Guardian Angels News

Pastoral Pearls: Caring for Others & Ourselves

Posted by MaryPat Potts on

Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in the frenzy of doing, producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. ~ Pope Francis from 365 Daily Meditations with Pope Francis, May 10

Before my work in pastoral care, and when sickness struck my loved ones, I would have to say I was among those whose lives were so busy there was no room to think about “the sick.” Out of sight, out of mind maybe? Yet I knew that there were MANY people in hospitals, or cancer centers, or senior care or rehab centers, and so on. I would hear of someone I knew remotely and would think, “Oh, that is so sad… or so hard…” and then go about my business as usual.

I’m embarrassed to think of that now. What kept me from seeing that when I hear of someone who is ill, that is an opportunity to show God’s love. It is in fact one of our Corporal Works of Mercy. Sure, I memorized those in CCD, but did I really act on them?

Having been a caregiver for each of my parents, I learned more about caring for the sick. It is not easy! (And I wasn’t even caring for them in my own home). Many of you do care for a loved one in your home or for someone who may be living in a care center, and you know this reality. There is a lot involved! There is taking care of their physical needs, which can be all-consuming from what I’ve heard from those in the throes of that. A person can lose who they are if they allow the care for their loved one to trump their own needs. Even if a care center or care attendant are doing most of that work, for me it seemed like it was never done well enough or carefully enough for my standards.

Then there are the emotional needs of the person you’re caring for – the need for companionship, conversation, comfort, doing things together, and reminding them you love them. I chose to move my parents into a care center because I knew how easy it would be to focus just on the physical needs, and I would be tempted away from spending quality time with them, focusing just on them. That is what worked for me, but maybe would not be right for the next person.

When faced with this kind of responsibility it was way too easy to pour out all my time and energy taking care of their needs. That is what we are called to do, and what is necessary. But I realize that this type of care is exhausting, and isolating, and often thankless, and totally time-consuming. I didn’t have much left over for anything else, much less myself – and that wasn’t even providing 24/7 care for my folks. Other challenges faced me – how to juggle all the other responsibilities in my life, like my job, spending time with my husband and adult children and grandchildren, doing the house cleaning, making dinners, doing laundry,… On top of all that, I had to make time to see my folks every other day and talk to them on the phone daily. It becomes routine, but I feel like I don’t really have a life.

So that’s when I began to feel I was crazy, trying to navigate all these challenges. I felt all alone – because I expected myself to be able to take care of it all – by myself.  Some people complain that other family members don’t help – they have their difficulties, too. Either way, it can be overwhelming and draining. And it seems I never knew what I needed to know until after I needed to know it!

And finally, if it moves toward death, the heartbreak of watching them lose their abilities, their mental clarity, wither away physically, or suffer great pain – that was a new experience for me. My mom passed in excruciating pain that hospice could not relieve.

But there are the bright spots, too - Finding the “entertainment value” within the words or actions of someone with Alzheimers’ or Dementia (because what else can you do?); the light of love in their eyes, or if you’re lucky, in their words or actions; the bittersweet joy of singing my Mom off to heaven, singing “Be Not Afraid.”

If you are caring for a loved one, a caregiver, please consider joining us for our Caregiver Support Group, the Second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. You might find you are not crazy; your challenges are not yours alone, but others have similar experiences; the emotional rollercoaster you ride constantly, is also familiar to others in their caregiving circumstances. You might find useful info. from the other participants who may have already experienced your issues. You will find people who understand the kinds of things and feelings and thoughts that you experience in your caregiving journey.

Check us out – our next meeting is this Thursday, June 13. Contact MaryPat Potts for the Zoom link.

Loving God,

Please help me to find ways to “give myself freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others.”

Open my eyes to see the honor and privilege in doing this type of caring, where I see I may help someone who is ill or aging or lonely.

Remind me, too, to take care of myself, so that I am better able to serve.”

~ Amen



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