My father passed away several years ago following a courageous battle with brain cancer. Up to that point, he had been in near-perfect health, so the day we learned of the illness, we were left in a state of shock. Many anxious questions surfaced, including those related the type of care we would need to provide for my father. It was difficult to imagine taking care of the one who had always cared for us, but very quickly, we had to learn. It took a number of people, especially my mother, to provide daily care for him that included everything from simple personal tasks to running carpool to doctors’ offices and treatment facilities. Serving as a caregiver is exhausting work that is often overlooked.
Who is a caregiver? A caregiver is someone who sacrifices their own time to attend to the physical, mental, or emotional needs of another person. Caregivers can include family members and close friends, but it can also include neighbors, coworkers, classmates, and even complete strangers. Caregivers don’t need professional expertise of extensive education. They just need to have a surplus of patience and a tender heart for those in need.
Many people would be surprised to learn about the personal difficulties experienced by caregivers. Sleepless nights are the norm. Their physical presence in the midst of their loved one's pain is incredibly challenging. Their sacrifice of time, forgoing their own families and loved ones, is immeasurable. Caregivers are constantly pouring out goodness from within themselves, and most of the time, they do not have an equal amount of goodness being poured in. One doesn’t need to be a mathematician to understand this imbalance, recognizing that eventually, their tanks will run dry. This is both sad and dangerous, but it’s easily averted with one statement: We must care for our caregivers.
Caring for a caregiver is easy. A quick phone call, card in the mail, or even a text can make a big difference. Just letting them know that you are thinking and praying for them goes a long way. But here’s another hint: Don’t ask them about their patient each time you speak with them. Ask them about their own wants and needs, their own families, and other things that interest them. Ask how you can help them, keeping in mind that they will likely refuse your assistance. It is their generous nature that may say, “No thank you,” but their heart may be craving some attention. Tell them you are bringing them a meal, give them a gift card to their favorite store or restaurant, or offer run some household errands for them. There’s plenty of things that we can do for the people that are serving as God's hands. Even the smallest courtesy towards a caregiver can change their day, or even better, it can refill their tank.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4, CEB).