Linda worked at my bank. Occasionally I would stop in to make deposits, and she would always strike up a conversation with me. She was a very sweet woman in her late 60’s and always seemed to be in a good mood. She was kind to everyone she spoke with, greeting them with a smile and a word of encouragement. From the outset, it seemed as if she didn’t have any problems at all in her life. She was full of joy, peace, and love.
One morning I walked into the bank, and could tell immediately that Linda was troubled about something. She greeted me with the same smile she always did, but I could see a deep sadness in her eyes. She confided in me that her husband had recently been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Through tears, she told me that he had been experiencing trouble swallowing and terrible indigestion for a while now. Because of these symptoms, he had lost a significant amount of weight. His body was very weak. She wasn’t sure he would have the strength to fight.
So, Linda was determined to fight for him. She studied everything she could about his cancer. She personally met with our dietitian and compiled a list of recipes suitable for him. She went to every single appointment he had and took meticulous notes. She held his hand through every treatment. She comforted him when the nausea and vomiting would hit. She was a strong and constant source of support through four long years of treatment.
Through the years, I have had the opportunity to meet many caregivers. Each time I do, I am humbled by their servant hearts and their sacrificial love. It is a great picture of the way God loves us!
Although caregiving can be rewarding, it can also result in feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Many caregivers feel they are “on call” all hours of the day. As a result, they often feel overwhelmed.
The strain is psychological, as the stress related to caregiving is associated with higher levels of blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease. In addition, caregivers often have a weaker immune system and memory disturbances.
Some signs and symptoms of caregiver stress include:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Becoming easily angered
- Feeling overwhelmed, alone, or isolated
- Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
If you have a caregiver in your life, and you would like to offer some help, you can relieve their stress in the following ways:
- Offering to sit with their loved one so they can have time “off”
- Help the patient by running errands for them
- Connect them with other members of the church who are also in the role of caregiving so they can support one another
- Encourage them to remain organized – follow a daily routine
- Encourage them to make healthy choices – find time for exercise, eat healthy, and get enough sleep.
- Be there to listen. Caregivers often feel guilty when expressing the stress they are under, so simply listen to them and assure them that they are not walking this road alone and what they feel is normal!
- Deliver a meal to them
- Help them with chores around the house