Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Caregiving Decisions: Pray Through to Peace

The single most important edict for a Christian caregiver is this: "Pray through to peace regarding caregiving decisions."  Whatever decisions you make for your loved one, pray and ask others to pray during that vulnerable and emotional time following a diagnosis of dementia. 

Do not let any one source convince you of the course of action you should take, but be open to the Holy Spirit's direction through prayer, God's word, and counsel with Christ-centered mentors and friends. 

Be patient with a spouse whose anxiety over your loyalty and a desire to preserve the status quo may temporarily drown God's voice. Don't trust the direction given by a dementia patient who may, out of fear, make demands and utter threats.  Another scenario is a patient like my mother, who selflessly recommends what she assumes is best for her caregiver in the mistaken assumption that things will work out well for her no matter what.  In each of these instances, the caregiver must carry the burden and responsibility of decision-making by following the Holy Spirit's lead rather than human counsel. 

Interaction with a dementia patient who is also a loved one may require the following interpretation guide:
When an aging parent says, "I don't want to be a burden," she really means "I don't want you to resent me." 

When he says, "I don't want to disrupt your lives," he actually means, "I hope your love and loyalty to me make any sacrifice you must give seem inconsequential." 

When she says, "I don't want you to see me turn into someone you don't know," she means, "I hope you can stay close to me even if I behave badly."   
Do not release a loved one to death before they have died.  Do not reconcile yourself to suffering you might have prevented because "That's the way he wanted it."  Do not too easily accept a sacrifice an aging loved one seems willing to make on your behalf when the sacrifice ought to have been yours, not theirs.

We serve a God who will go to great lengths to ease the suffering of just one of His precious lambs (even though as you'll remember 99 others remained temporarily without a shepherd, though safe in the fold).  When we are safe in the physical and mental strength of our productive years, God may ask us to make sacrifices on behalf of one little old man or woman who can no longer make decisions and has nothing left to offer.   

"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants" (Psalm 116:15).  It is human nature to recoil from the decline and dying of a loved one.  But God will not only sustain, but bless as we care for those He loves, even if the dying process should stretch over years of a journey through Alzheimer's disease. 

A first, instinctive response is to recoil from the upheaval of our lives that active caregiving requires, but if this is God's will for you, stand firm.  Beware voices that say, "You just have to let go,"  or "He's just trying to make you feel guilty," or "You have to live your own life."  Do not let go of anything God has not commanded you to release. He will silence the dissenting voices so that in the end, even they will acknowledge that God's will has resulted in blessing. 

One further direction: do not trespass against your own heart. If God has anointed you as the primary caregiver for a loved one, He will also instill in you the strong desire to provide care. There are those who will interpret that strong desire as being about you and your emotions when it is actually the response of your heart to the Holy Spirit's direction and God's will.  If you go against a Spirit-directed urge, you will break your own heart and quench the Holy Spirit within you. 

Stand firm in prayer.  Few things in life are so important as praying through to confidence over the decisions you make on behalf of an elderly loved one.  Do not rule out either the possibility that God may ask for an extraordinary sacrifice of time and service, or that you will need to lay your loved one on God's altar in the faith of release.  God will very likely ask you to do both these things.  But you must pray through to peace whatever decision you make so that you may have the very great blessing and reward of one who says to the Lord, "Thy will be done."  


  1. As an atheist (sorry!) I still really liked this post for the way you point out how important it is to read between the lines and understand what a person is really trying to tell you, and properly hear... Point well made!

  2. Thank you, Keira! I'm always so happy when someone who comes from a different way of thinking than my own can see past the religious vernacular to the truths I have to share. What a lovely, open mind you have.