Growing up, my parents modeled caring for family members so well. My paternal grandmother lived with my parents for a time in the late ‘60s (before I was born), and my mom and aunt cared for my maternal grandmother toward the end of her life in 1991. Even as a family that was mostly non-religious, they taught me that caring for elderly parents was important and valued. The elderly are God’s image-bearers, and he tells us in Exodus 20:12 to, “Honor your father and mother that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
In 1996 I was helping to care for my own mother as she unsuccessfully battled ovarian cancer. And now 27 years later, my dad is living with us as he battles dementia. It’s a legacy that I’m thankful for and that God has used to teach me about myself and him.
My dad has been with us for a year and a half now. Nothing (except maybe motherhood) has exposed my sin and weakness like this.
Many times, I’ve relied on the comfort that being in control has provided. I’ve had to learn to relinquish my control where my dad’s dementia is concerned. Flexibility and patience have helped to communicate love and care to him when words sometimes can’t.
Time constraints and expectations I’ve put on myself (and my dad) have only led to frustration, resentment, and angry exchanges. I’ve had to learn to embrace his limitations. I’ve had to understand that I don’t always have to be right. I’ve had to enter into his reality and be okay that he’s telling me something for 10th time or something I know isn’t accurate.
The only way I’ve been able to do this is with God’s help. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Being an only child, I knew that my dad was my responsibility, and I felt like I needed to carry all of it by myself.
One morning God impressed upon me that I couldn’t continue to do this without him and asking for his help occasionally wasn’t enough. I started asking God to “give me what I need for THIS part of my day.” As I’ve done this, my trust in God has grown and he has increased my joy!
Caring for parents towards the end of their lives is a great privilege. It’s messy, wonderful, surprising, tiring, and humbling. It honors God and our parents. It changes us for the better.
1/28/2023 10:06:30 am
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