Caring for a friend, family member, or spouse with a chronic illness can be one of life’s most physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially draining experiences. Yes, there are rich emotional and spiritual rewards in the work—but no matter how committed one is to ensuring loving, appropriate care, the fact remains that there are heavy demands on the caregiver’s own health and wellbeing. How many of you pastors (in a denomination steadily growing older and grayer) have not spent hours listening to the fears, worries and concerns, and watching the caregivers in your own congregation grow increasingly stressed and overwhelmed? How many of you have experienced the worries and strain yourself?! Jesus himself spent significant time and energy in responding to those in mental and spiritual distress over the needs of dependent loved ones. How can we, the Body of Christ, respond helpfully today to these same needs?
Has your congregation made an effort to address the challenges of caregiving? Would you like to? There are many sources for learning how your church might offer hope and relief to struggling family caregivers. The National Alliance for Caregiving (www.caregiving.org) and Powerful Tools for Caregivers (PTC) training (www.powerfultoolsforcaregivers.org) are just two starting points. PTC is a national organization based in Portland, OR which offers a top-rated series of practical classes for caregivers.
Perhaps some special funding would help you to generate some new approaches to this pressing need in our communities! Churches can sponsor a series of PTC classes in their neighborhoods for under $1,000! Or they can sponsor a couple of their own members to become certified teachers of the course. Or perhaps you have an idea for a way to provide much-needed respite for caregivers, who so often suffer from loneliness and “cabin fever” due to the isolation imposed by having to be constantly present with the one needing care. Maybe your deacons have initiated a helpful meal delivery system. Or… the possibilities are endless! What have you learned about supporting family caregivers, and how can we help you to do more?
This fall’s Bisbee Fund Community Ministry grants will be dedicated to such efforts to address the special needs of the family caregivers in our communities. Applications may be found here.