Can you believe November is here already? It seems like just yesterday I was launching my book, Prayers of Hope for Caregivers, into the world. Now I’m celebrating its 6-month birthday. And it’s the 2-year birthday of Prayers for Hope and Healing. My babies are growing up!
Not only is November a birthday month, but it’s also National Family Caregivers Month. This is a chance to recognize those who are in the quiet hallways, houses, and hospital rooms, caring for someone day after day. Often with no acknowledgement or thanks.
This month I want my caregiving friends to know that I see you. What you’re doing isn’t easy, but it’s heroic.
I’ve invited a few author friends to share tips and encouragement for caregivers. Each of these women has experience caring for others, and they have books that are fantastic resources.
Let’s get it started with my friend Kathy Howard, author of 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents. Today she shares about the tricky dynamics of caregiving alongside family members. (Kathy and I are doing a blog swap this week, so head on over to her site to read my article about Truth vs. Feelings for Caregivers.)
Without further ado, here’s Kathy…
Like many siblings, my brother Gary and I fought a lot growing up. Nothing too serious, mostly squabbles over things like who crossed the imaginary line down the middle of the backseat of the car. Looking back, I realize most of the fighting may have been my fault. I was pretty bossy.
However, I do remember one time during our childhood that my brother and I were in complete unity. Instead of fighting, we chose to work together towards a common goal. The neighbors had a litter of puppies and we wanted a dog.
The mission was two-fold. First, we had to prove to Mom and Dad we were old enough to do the work a pet required. And second, we had to convince them that this dog was the dog for us. We experienced great success on our first joint mission. We named her Samantha.
Now, more than four decades later, Gary and I work together on another joint mission – caring for our parents. When we first began this journey, we talked about the challenges ahead. Due to the emotions involved, we knew disagreements could happen frequently and escalate quickly. But we work hard to keep our common goal in mind – the best care and the most loving situation for our parents.
Caregiving decisions are never easy. Toss in different personalities, viewpoints, and distance and sometimes they can be almost impossible. There are no cut-and-paste answers, but there are some things we can do to foster unity with our family members.
The best place to begin is with ourselves. Getting our hearts and attitudes right before God prepares us to relate to others. Although not an exhaustive list, the apostle Paul cited four virtues necessary to build strong relationships (Ephesians 4:1-6). His short list includes humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance.
Humility tops the list because pride creates division. Pride always believes its way is the best way. If we allow pride to gain a foothold in our hearts, then the other virtues won’t even have a chance to flourish.
Equipped with these godly virtues, we are more prepared to work for unity within our unique families. But what does it look like?
Not long ago, I sat around a table at a restaurant with a dozen women about my age. Long after our plates were cleared, we stayed, talking. Eventually the conversation came around to caring for our parents. I asked how they all worked with their siblings to reach consensus on decisions.
Judy said they focus on prayer. “We pray independently and then together before making any big decisions.”
Someone else sighed then said, “That’s great if all your siblings are Christians.”
Donna added some words of experience. “My sister lives close to my dad and I’m a plane ride away. I feel her opinion should have more weight than mine. She has a better grasp of the situation.”
Another chimed in. “It’s vital we listen. I’ve learned to let my siblings share their thoughts and feelings before I speak. I need to really understand their point of view before I give mine. When they feel heard, they are more open to hearing me.”
3 Practical Ways to Foster Unity
We cannot control our family members’ thoughts and feelings, but we can be a catalyst for unity. The following three tips are a good place to begin.
- Start with ourselves – When we take time to evaluate our attitudes we can discover things like pride and frustration that tend to divide. God will help us if we ask Him!
- Set family goals – Let’s talk openly with our siblings and other family members about the goals we have for our parents. For instance, do we all want to keep them at home as long as possible? It’s easier to be unified when everyone knows what we’re working towards.
- Listen before we talk – When we seek to understand the thoughts and feelings of our family members before we express our own, we will diffuse many disagreements before they happen.
Think about the last time you had a disagreement with a family member. How did it begin? What could you have done differently?
Kathy Howard calls herself a “confused southerner.” Raised in Louisiana, she moved with her engineer husband around the U.S. and Canada. She says “pop” instead of “Coke” and “you guys” as often as “y’all.” But she’s still a southern girl at heart! Kathy encourages women to live an unshakeable faith by standing firm on our rock-solid God no matter life’s circumstances. Kathy, the author of eight books, including the new daily devotional 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, has a Master’s in Christian Education. She is passionate about Bible study and discipleship and loves sharing at women’s events and retreats. Kathy and her “mostly retired” husband live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area near family. They have three married children, five grandchildren, and three dogs – one of them on purpose. She provides free discipleship resources and blogs regularly at www.KathyHoward.org. Kathy also connects with women at Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
About Kathy’s Book
Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents, explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection.