According to the National Alliance for Caregiving study in 2009, more than 65 million Americans – 29% of the US population - care for loved ones with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or frailties that come naturally with aging. These caregivers spend an average of 20 hours weekly to provide care for their loved ones.
The responsibilities of a caregiver are many: assist patients with hygiene and other aspects of a daily life, assist with restorative nursing procedures, maintain good standards of cleanliness and grooming, etc. Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally challenging. By giving caregivers a break, you can give them the support and encouragement they need.
- Identify the caregivers in your congregation. Look for professional caregivers, but also family caregivers. Contact local hospice centers, respite centers, state or tribal aging, assisted living and residential care centers, the Area Agency on Aging to ask about volunteer opportunities.
- Gather volunteers and decide how you want to help. Here are some ideas:
- Sit in for the couple of hours while the caregiver runs errands or take some time off.
- Offer to run errands or complete chores such as:
- Pick up groceries
- Do laundry
- Mow the yard
- Bring home-cooked meals
- Be a good listener to the caregiver
- Offer reading, prayer, and spiritual resources
- Contact the caregivers to notify them that you are stopping by. Some may not welcome a surprise visit.
- Recognize signs of the caregiver’s stress such as anger, exhaustion, social withdrawal, irritability, etc. Be gentle and understanding.
- Some caregivers may have a difficult time accepting help. Remind them that they do not need to carry the burden alone and that self-care is important.
- November is National Family Caregiver Month. Consider inviting your church to participate or pray especially for caregivers.
- Try to venture beyond your community and neighborhood. There are caregivers in rural areas who may be isolated from social support, resources, community programs, and respite options.
- In addition to volunteering, you can also form a caregiver support group in church to allow caregivers to share their stories, testimony, encouragement and insights with one another.