Sunday, March 3, 2013

When the Caregiver Needs Care

The most difficult times I've had emotionally as a caregiver have come when I've been and unable to fulfill my usual role in our family.  I've often been hurt by my family's response to me when I'm sick, because although they manage to take care of my needs, I can't help but notice they feel I'm letting them down. Just when I'm feeling most vulnerable and needy and would love a consoling word, an empathetic prayer, and yes, someone to worry over me; I sense them drawing away.  This happens because I express love for my family through acts of service, and when I stop serving, they feel unloved. It's at times like these I miss my mother the most.  Oh for someone to worry about me even more than I worry for myself!  That's the role my mother played in my life for so long, and it is how I minister to my family now.

In My Mom Has Alzheimer's, I write about this problem as I describe my loved ones' response to me when I was suffering the flu.  I came to the realization that I had reacted to Mom very similarly when she was diagnosed with dementia:  

I certainly did not rain down flowers and chocolates on my mother’s head as she began to manifest the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. I had depended on her to be the one person in my world who could be trusted to drop everything and rush to my side in any crisis large or small. When she became disabled I felt that she’d let me down, and I was silently resentful. I felt that this new role reversal was a travesty, and although I did not demand that she get out of her chair and minister to my needs, in my heart I felt that such a request would have been justified. I slowly came to accept the changes in my mother’s level of functioning, but it took time. In my temporary infirmity I recognized the need to extend to my loved ones the same grace that had been given me.
 When a caregiver becomes the one in need of care there are battles to be fought against resentment and anger.  We must be aware of the dangers of treating our care recipients unfairly out of our homesickness for a time when they took care of us.

Today I'm curled on the couch suffering the after-effects of a migraine.  I'm praying grace for my family to be assured that even when I am unable to provide for them as I usually do, that the Lord won't forget them.  And, I'm doing my best to turn from self-pity as I revisit the lesson the Lord taught me when Mom stopped showing love for me by doing things for me..."The Lord is my caregiver, I shall not want!"

Prayer:  Lord, help us as love one another with Your love apart from acts of service we are able to perform for each other.  Help us to love one another as You have loved us.  In Jesus' Name we pray. 

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