words and photos by June Friesen; all scripture passages from The Message translation
National Caregiver’s Day/Month. This is a month-long awareness and if and when one becomes a caregiver or needs a caregiver it is then one realizes just the magnitude of this commitment.
“Celebrated every November, National Family Caregivers Month (NFCM) is a time to recognize and honor family caregivers across the country. It offers an opportunity to raise awareness of caregiving issues, educate communities, and increase support for caregivers.
The national observance is led by Caregiver Action Network (CAN), a nonprofit that provides free education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers. CAN selected the 2022 theme, #CaregivingHappens, to acknowledge the reality that family caregiving is not always convenient or expected.” (Taken from Administration for Community Living Website)
The theme chosen for this year is so appropriate to this topic/theme – #CaregvingHappens. If you have not ever been one who has needed a caregiver or been called upon to provide caregiving it may be hard to understand all of the things involved in it.
Thirteen years ago I found myself in a difficult situation due to an unfortunate accident when I was hiking. I shattered my ankle and not only was I hiking but I was in another state visiting my son and his family. This was a real challenge for me as I had always been the caregiver for and of others and now I literally had to have others care for me because of the severity of the injury. Two little girls, my granddaughters, were able to come and visit in the hospital. For both of them crawling in bed with grandma was filled with caregiving love – and probably gave me courage as well as encouragement to do my best to recover from this injury. The first action it took was a total surrender of myself to God – allowing Him to be in charge. Then it took a spirit of surrender to the instructions of the physician which was rather stern and overwhelming as he stood by my bedside and said, “Mrs. Friesen, in my 25-plus years of orthopedic surgery I have never seen such a severe ankle break. You will not be able to use that leg for 2-3 months.” In my mind I thought he does not know me very well … but within 24 hours I learned how right his words were. I went from the hospital to the airport to home where a young adult lady friend met us at the airport with this greeting. “June, I have moved my things into the house and I will be staying with you and Mr. Friesen. I will help take care of you.” Humbling, maybe even a bit humiliating but I learned that it is not always easy to be on the receiving end of being cared for as things are not always done the way you like or want them – but nonetheless they get done and it is okay. I recovered faster and way better that any orthopedic doctor/therapist ever expected. Having good caregivers and people who cared plus a cooperative attitude on my part was key. I left behind two little ones as I returned home, my granddaughters, who would have no doubt spent much time keeping me occupied but not really able to help care for me. They knew how to keep me distracted in the beginning stages of learning my limitations. Now I am able to walk, run and hike without any real limitations at all. These steps on one of our favorite hiking trails are able to be mastered quite easily along with the ups and downs, rocks and loose dirt as we climb.
So why do I share this story?
One of the passages that I thought of when thinking about caregiving was John 19 when Jesus entrusted his mother into the care of his disciple John just before He died.
John 19:25 Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, “He is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “She is your mother.” From that time the disciple took her to live in his home.
For many of us we may not find ourselves in the place of being a caregiver or having need for a personal caregiver. However, for some it is something that is a regular part of their life for one reason or another. For Jesus here, he knew that after His death and resurrection His time on earth would be short. As an oldest son he took his responsibility seriously and provided someone to meet the needs of his mother for the rest of her time on the earth. Oftentimes, when we think of caregiving, we think of elderly people who may have some kind of disability. It may be physical, mental or just growing older and the body kind of wearing out. In our country people are living longer and dementia and Alzheimer’s along with physical issues require many people to be in need of some kind of care and some need 24/7 care. Oftentimes, families think that they can and will be able to do it but then find it to be overwhelming physically as well as emotionally. The struggle and stress of what to do with a loved one in need of care much of the time or all of the time can take a toll on the complete family. It can bring frustration in many ways, it can lead to disagreements and sometimes it sadly leads to fractured relationships that are not easily repaired. John took Mary into his home and provided and cared for her. Sometimes we may be called upon to do that for others on a part-time or a full-time basis.
Sometimes there are children born who have some kind of disability which means they will require some kind of extra care/treatment/supervision throughout much and maybe all of their lifetime. Sometimes families can manage themselves, sometimes the family can manage with some extra help whether in-home or respite caregivers, sometimes it is special day programs that help challenge the ‘special needs person’ in learning how to do some things for themselves. In my circle of friends I have two families with autistic children. When we have gatherings we all work together to help as much as possible so we can all have a good time, including the family with the special needs child. I believe that this is very helpful for those who are the regular caregivers as it allows them to also enjoy some time just to relax and fellowship. One more passage of Scripture from Paul. It would seem that Paul had some need to be cared for at some time even though we are not sure what that may have been.
Philippians 4:9 Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. 10 In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don’t mean that you had stopped caring for me—you just had no chance to show it. 11 And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learned to be satisfied with what I have.
Some historians believe that Paul had an issue with his sight but that was never really confirmed. Another need for care that I thought of when it comes to Paul is the care his wounds would have needed after his imprisonments. Paul was appreciative of the care and for the most part I believe that people who need caregivers or have caregivers are appreciative, sometimes they just do not have means to know how to communicate it to the caregiver.
So what are some ways we may show appreciation for caregivers? If you know someone who is a caregiver, maybe offer to give them a break for an hour or two or more. One could ask the caregivers themselves what can I do for you that would be the greatest help? Little handwritten notes of appreciation are always good. And when I think of caregivers don’t forget those who work in care homes, nursing homes, hospice centers, or in their own home caring for a family member. The world is large, the amount of people involved in caregiving in one way or another is far more than one ever thinks or realizes. But saying thankyou as you leave when visiting someone in a hospital or another facility is always welcomed. So let us be grateful not just today, not just this month but always for anyone who shows care for others. And might I also repeat – nearly everyone is a caregiver in some way for someone – many are not even aware of it. Jesus cared for others, He welcomed all and remember He cared to make sure His earthly mother would be cared for after He was gone.
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