God Cares for You While You Care for Your Aging Parents
- Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Candy Arrington and Kim Atchley's new book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for this Season of Life (Harvest House, 2009).
The demands of caring for your aging parents can seem overwhelming. But when you look beyond your challenges as a caregiver to the God who cares for you, you can experience joy even in the middle of a tough situation. Here's how:
Do your best and leave the rest. Acknowledge the fact that you have limited time and energy. Ask God to give you the strength you need to do your best each day caring for your parents, and rely on His power working through you instead of just on your own efforts. Leave what you can't do in God's hands and trust Him to help in every situation.
Honor your parents. Pray for God's help honoring your parents even when their behavior or words toward you are frustrating. Remember that they're dealing with the many stresses that come with aging. Choose to forgive your parents for ways they've hurt or offended you in the past, since God has forgiven your own sins. Ask God to help you heal from unresolved wounds from your past relationship with them. Don't talk down to your parents or lash out at them in anger. Aim to protect their dignity.
Accept help. Recognize when you need breaks from your caregiving responsibilities, and be willing to delegate tasks to others who are competent and trustworthy. Don't put off enjoying life while you're caring for your parents. Nurture your own emotional stability by taking breaks when you need them.
Set and enforce boundaries. Protect yourself from unnecessary pressure by discussing boundaries with your parents, about issues like how much time you can spend with them and how much emotional angst they can spill on you. Encourage your parents to pray about all of their needs, trusting God to ultimately meet them, through others as well as through you.
Count your blessings. Take stock regularly of how God has answered prayers and otherwise blessed your family, and thank Him for His ongoing work in your life. Cultivating gratitude will help you maintain a positive attitude.
Check in from long distance. If you live far away from your aging parents, recruit some of their nearby friends, neighbors, and family members to help with their needs on a rotating basis. Set up a monthly schedule and make sure that all caregivers know how to contact you.
Set up a primary caregiver's notebook. Organize important information related to your parents' care - such as insurance, medications, and medical contacts - in one central place so you can access it easily.
Discuss difficult topics effectively. Don't hesitate to bring up difficult topics with your parents when the need arises. You may need to discuss subjects like money, insurance coverage, personal hygiene issues, lifestyle choices, end-of-life care decisions, wills or funeral expenses. Be prepared beforehand by gathering pertinent information so you'll have answers for their questions. Listen to your parents well, aiming to understand both their words and the emotions underneath what they say.
Be informed. Ask your parents to tell you where they keep important papers, such as: bank account statements; Social Security numbers; insurance policies; Veterans Affairs benefits statements; wills; marriage, birth, and death certificates; and information about their financial assets and liabilities. Get to know how your parents manage their money, and how you can best take over if they become incapacitated. Learn the office procedures of every medical office your parents deal with regularly. Encourage your parents to complete vital forms, like advance directives, powers of attorney, and medical records.
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