It’s National Family Caregivers Month, and I’m so excited to continue my blog series with a person who is extra special to me – my friend and literary agent, Cynthia Ruchti. Not only has Cynthia walked the road of caregiving, but today she beautifully puts into words an aspect of caregiving that is felt but rarely noticed.
If you’re a caregiver looking for encouragement or ideas to take care of yourself as you pour out relentless love, keep reading. If you’re the friend of a caregiver and want to show tangible love to the one pouring out, keep reading. No matter who you are or where you are, I promise you’ll be blessed by Cynthia’s words.
I’m watching a couple I love serve as caregivers for someone who can’t speak, walk, talk, or manage the simplest tasks of her own self-care. Days and nights are filled with relentless caregiving tasks. No matter how exhausted, the caregivers respond to every need with admirable grace and patience.
Caregiving’s demands occupy time, energy, money, creativity—all of which seem to be increasingly short in supply. The couple’s schedule revolves around the needs of the person who is helpless to even say, “Thank you,” someone who is incapable of paying back the kindnesses shown her with anything more than a rare, drooling smile.
Yes, the couple is caring for their newborn daughter. My granddaughter. With relentless love.
It’s a love that compels them to lose sleep, change a mountain of diapers every day, bear the spit ups and unexplainable crying jags, and still hold the child close and tend her needs with soft voices and gentleness.
We understand that kind of sacrifice when the person we’re caring for is a newborn. But my son and daughter-in-law’s relentless love isn’t so different from the motivation of an adult caring for an aging parent, or a woman caring for a disabled sibling, or a man caring for his dementia-ridden wife. Love that refuses to give up when loving is messy, thankless, and draining is at the heart of Christ-like caregiving.
Love compelled Jesus to give His all—including His very life—for us. Love compels Him to keeping forgiving when we mess up. It’s His motivation for extending us mercy we need and grace we don’t deserve. We can never understand its depths, but we are in awe of its effects.
Relentless love like His—and supplied by Him—is the fuel that keeps a caregiver giving. And giving. And giving.
Does the parent of a newborn ever resent a middle-of-the-night interruption? Of course. Sleep deprivation can negatively affect any caregiver, no matter how close the relationship.
Does a loving daughter sometimes wonder if her mom—who remembers little—will even know if the daughter skips this one visit to the memory care home?
Will a kind husband sometimes snap at his quadriplegic wife?
How many caregivers suffer from but don’t seek help for their own depressive issues because they can’t imagine putting their needs—dramatic as they are—above the needs of the one depending on them?
Is it so unthinkable that the mother of a brain-injured son could let exasperation slam the van door behind the wheelchair?
Not unthinkable. The relentlessness of caregiving exacts a heavy toll.
What’s the point of acknowledging these truths?
- To express gratitude to caregivers for every time the load almost crushes them, but they choose to keep going
- To encourage caregivers to show themselves grace on days when they sigh or snap or have to fight off resentment
- To acknowledge the relentless nature of caregiving
- To honor the relentless nature of love
Love is a powerful motivator. It’s brilliantly displayed by those who do what they think is beyond their physical and emotional abilities when caring for the needs of others.
If you are a caregiver, we applaud your tenacity and faithfulness and admire your relentless love.
If you know a caregiver, don’t let this day pass without finding a way to affirm, support, or tangibly acknowledge the person’s living example of Christ’s relentless love.
Looking for ideas to keep your relentless love at the forefront of your caregiving?
- Begin each day with a simple prayer: Lord God, may Your relentless love flow through me today, no matter what I face. Amen.
- If your pattern has normally been to move from task to task with no break, grabbing a sip of coffee or tea while folding laundry or preparing a meal, determine to devote your attention to the “ceremony” of enjoying the coffee or tea without cramming another activity into that space, too. Breathe in and out between sips. Let the love of Jesus pour over you like a balm for those couple of minutes in which you aren’t multi-tasking.
- Weave two thoughts throughout your caregiving day. As you address the never-ending needs, think, “Because I love you.” And lift your efforts with a thought directed to Jesus: “Because I love You.”
- Tend to your need for beauty. That might mean keeping an inspiring piece of art or craftsmanship close to you. Or using a pretty notecard as a bookmark in your Bible. Or playing beautiful music in the background. Or enjoying nature, even if it has to be online. Filling your soul with beauty expands your endurance for caregiving.
Looking for an idea for a caregiver?
- Create a care package for the caregiver: her favorite tea, lotion, a microwavable neck warmer, fuzzy or fun socks, lip balm…
- Send a book of encouragement for caregivers (not instruction) that is easy to read, with short chapters and simple prayers.
- Offer to sit with him or her to watch your church services online together on a Sunday when the caregiver’s responsibilities won’t allow her to attend.
- Prepare a week’s worth of personal portions of the caregiver’s favorite meals.
- <Insert your own creative idea here. Then share it online for others like me who are on the alert for ways we can minister to those who give so much of themselves.>
Cynthia Ruchti is an award-winning author, speaker, and experienced caregiver who tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events for women. One of her books specifically related to caregiving is a collection of stories, devotional thoughts, encouragement, and prayers titled As My Parents Age. Her tagline is, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in Hope.” She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and six grandchildren. You can connect with her at cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope.com, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
About the Book
For most of us it is not the
ifs but the
whens: when I notice the first signs; when we mourn the role reversal; when my children need me too; or when I don’t know how to pray. Those are just a few of the fifty-two reflections on the changes, challenges, and blessings of loving your parent as they grow older. Their lives — and yours — begin to change. Knowing that you are not alone, that others have been where you are, is encouraging and uplifting. This is not a how-to, but a me-too, as you see yourself and your own situation lived out in the stories of others.