FLORENCE, Ala. (BNC) by Richard Mansel — Days and nights can be immaterial to a caregiver because they don’t know when they will be able to sleep again and for how long. Every sound is magnified and every furtive look brings concern. Calamity is always lurking nearby. Even waiting for a safe time to shower can be stressful.

Bernice Johnson Reagon said, “Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” Few situations fit this quote better than being a caregiver. A caregiver is “a person who has accepted responsibility for looking after a vulnerable neighbor or relative” (Dictionary.com).

Basically, it means that a person who is unable to take care of themselves has placed their lives in someone else’s hands. Being a caregiver is a challenging responsibility.

When the child is forced to become the parent, nothing is easy. Add dementia or Alzheimer’s to the mix, and the complexities can be overwhelming as the caregiver exists in a blur of myth, mystery, and unreality.

The Mt. Juliet, Tenn., church of Christ website contains an article by Jack D. Cronk on stress factors for the caregiver. Not all caregiver situations are traumatic, but many face significant challenges because of their circumstances, relationship to the ailing, and their own particular coping skills and health. When the caregiver is also in need of care, the stress level mushrooms.

Cronk points out that depression, anxiety, irritability, denial, and social withdrawal are all distinct possibilities for the caregiver. Regardless of their compassion and love for the ailing, the caregiver has their own existence which can seem doubtful in intense situations. They can be like someone watching their lives pass them by as their own dreams, hobbies, and work fade in the distance.

Despite the problems, being a caregiver is a great opportunity for growth. The more we get outside of ourselves, the better we will be as a person. It builds humility and perspective. God calls us to be transformed by the gospel so we can see things larger than our own needs (Romans 12:1-2).

A woman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before her husband became gravely ill. While she was constantly devoted to his care, her disease stayed at a safe distance because she had a singular focus and a force of will as she ushered him to his final rest.

When the patient is a relative and they enter death, the caregiver must recover themselves physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally before they can properly grieve. Many times they have wasted away and surpassed limits they didn’t think were possible.

God cares for us and as we serve as caregivers, let’s remain as close to the Lord as possible. Even if we’re unable to attend worship or fellowship with the brethren, we can find our way in Scripture and prayer. Nothing can take God away from us if we hold him dear (Romans 8:35-39).

Richard preaches part-time and is involved in writing, reading, being
a house parent at the North Alabama Christian Children’s Home and
caring for his father who is suffering from cancer.