A whole milieu of human experiences is introduced to the person who serves as pastor in charge of a local church. Among those is dealing with older persons, couples in particular, who are dealing with a very serious illness of one or the other. Often, these illnesses include cancer, Alzheimer’s, a multitude of other ailments which create debilitating circumstances.
The one who is ill, if aware, surely does not find joy in placing such a heavy responsibility on his/her mate. Often, these are situations which occur before hospice care is available. Sometimes, the dynamic is influenced by economics. For others, it is just wanting to be near and with and helpful to ones mate.
There are, however, some very seriously compromising matters which come with trying to be available and able to care for someone in the home. These are some of the issues which need to be considered:
* Assuming your own health is reasonably good, the situation will likely be manageable at first. However, one must evaluate the condition and demands of the ill partner before jumping in too fast.
* Consider your housing arrangement and situation. Will it complement the needs of the patient; does it offer sufficient space for other activities to go on in the house, while the patient is sleeping; can an overnight guest be comfortable in your home, if visiting, or perhaps giving you a needed respite
* Are there persons who can come by for a visit, giving you opportunity to get out of the house for awhile, to run errands, take care of your own needs, meet appointments, and so on?
* Can you continue to do some of the things you would like to do to keep your own serenity and composure in a very difficult situation?
* Do you have distractions which you may engage in, giving your body and mind a chance for a break?
* Is there a Stephen Ministry or other helpful program in your local church which can offer regular visits, help with some of the day to day routines, etc.?
* Will you need someone with whom you talk through your own feelings and issues as you go through this process?
* Are necessary legal and financial matters all arranged, so that will not have to be done later?
* Are there discussions you need to have with your partner? Can you find the motivation to do that?
* Will you be able to get sufficient rest and sleep, most nights, as you go through this event?
* Assuming this is a terminal situation, have agreements been reached to deal with all of the details?
* Are you and your children, if any, on the same page? If not, this can be very disruptive to everyone.
* Will you be able to maintain a healthy diet? Loss of weight is often an indicator the Caregiver is giving out.
* Is your spiritual life such that you can draw help from that?
* Will you be able to make the decision, when the time comes, to move the patient from home to hospice or some other facility, knowing it will be in the self interest of both of you?
These are just some of the considerations for the Caregiver. Avoiding any or most of these may compromise your own ability to deal adequately with the situation. I have known Caregivers who have died before the Care Receiver because of literal exhaustion and just being overwhelmed by it all. Choose your course wisely and carefully. Recognize that it will likely be the hardest decision you have ever made. Allow yourself some exits. Don’t be so stubborn that you are unable to hear the counsel and observations of others. Don’t be sucked in by guilt.