As a caregiver I try NOT to focus on all that I am actually responsible for because the magnitude of this is so overwhelming that I would be too frightened to leave my bed in the mornings! I see the responsibilities being categorized into two groups which are physical and emotional/spiritual.
First are the physical needs of the patient. Things like bathing, feeding, personal hygiene, giving of medications, and even assisting when using the toilet are daily chores achieved by caregivers. Caregivers also cook, clean, shop, run errands, pay bills, manage medications, keep journals, make appointments, transport the patient, and stay during hospital visits. The average caregiver in America is between the age of 40-60, works a full time job, and cares for his/her own family while caring for another. Caregivers often forfeit their own health while focusing on another.
Secondly, caregivers hold emotional and spiritual responsibilities for those they care for. The caregiver must be strong, courageous, and steadfast in the face of trauma and debilitating fear. I look back at moments in my own caregiving journey and do not know how I kept it all together and how I was able to support my husband and my daughter, but realize Jesus was holding me all the while. I was never strong enough, courageous enough, or steadfast enough but my Jesus was. A caregiver without Christ will only last so long. While a caregiver lifts everyone else, prays with and for others, and even points others to God for help, there is usually no one to tell or do those things for the caregiver. I found the ONLY one who could refill me and give me the strength to face my next day was Jesus Christ. He became my most intimate friend and confidant. During my moments of hopelessness I turned to His Word and was given Isaiah 41:13 which says, “I am holding you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God—and I say to you, Don’t be afraid; I am here to help you.” The best self-help book I’ve ever read continues to be the Bible! Not only did He die for me but He left the ULTIMATE caregiver called the Holy Spirit to comfort me, encourage me, and guide me when no one else on this earth possibly could.
The Christian Church has not purposely forgotten caregivers. It just doesn’t understand the need. As a caregiver, church member, or ministry leader, you can join MDO Ministries in becoming a voice for caregivers across the globe who long to be recognized as what they truly are which is a missionary of the home, rest home, or hospital. Caregivers are called to care for others not unlike a missionary called the plains of Africa. What they do is a choice. They do the very things that Jesus commissioned all of us to do in Matthew 25:45 when He said, “‘When you refused to help the least of these my brothers, you were refusing help to me.’” A simple monthly support/prayer group, visiting when they can’t come to church, sending a card or email, mentioning their name along with the one they care for during prayer requests, or a visit will mean more than you could ever imagine to a caregiver. The church must care for the caregiver where they are in order for them to continue in the amazing work God has called them to do.
Jessica Daly is the founder and leader of My Daly Outreach Ministries which is dedicated to the spiritual encouragement of caregivers around the globe. She presently serves as a research librarian and associate professor at Liberty University. She and her husband of 15 years along with their 11 year old daughter reside in Lynchburg, VA where they attend Thomas Road Baptist Church. Jessica is a published author and columnist as well as a Christian speaker.