Caregiver Care

by Mary Boland
Terri Scott

Family caregiving duties have grown in the past decade. According to a 2015 study by AARP, an estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months. Twenty-two percent of caregivers feel their health had gotten worse as a result of caregiving, and caring for a close relative, like a spouse or parent (45 percent and 44 percent, respectively), is more emotionally stressful for caregivers than caring for another relative (35 percent) or non-relative (18 percent). The need for support for the caregivers is paramount, and the church can be a key provider.

Starting a caregivers support ministry is one option that lends itself to many other avenues for support. As caregivers get together in community to discuss their common challenges, frustrations, and joys of their responsibilities, their true needs will become more evident. Often, caregiving duties are much more than the task associated with it, such as housekeeping, grocery shopping, and managing finances. Many caregivers also provide medical and nursing tasks, from managing medications to wound care to administering intravenous fluids and injections. Unless the family caregiver is a certified medical professional, these tasks can prove to be challenging and potentially harmful if done incorrectly. A faith community nurse or other medical professional in the congregation can help a family caregiver learn to provide basic tasks that may fall under a medical heading. This skill can be invaluable to caregivers who perform medical tasks for their loved ones.

On average, caregivers spend 24.4 hours a week providing care to their loved one. (AARP 2015)

Additionally, caregivers often need more than a day off from grocery duties—they need emotional and spiritual healing. Offering a caregiver’s retreat, or even a simple prayer session, can be one way your church can relieve the toll caregiving duties take on their spiritual and emotional well-being. Physical well-being of caregivers may also suffer, due to their time being stretched between work, caregiving, and their own family life. Consider taking a caregiver’s support ministry out for a walking session, or offer yoga as part of the meeting. Or, for caregivers who cannot attend Sunday worship, offer an alternate worship service during the week, and provide volunteers who can spend time with the loved one so the caregiver can attend worship.

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