If I’m being honest, as a Christian, Ephesians 6:2-3 (NIV) exhorts us: “‘Honor your father and mother’”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”, has always caused me a bit of anxiety.
I mean, that is quite a promise, RIGHT?! We all want to enjoy long life on the earth. However, what happens when the commitment to honor our parent’s triggers feelings of guilty or sets us up to make decisions based on self-reproach or lack of information and resources, instead of the best care options for our love ones? Or what if we feel we have to choose between doing what’s best for our aging parents or our young children?
The Bible is very clear about the promise. Nevertheless, we need to be clear about what honoring truly means.
In truth, caring for an elderly parent can be both challenging and rewarding. It can be the greatest blessing and the most painful ordeal you may ever experience. The good news is that there are more options and resources available today to help us care for aging parents—to assist us in truly honoring our parents—than at any other time in history. Many mistakenly think the only way to honor their parents is to move them in their home, however, often the best way to honor them is to find the right independent/assisted living community or skilled nursing facility, supporting independence while affording them opportunities for social interaction with others experiencing similar changes and losses in their lives, as well as trained professionals to care for increasing care needs.
If our parents need care, then we are expected to help. Unfortunately, most decisions to move mom or dad in with us are made during an emergency situation lacking the understanding of how the move will affect not only our relationship with our parent, but our spouse, children and siblings as well.
Tips to Help Family Caregivers:
- Take care of yourself FIRST. When we are well rested and cared for we actually have more energy to assist those around us. (See Self-Care )
- Don’t try to be everything to everyone. REALITY CHECK: you will become overwhelmed by trying to meet everyone’s needs.
- Learn how to say “no,” This can be a challenge for those of us feeling called to help others, however; overloading your “to-do” list is really no help to anyone.
- Pray about request instead of instantly responding “yes”. Give them a time-line in which you will get back to them.
- Let go of any guilt you associate with saying “no” to a request. Guilt is self-induced and self-destructive. (See Let Go of Guilt)
- Ask for help! You would be amazed at how many people want to help but don’t know how because you are not allowing them in. (See Avoiding Burnout )
Most importantly give your burdens, struggles and care needs of your loved one over to God! He is always waiting for us to ask for His help, His guidance and His peace. He has already put in place a plan to care for your elderly family member. His plan might include trained professionals either in the home or in a facility caring for them which would allow you to enjoy the time you have with them instead of feeling the overwhelming burden of taking on their care.
(Sorry, the Star Trek geek in me couldn’t resist)