As our parents age, we may find our roles reversed. Where our moms and dads previously cared for and nurtured us, we often become their caregivers eventually. Whether you have two parents or one, it can be challenging to assist while maintaining your own emotional and mental well being.
When you are on an airplane, the flight attendant will orient you to the safety procedures. He or she will remind you that if the oxygen mask drops, you are to first put it on yourself before you place it on your loved one. It is such with caregiving. You must maintain your own health so that you can help your loved ones.
God commanded us to love and honor our mothers and fathers. The act of caring for our parents is service to Him and a tribute to the time and gifts that our parents gave to us.
I have been caring for my aging mother for the past six years. Being the oldest of three daughters, I was raised to take on large amounts of responsibility. When my mother suffered a health setback, I left a full time job to care for her. Such was my deep commitment and the innate caregiving instinct I felt. Leaving my position was also an effort to maintain my own mental well being as I recognized I could not do both caregiving and employment without my own health suffering.
Many caregivers cannot afford to leave or quit their jobs. It definitely impacted our family emotionally and financially to take on this challenge. Caregivers who work full or part time are especially vulnerable to caregiver burnout. When I try to explain my sense of duty to friends, I usually fall short. If they have not been primary caregivers, they typically do not understand.
I asked my husband recently why he thought I was so devoted to my mother, and his answer wrapped around me like a warm blanket.
“You care for your mother because you ARE a mother,” he said. “You have birthed two children, took care of them, nursed them through sickness in the middle of the night. You know the unconditional love of mothering.”
I feel this is truly the reason I have devoted myself to my mother. My love and sense of responsibility towards her is akin to what I feel for my own children. My main challenge is maintaining healthy boundaries so that I do not become overloaded. As my mother ages, her needs are increasing. I worry about her more, and I feel that concern on a daily basis.
If you are a primary caregiver, please seek help if you are becoming physically and/or emotionally overloaded. Reach out to a therapist, physician, or caregiver support group. Ask for assistance when you need it and allow others to help. If you are not a primary caregiver, please love and appreciate the person who is caring for your parents. Do not take them for granted, but instead ask how you can help. Be willing to step up to the responsibility of family care for your parents.
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”—1st Timothy 5:8
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