Jerry L. Burns Sr., Rio Rancho, NM – We are currently caring for my mother-in-law, and she is much happier with us rather than an assisted living facility. My father (88) gave me the gift of coming to live with us years ago. Due to our service to foreign missions, his final months were nearby in our daughter’s home.
If home-based care is not possible, caregivers should evaluate an option that is best for all. However, frequent visits to the care facility are extremely important. The danger of home-based elderly care is to the primary caregiver. Support and periodic time away from the patient is vital. I’ve seen primary caregivers deteriorate to a condition worse than the elder parent.
A pastor’s role in elder care depends upon his/her personality and/or work load. If this care is delegated to another, the pastor must take great care to see that the caregiver and the parent are not neglected.
Those in elder care often feel that no one cares. A church can provide church services via DVD or CD, and Nursing Home Ministry services. Flowers or gifts and phone calls for the parent and the caregiver can be vital to keep them uplifted.
Terry Pugh, Odessa, TX – We were involved in elder care with my father and mother. They passed away within a day of each other. My father was in good health until he developed congestive heart failure. My mother had Parkinson’s and died the day after my father’s death. They lived a couple houses away from us, so they were close, but we also hired women in the church to be their caregivers. It’s difficult as the roles of parent and child are reversed, and you are forced to become their authority after all the years they were your authority. We honored my parents’ dignity by giving them space to do what they could as long as they could. Mom was the one who bumped heads with being cared for, but after a stroke, she realized she needed help.
There isn’t a clear path in caring for elderly family members. Different personalities are involved, and elder care can be very stressful and time consuming. Care giving requires so much energy, and I have seen caregivers neglect going to church and their own relationship with God during this time.
Pastors should be hands-on in encouraging saints involved in care giving. I try to visit as much as possible as the end grows near for their loved one. Families usually take care of family members, where elder care is concerned.
Donald Bryan, Slidell, LA – Sis. Bryan and I were the primary caregivers for my mother for several years after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. We desired to have her in an assisted living facility but didn’t have the finances. She qualified for a VA widow’s pension because of my dad’s military service, so we placed her in the assisted living facility, which she thoroughly enjoyed. Pastors can help by becoming familiar with various elder care options available so they can counsel their members in this area. Churches can also provide support groups as part of their ministries.
The most significant danger of elder care is burnout and becoming calloused because of the elder’s constant need of assistance. Elderly abuse has become a significant risk in elder care. Those who are extensively involved in elder care need break times, and church members could offer to sit with or care for the elder for a period.
Michael Parmley, Batesville, AR – Sis. Parmley was responsible for getting her parents into long-term nursing care. Her father passed away, so she moved her mother to an assisted living apartment. She is the caregiver, as well, for her elderly aunt.
Few are prepared for these particular life decisions that may come suddenly. We have financial and emotional issues and mountains of paperwork. If possible, make financial and care decisions with your loved one ahead of time. Make your decisions based on what is best for your loved one and let go of any guilt.
The dangers of caregiving include spending yourself beyond physical endurance. They may not understand this transition in their life and hold you responsible. Just reassure them of your unfailing love and support.
This is a golden opportunity for the church to reach out to the elderly in ministry by singing, reading the Bible, etc. Every saint is qualified for elder care ministry by taking the time to smile, hug, listen to them and respond. This is definitely a way to live our Christianity.
Burrell Crabtree, Benton, AR – I have been involved and watched as family members helped their parents navigate their later years. I’ve listened as adult children unburdened their hearts about people trying to take advantage of their parents and their struggles to caution their parents. There are kind, honest caregivers. However, I’ve seen situations where younger housekeepers or caregivers prey on a kind and generous elderly person to marry them to have control of the elder’s assets. Thankfully, in these situations, the children took legal measures to re-structure those assets and protect their parent. For those in this situation, I strongly advise seeking good legal counsel, especially in finances. There are tax laws and guidelines on navigating the state’s legal standards for elder care that must be considered.
We must not forget that many elders have lost spouses and are vulnerable because of their loneliness. Plus, due to poor health and limited freedom, the elderly often suffer depression and other ailments. Feeling disconnected from their church can also lead to bitterness and anger. We can’t neglect them during this time of their life. When our elderly parents need care, we must remember they sacrificed for us. There will come a time when we need to care for them. Even if someone’s parents may have not provided them with a healthy environment, we must remember to forgive and do as Jesus said; honor our father and mother.