Caregiving: A sacred challenge
by Jill Schmidt Weaver, Independent Living Chaplain, Schowalter Villa
Do you find yourself giving care to someone else - a friend, a spouse or family member - on a routine basis? James Miller speaks of both the joys and sobering pains of caregiving in his short, inspirational writing titled The Caregiver’s Book: Caring for Another, Caring for Yourself. Miller says, “Healthy caregiving can bring out all that is best in us, and that is beautiful. But there is another side to caregiving… done without adequate rest or relief, caregiving becomes a chore and a drain. Done without proper support, it becomes confusing and harrowing.”
If you’re like most people, you weren’t prepared for all the demands required by ongoing caregiving. How do you proceed in a way that creates the healthiest situation possible for you and your loved one? Here are some principles of caregiving Miller offers.
1. The healthiest way to care for another is to care for yourself.
· Make a list of favorite activities that help restore you. Find ways to incorporate these things into your schedule.
· Open yourself to healing influences around you through prayer, meditation, nature, art, music or literature.
· Develop a plan for respite care.
2. By focusing on your feelings, you can focus beyond your feelings.
· Don’t hide your feelings or ignore them; value them.
· Find someone whom you can honestly share your feelings with. By doing this, you can help ensure your feelings do not get in the way of your caregiving.
3. To be close to your loved one, establish boundaries.
Define your limits. Learn to say “no” when it’s important and appropriate to do so.
Ask for help.
4. In accepting your helplessness, you become a better helper.
· No matter how much you want to help, there is much you cannot do for your loved one.
· By acknowledging there are things beyond your ability and control, you help shape that sacred space in which other people can meet your loved one on the deepest level.
· You can move out of the way and allow the Source of All Life to be the source of all life. As you do so, you fulfill your calling as a caring helper.
Miller concludes his book with this profound reminder: “Caregiving can be a wonderful adventure, a marvelous privilege, and an unspeakable grace. In being a blessing for another, you are blessed. In being a vehicle for growth, you grow. In being a conduit for healing, you are healed. Caregiver and care receiver alike transform one another. That transformation is not something you have accomplished. It comes from beyond you. You will realize, if you do not already, that you are cared for on the grandest scale possible. And the most fitting response you can make is a prayer that contains only four words. Thank you, thank you.”