymn states, you are “cumbered with a load of care,” tell the Lord about your worries. Follow this biblical advice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB). Remember that God is able to handle your concerns. Peace is promised as you lean on Him and learn to turn every worry and need over to Him. As you do this, your doubts and fears will begin to subside, even when you do not understand everything.

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There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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