My husband and I have been caring for our daughter, who has cognitive and physical challenges, for nearly 30 years now. During that time, we also cared for my mother-in-law through cancer and dementia. I’ve got to be honest, caring for people who are sick or disabled, no matter how much you love them, is hard work.
When the care is 24/7, as it is in our case, it’s downright exhausting and overwhelming. Bathing, feeding, meds, doctor’s appointments, therapies, errands—all on top of our own schedules and needs. It’s enough to make even the most loving and patient saint snap.
We have often looked around and wondered, when we become weak and vulnerable, who will care for us? Will we be able to take care of each other? Will family step in and help? Will we have the financial resources to pay for outside help? Would we want to participate in institutionalized care (programs, homes, care systems)?
In addition to our own concerns, America is experiencing a caregiving crisis. It’s been a problem for quite a while, but was brought to the forefront during the pandemic.
In her article for NextAvenue.org, Jodi M. Sturgeon, president of PHI, a nonprofit committed to improving quality care for older adults and people with disabilities, said, “We are facing an extraordinary demographic shift that will create new challenges for our society and demand new policy solutions. Each day, 10,000 boomers turn 65. And over the next 30 years, the population of older adults will nearly double—growing from 48 million to 88 million, with the largest percentage increase among those 85 and older. This shift will profoundly impact families all across America.” Those stats don’t even include those caring for relatively younger people struggling with chronic illness, disabilities and mental illness.
From whence will our help come?
Our hope is in the Church, that the body of believers will see the need and respond in love and power as Jesus teaches us. It’s not the job of the government or institutions to care for the most vulnerable members of our families and communities. The Lord’s plan is for His people to be aware of their neighbor’s struggles and allow themselves to be moved to the point of personal sacrifice. (See Jesus’ parables of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and The Paralytic on the Mat in Luke 5:17-20.)
Jesus teaches us throughout scripture that our primary role as believers is to love and care for each other (John 13:34).
We are not to just say we love one another, but to use our gifts and talents to care for each other—especially our family members and other believers.
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:6-7
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10
Jesus teaches that we are all part of One Body, and what benefits one, benefits us all (1 Corinthians 12:26, Romans 12:4-5). As a matter of fact, when we care for one another, it is our Lord we serve (Colossians 3:24, Matthew 25:34-36).
As we look at these new challenges for our society that will profoundly impact most families, how will we, the Church, respond? In coming articles, I will reveal what our Lord says about how we are to care for one another and offer constructive ideas for building a culture of care. I will also shed light on community resources that can come alongside to help you and the families you encounter.
In the meantime, open your eyes and your heart to family members and neighbors who are struggling with the care of a spouse with cancer, a child with disabilities, a parent with dementia and ask yourself, if it were you (or perhaps it has been), how would you want others to care for you. Then put your empathetic and compassionate response into action, in the wonderful Name of Jesus.
Mary Tutterow is the author of The Heart of the Caregiver® study series, written for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities and emotions of caring for someone. Mary and her husband, Winn, have two adult children and live in Mt. Pleasant, SC. For 15+ years, Mary has been leading online and inperson small groups for caregivers—as well as workshops, webinars and retreats. Mary has been featured on numerous podcasts, vlogs and talk shows. To learn more visit www.TheHeartoftheCaregiver.com. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mary Tutterow, Author of “The Heart of the Caregiver”