Prayers of Hope for Caregivers releases soon, and in the midst of my preparation, I’ve been thinking… Caregivers share a similar burden, but they also face unique challenges along the way. I represent one journey, but there are so many others who have walked this road and have picked up insights and encouragement.
Over the next several weeks, I’m giving you the opportunity to read and learn from a few of my caregiving friends. My prayer is that you’ll gain practical tips, but you’ll also be reminded that you’re not alone in this journey.
We’re here for you, lifting your weary arms as you pour into the life of another. Today, meet my friend Janet…
Welcome, Janet! Who is your care recipient?
I took care of my mom when she had kidney failure in 2016.
What are her physical challenges?
At that time she didn’t want to eat or drink, she was oversleeping, and she couldn’t move around due to back pain. Now 91, she is diabetic and uses a walker to get around.
What has been the biggest challenge in your caregiving journey?
My mom started failing in May of 2016. She was living alone in her large home on country acreage outside of Sacramento. I live three hours away, and at that time I had a two-and-a-half-month deadline to turn in a book to a publisher.
I was also the only one of four remaining siblings who was available. Consequently, the biggest challenges were the distance and my own work schedule. For several months I spent four to five days a week with her and wrote on the fly. She eventually made the decision—with doctors’ nudges—to sell her home and move into a senior living apartment. That decision actually helped her regain strength, and she’s doing much better today.
What moments of joy have you experienced?
I downsized Mom from a 4,000-square-foot home filled with family treasures to a 320-square-foot apartment. As hard as that was, there were many moments of joy remembering my mom and dad’s lives as we figured out what should go where.
Strong-willed and strong-minded women, we gained new appreciation for each other. The oldest of five, I always felt responsible but also felt as though the others viewed me as bossy. But recently Mom said, “You are amazing. You always made things happen for the family. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I love you so much.” That made all the hard decisions about what-goes-where worthwhile. I’m glad I was able to help my mom during that season of transition.
What Bible verse has been most encouraging to you?
My life verse is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” I know that verse lies within a context of examining contentment, but it has helped me find peace and strength when life seemed turned upside down in caregiving for my mom. My helping her during that season of her life was the least I could do. After all, she always took care of me after the birth of my four children and after four surgeries. And I wanted the best possible care for her and the dignity she deserved.
(Note from Sarah: Janet didn’t know this when she answered my question, but I’ve just posted a free downloadable wallpaper for cellphone, tablet, and desktop based on Philippians 4:13. You can check it out under “Freebies” at this link or click the image below. Now back to the interview…)
What practical steps or tips have helped you through caregiving?
I have several suggestions:
- Make a list of medications and their dosage and frequency. Take it with you to all appointments.
- Write out a history of your parent’s medical care: the symptoms, date of doctor appointment, medication prescribed, etc. I found that my mom was being overmedicated—the painkillers actually that were causing kidney failure were causing her debilitating back pain. I was able to help her doctors see what was actually going on with her.
- Have a list of all important phone numbers—even the plumber, electrician, handyman, gardener.
- Work with a patient advocate to get medical help at home. The doctor, hospital, or insurance company can set these services up, to include physical therapy, occupational therapy, certified nurse’s assistant (CAN), and supervising nurse.
- Keep a folder related to all banking and financial affairs.
- Get signed on to your parent’s banking accounts and safety deposit box.
- Discuss with the parent legal matters such as a will, legal power of attorney, and advance healthcare directive. The first two should be done by an attorney.
What spiritual practices have been helpful for you?
I continued my daily reading-through-the-Bible practices and prayer. It was a challenge at times, but God’s Word always gave me something for the day ahead. I also tried to get home on weekends, so that I could go to church with my husband, and I stayed involved in the prayer ministry.
What would you say to another caregiver in your shoes right now?
This is a season of your life. It is a privilege to minister to those who have ministered to us. However, you can’t neglect your own health. Call out for help and frequent respite care. You don’t have to do this alone.
Thank you so much, Janet! Your list of practical tips should be saved and printed by caregivers everywhere. It’s invaluable! Blessings to you as you continue to care for your mom.
Janet McHenry is an award-winning speaker and the author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. More about her ministry—which is called Looking Up!—can be found at www.janetmchenry.com.
The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus
Prayer was essential to Jesus. Yet many Christians are familiar only with the Lord’s Prayer, unaware that Jesus modeled a rich prayer life. With warmth and insight, Janet provides a comprehensive guide to all of Jesus’ ten prayers, his teachings on prayer, and his prayer practices, so readers can grow closer to the Father and find strength for their challenges.