Aging Gracefully

Growing old is not for the faint of heart. In developed countries, like America and many European nations, people are living longer.  Aging brings with it burdens of unanswered questions, unexpected injuries, and debilitating illness. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, families are responsible for providing 80% of the long-term care for their aging relatives. In the United States, about 45 million individuals are currently caring for an aging family member. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle contends 70% of people over age 65 and older will need some form of long-term care.

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“Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”

1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV)

 

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Family caregivers jump in to help as their loved ones encounter a myriad of ailments such as the following:

·       Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

·       Alzheimer’s Disease

·       Brain Tumor

·       Dementia

·       Dementia with Lewy Bodies

·       Depression

·       Frontotemporal Dementia

·       HIV-associated Neurocognitive Dementia (HAND)

·       Huntington’s

·       Hypoxic-Anoxic Brain Injury

·       Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

·       Parkinson’s Disease

·       Traumatic Brain Injury

·       Stroke

·       Vision Loss & Blindness

·       Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

 

The above list doesn’t include unexpected things like falls resulting in fractures or injuries affecting knees, hips, and other body parts. Hip fractures can lead to serious complications, including death.  Ankle injuries occur frequently and take a long time to heal. Any of these incidents can catapult a family member into a caregiver role to help nurture a beloved family member in need of care. In some cases, this may involve short-term care. In other instances, longer care is required, disrupting the norms and routines of daily life for all involved. Aging gracefully is a complicated endeavor wrought with dynamic complexities, financial concerns, and familial stress.

Many seniors find themselves in the financial crux of not being rich or poor enough. On the one hand, less than 10 percent of families can afford insurance policies that cover the costs associated with long-term care. On the other hand, many people must rely on Medicare because they are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Unlike Medicaid, Medicare does not cover most long-term care expenses and only pays for some of the costs associated with short-term care.

As the number of Baby-Boomers growing old continues to increase, more families will find themselves tasked with taking care of an aging parent or relative. Some family members may find that it is necessary to put their life on hold while they look after their loved one parent, grandparent, or aging sibling.

Reuniting under one roof after years of independent living is fraught with challenges as well. Grandma’s house may be a fun place to visit, but it may not be ideal for making home for extended family. In the same token, saying goodbye to the place they call home is difficult and can be heartbreaking for elderly people not ready to give up their independence.

 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27 (ESV)

Many of us put off contemplating our own mortality for as long as possible. Unless your name is Samantha Stevens, you are going to grow old and face dying. Aging gracefully takes gumption and a good deal of financial planning. Dying ain’t cheap. 

So what can we do to ensure that our loved ones have the opportunity to age gracefully?

For starters, get the conversation started early. From experience, we’ve found that these conversations vary from person to person, just like the situations and conditions vary as well. Plan ahead, discuss options, fill out important paperwork like HIPAA, a DNR, and Living Wills. Work through the challenges you run into as prayerfully as possible. Recognize that if you are a believer caring for an elder parent that is a non-believer that you do not share the same viewpoint on the “Golden Years”. A believer’s approach to dying will vary tremendously from that of a non-believer due to opposing attitudes, beliefs, and values.

Remember: You may be the only Bible they read.

Biblically, the answer for believers is clear. Our first ministry is to our family. They comprise the sheep nearest to us and we are responsible for tending to them, particularly in times of difficulty. If we don’t shepherd our loved ones, who will?  That’s why having a church family is so important. The church comes alongside members who are caring for their loved ones. They may bring food, stop by for a visit, send a card, or take time to call. Sometimes, they offer a helping hand or lend a listening ear. Caring for those we love is a concept rooted in biblical teachings. Each generation helps the other generation.

When we do this, I believe we reflect the love of our Heavenly Father, which is always the right thing to do regardless of the era or age we live in.

 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 (ESV)

Photos via Pixabay and edited with Pixlr

Source(s):

Family Caregiver Alliance (2017) https://www.caregiver.org/

CBS Sunday Morning (2014) Aging in America: Stuck In the Middle. CBS News. CBSNews.com https://www.cbsnews.com/news/aging-in-america-stuck-in-the-middle/

 

Being More Compassionate

Being a caregiver requires compassion. The home health nurses that have come in throughout the week to check on my Mom have each clearly demonstrated their empathy, care and concern for my Mom as she recovers from her fall.

