I have compassion for spouses of those who are taking care of an aging parent. You've most likely reached middle age, children have left the nest, and perhaps you were anticipating an opportunity to spend more time pursuing activities you enjoy. Then, just when your jet ski is set to launch, you receive a call. A parent-in-law needs help, your spouse is out the door to rush to the fallen one’s aid, your household is in turmoil, and meetings are being held to decide how to care for someone who in the past may or may not have cared much for you. An elderly in-law's infirmity may intrude on your home life and your freedom on an escalating scale ranging from inconvenience to hardship.
However, you must give careful thought to the ways in which you choose to respond to this situation, because your responses will lay the foundation for the relationship you will share with your spouse for the rest of your lives. If you are able to exhibit compassion and support for your spouse, and also for the patient who is receiving care, you will find that these positive behaviors will go a long way toward healing any rifts that existed in your marriage before this crisis occurred. A little kindness now, and you will be able to leave the lid off the toothpaste for the rest of your married life with no fear of retribution.
I'd been a farm wife for 30 years when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. My husband’s kindnesses to my mother and support of me as her caregiver have engendered a new level of admiration for him in my heart. I am grateful to him and I'm blessed to see his many acts of kindness toward my mother. Through his treatment of her I feel that I've gotten a window into how he would treat me if I should ever be hospitalized after, say, driving into a tree while attempting to answer a cell phone call. His attitude and behavior toward my mother assure me that he would also be adept at smiling into my eyes and spooning chicken soup into my mouth regardless of the state of my mental capacity. I feel a new level of trust toward him.
The laying aside one’s own desires for the welfare of another person allows the opportunity to follow Christ’s example of humility and service. My heart is with the spouses of caregivers today. You are caregivers too.