Concrete Acts of Love Can Help Caregivers

Concrete Acts of Love Can Help Caregivers

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“I know I did the right thing, but I cannot stop feeling guilty for doing so.” 

Some decisions are not only difficult to make, they are also heartbreaking to make. His wife has advanced dementia and is difficult for anyone to manage, let alone a 90-plus-year-old spouse. She would not allow aides or companions into her home —that was the first option. She would not consider moving to an assisted living facility. She was closed to every available option. So she stayed where she was longer than was safe and her husband’s safety and health became a major concern. Finally, she was placed in a memory care facility, where, slowly but surely, she is adjusting. Her husband, with a lot of support from family, friends, and his church family, made the difficult decision.

“I know I made the right decision, but I cannot stop feeling guilty.”

His plight is all too typical. Too many caregivers share the experience. And they often get overlooked, in terms of the care they need and deserve at such times. The church can do much toward helping the caregiver, who often feels inadequate and as if they have failed their loved one, to adjust. It is not enough to see them on Sunday morning and greet them with a friendly smile and a “How are you doing?” The congregation and pastor can offer a healing environment by providing concrete acts of love.

Some suggestions include:

• A plan to bring and share some meals in the home

• A regular visiting schedule

• A drive through the countryside

• A visit with the spouse as a demonstration that she/he has not been forgotten

• Sitting with the caregiver, if wanted, during worship

• Including her/him in church activities that both used to attend

• Reach out on special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries)

• Offer rides, if driving is an issue

• Speak of the “missing” spouse and show willingness to share and listen to memories

By no means is this an exhaustive list. Be creative in expanding the list. When to slow down the support? Let the Spirit lead you. Somehow it will become clear. We cannot force an adjustment, but we can make it softer by accompanying a person on the journey.