Me and Mom the Challenger

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Compassion is something I see firsthand every time our 4th Friday outreach group travels down to the Union Gospel Mission Dallas to sing, share the Gospel, and pray with the men. It’s the oldest ministry of our home church (Trinity Bible Church Richardson) and thus sets the tone for what our church is all about. Our leadership believes in equipping the saints for the purpose of doing ministry in the world we inhabit. Our church body strives to see people grow closer to God and grow closer to others. Why? Compassion

You see, as a believer, I want you to know what I know. I want you to experience what I have experienced.  What is that? The compassion of God. Compassion is part of God’s nature and character. It forms the essence of who God is. I am led to be compassionate because God first showed compassion to me. The same is true for you.

Compassion is Shared.

Compassion is a human quality as well as a divine quality. Compassion refers to the tender mercies we show one another and that God pours out on us. Because of the mercy God shows us, we are fueled to demonstrate compassion.  Think of it—when you were your worst self, did the Lord not shower you with His tender mercies?  What greater demonstration of love exists than the compassion our heavenly Father showed us through providing atonement for our sins through His son, Jesus Christ? Jesus, in emptying himself of all that is rightly his all to die a sinner’s death on a Cross although He himself had no sin, is the greatest of all tender mercies. The Holy Spirit, groaning and praying on our behalf provides us with daily mercies. In response, we must share the compassion shown to us with those in our lives who need it, freely giving what is given freely to us.

Rice Laying Next to Danny's Ashes

The Scriptures make it abundantly clear in Deuteronomy that God expects His people—the Hebrews— to demonstrate compassion to each other and to the foreigners living among them. This concept was clear to the prophets and the men of God. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches His disciples to show compassion towards anyone needing help. The lesson of compassion taught by Christ to his disciples is something that we as 21st century believers are expected to practice as well. After all, we are imitators of Christ.

Colossians 3:12-17The Message (MSG)

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

How can I help you?

Back when I worked at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, I had the privilege of working with a guy named Rick Sanders. Rick would always ask people “How can I help you?” People loved that about Rick and loved Rick because of his show of concern for them. The world didn’t begin and end with him, but with them. His care for others is what made him a great leader.

Having compassion is not a difficult concept to grasp. It simply means that we have a sympathetic empathy and concern regarding the sufferings and misfortunes of others. It requires we live prayerful lives and nurture hearts of gratitude. To be compassionate, we must take our eyes off ourselves and try to see others for who they are and be prepared to meet them where they are—not where we think they should be. Bad things happen to people. The causes vary. But in their moment of need, we must be less concerned with what got them there and more invested in how we can help them where they are in the moment of their greatest need. Talk is cheap. Compassion endears us to others because how we treat others is what they will remember about us the most, long after our words have grown silent.

com·pas·sion

[kəmˈpaSHən]

NOUN

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others:

synonyms: pity · sympathy · empathy · fellow feeling · care · concern · solicitude · sensitivity · warmth · love · tenderness · mercy · leniency · tolerance · kindness · humanity · charity

Compassion can change lives in a heartbeat

When it comes to homeless folks, I have compassion for these men, women, and children who struggle to have the basic necessitates of life that I tend to take for granted every day. My heart fills with compassion when I have the privilege of praying with a man possibly breathing his last breath or a child who has lost all hope.

It is that same compassion that drives Sweet T and I’s love for the ministry of Operation Christmas Child. You see, tonight, there are children who don’t know love at all. They don’t know that God loves them. They don’t know that you or anyone loves them. Their existence is hard. Their life expectancy is low. Their expected contribution to society is questionable. But it doesn’t have to be so. Compassion changes lives.

Me and T at the Ball Game

Our compassion can grow.

We can learn to be more compassionate by doing acts of kindness, by caring for others, by expressing our concern for one another. Acts of compassion fuel more acts of compassion. This is something that I have witnessed these past few weeks, taking care of Mom. Being a caregiver is not easy. The nurses that do this work for a living have shown me the definition of tender mercy through their loving kindness and acts of compassion in helping my Mom as she recovers. My wife, Sweet T, has demonstrated this as she has stayed strong and stood tall during this difficult time in our lives.

Their compassion makes me grateful. Their example makes me desire to practice greater compassion and be more caring. Tender mercies are something we could all use a little more of in this world we live in. I pray my compassion for others grows.

God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

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