Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1: 27).

Many people try to visit the elderly and needy around the holidays, but my amazing friend Anna cares for her elderly father every day, seven days a week. It is a labor of love for her, but labor nonetheless. I asked her for some ideas on how we can help primary caregivers of the elderly this time of the year -- or any time. Here are some helpful nuggets that she was willing to share with me.

First, the caregiver needs to realize it is okay to pray for themselves. I always prayed for others, until I learned I needed to pray for my own strength, wisdom, compassion and patience.

Second, it is very difficult for the primary caregiver to get outside the home. The loved one cannot be left alone. A great gift would be a caring person to come for a couple of hours so the caregiver could get a chance to get out. Free elder-care, so to speak. I do pay a companion once a week, so I can go grocery shopping, and attend to whatever household needs we have. It would be SO nice to have a free caregiver, just for an hour or 2, so I could perhaps have dinner or lunch with my son or a friend.

A third need: if anyone likes the elderly, what a cherished gift it would be to just make some time to sit and visit. Just 15-20 minutes would be lovely. Dad's friends are either dead and gone, or in about the same shape he's in. He has so few friends left. Not because he isn't a wonderful man, just because of age. At this time, I feel like I am Dad's only friend, and I'm sure he gets bored talking with me all the time.

Lastly, it is so important to call before dropping in. You just never know what is going on when you drop by unannounced. If you do drop by, don't panic if no one answers the door. I heard someone at the door recently, but I ignored it to help Dad. Unfortunately the visitors were relatives we didn't know were visiting from out of town.

Do you have caregivers in your family or circle of friends who could use some love and support during these upcoming holidays? It doesn't hurt to reach out, to remember them, and to keep Anna's tips in mind.

December 15, 2010

 

Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mom to three active teenagers. She authored The Reluctant Entertainer (Bethany House 2010). Based upon her inspiring blog, the book helps restore the lost art of hospitality and in the process helps women break free from isolation