In celebration of National Family Caregivers Month, we’re sharing the stories of other bloggers and caregivers. Today guest blogger Barbara Haper writes about the resentment she sometimes feels as a caregiver and offers some practical tips for battling resentment.
Seven years ago we moved my mother-in-law 2,000 miles away from her home to live near us in an assisted living facility. Her declining condition eventually took her to a nursing home, where she dwindled down to 90 lbs. We brought her to our home so she could pass away peacefully among family. However, she responded well to one-on-one care, gained weight, and has been here for over two years.
I’ve experienced a gamut of emotions since being involved with her care. Happiness that she was cared for and that our family could spend more time with her. Gratification to be able to give back to someone who had poured her life out for loved ones. Sadness from her decline, the loss of the person we knew, the knowledge that she’s going to get worse, planning funeral arrangements. Frustrations over staff members not adequately taking care of her, family members not keeping in touch, not being as available for my son’s family during his son’s NICU stay as we would have liked, the effects of dementia though knowing she couldn’t help those things. Dislike of the physical aspects of care-giving (some are natural caregivers: I am not). Weariness over the everyday aspects and wondering how much longer we can do it. Pressure from the needs of family, work, finances, and other obligations. We’ve felt like the ham and cheese of the sandwich generation. We've felt like the ham and cheese of the sandwich generation. #caregiver #dementia Click To Tweet
But the one I’ve wrestled with the most is resentment and its accompanying guilt. What is there to be resentful over? Though I love and miss our kids, I had looked forward to empty nest opportunities. I’ve felt “tied down” as we can’t go out without paying ($17 an hour here) for an aide to stay with her (her needs are too specific for just a friend to stay). While I appreciate hospice services, so many people coming through my home invades my introverted sanctuary. Sometimes they don’t call before they come or don’t arrive when planned, disrupting schedules. When my mother-in-law was in facilities, a 40-minute round trip there might find her either repeating conversations or too groggy to talk. We’ve had to set aside social functions, personal projects, and even ministries in order to take care of her.
Over the years I’ve found a number of helps from the practical to the spiritual that help me in battling resentment during my caregiver journey:
Taking care of one’s own health and sleep needs. Everything looks worse when you’re tired or run-down.
Talking with someone. Not bashing or complaining, but just being able to discuss the situation helps.
Getting away even for short periods provides a little respite.
Taking a day at a time. God gives grace and strength for the moment.
Remember what brought us to this place. As we trace our history with my mother-in-law’s care, we come to the same conclusion, that this is the best situation for her at this stage.
Remember that caring for a loved one at home used to be the norm before assisted living facilities and nursing homes became widespread, and it still is in some countries.
Remember her care of her family for so many years, and look at this as an opportunity to repay her love and care.
Think how we would want to be regarded and treated if we were in the same situation.
Pray. Sometimes, before going into my mother-in-law’s room, I pray I might be “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness” (Colossians 1:9-13). I need His strength, longsuffering, and patience, He has the power to help me to go beyond acting out of duty to enable me to serve with joy. I frequently pray that He will help me have a more loving, unselfish heart. Hebrews 4:16 promises we can find grace to help in time of need at God’s throne.God has the power to help a #caregiver go beyond acting out of duty and enabling us to serve… Click To Tweet
Remember truth: It is God’s will that we take care of our parents in their old age (Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:8-13; 1 Timothy 5:4, 16), whether in our home or a facility. If our spouse needs care, we vowed, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” Our child’s care is our responsibility.
My time, life, schedule, home, hopes, plans, and dreams, are not mine. They’re God’s. They were surrendered to Him years ago and need to be surrendered to Him daily. This is His will for me now. Though care-giving is not my natural gift, that’s what God has called me to. I can trust Him for grace.
Remember the Christian life is one of service, not self-focus. This is seen throughout the Bible, especially in the life of Jesus:
We exhort you, brethren…comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all. (I Thessalonians 5:14).
Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward (Matthew. 10:42).
To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews. 13:16).
After [Jesus] had washed their feet…he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:12-15).
With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men (Ephesians 6:7).
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9)
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:35-36, 40).
Accept this as my primary ministry. Though some pursuits and ministries have been put on the back burner for now, this is not a hindrance to our ministry: it is our ministry.
I hope these have been helpful. I would love to hear how you deal with caregiver emotions, especially resentment.
God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister
Barbara Harper will celebrate 36 years of marriage in December. She and her husband have three sons, one sweet daughter-in-law, and an adorable 18-month-old grandson. She enjoys reading, stitching, card-making, and writing for a ladies’ newsletter at church. One of her passions is getting women into the Word of God for themselves. She loves to write about her family, funny or interesting things she see, and things God has taught her at Stray Thoughts. She did a larger series there on Adventures in Elder Care last year.