By Joan Clayton: PNT Religion Columnist
The physical and emotional stress of meeting needs of loved ones can be debilitating. Even if that loved one is in a rest home, many needs still have to be met.
The responsibilities can be overwhelming.
Uncle Steve, the last of many relatives we have helped, is now 92. He has been in the hospital three times in the last few months. Seeing someone you love grow weaker is one of life’s hardest adjustments. Compassion, love and comfort to the hurting one requires sacrifice.
Having experienced this situation with my parents and aunts, my husband and I discovered we had to avoid marital stress. Caregiving is hard enough without disharmony. We learned early on a marriage could be eroded if precautions were not taken.
We hope our coping skills will be beneficial to others in similar situations:
1. Pray out loud together. A heartfelt prayer for guidance, wisdom and strength enables the caregivers to not only endure but to grow closer during the circumstances.
2. Go the extra mile for each other. Be keenly aware of each other’s needs. One morning my husband seemed a little grumpy from loss of sleep after a night shift in the hospital with my aunt. “I bet you a quarter I can’t kiss you,” I said. He looked surprised but answered, “Okay.” I planted a big kiss on him and exclaimed: “You win!”
3. Keep your sense of humor. Laughter makes everything better. It’s easy for the patient to become discouraged. The doctor walked into my uncle’s room one morning. My uncle said, “I guess I need a tree to fall on my head.” The doctor quickly replied, “Well, if it did, it would hurt the tree.”
4. Be grateful. Appreciate God’s many blessings, including doctors and nurses. The world is full of wondrous things, even amidst the pain. Be thankful you have the strength and fervor to minister to a hurting soul.
5. Maintain a positive attitude. In the midst of stress, negativity leads to defeat. Disagreements, criticizing and fault finding between husband and wife can tear down a relationship. Weary bodies and strung out emotions need peace and harmony. Choose positive words that lift up and encourage.
6. Make time for each other. Ask a friend to relieve you occasionally. You need time away from caregiving, a time for renewal and recuperation. This helps to regain perspective. Time spent together is top priority. Without it the marriage suffers and closeness wanes. Caregiving strains relationships but with planning and schedule adjusting, marriages can be reinforced to cope with the necessary demands. Making time for each other is the essence of your marriage. Emmitt has unselfishly given his retirement years to help take care of my relatives. This has given me an even deeper appreciation of his character.
In the midst of the strain of caregiving, I have discovered little secrets along the way to keep the love and spontaneity in our marriage. I shower him with appreciation and I never take him for granted. I hold his hand and embrace him as we walk along. I send a loving glance at him while sitting with a sick relative.
7. Trust in God. Proverbs 20:24 teaches us: “Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way.” A common assurance and trust in God brings peace to all concerned. By turning worries into prayers, you free your mate from added stress.
We could have spent our retirement years on other things but I believe God puts the right people in the right places at the right time.
I look at my husband and softly whisper, “Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful caring man.”
Portales resident Joan Clayton is a retired teacher and published author. Her e-mail address is: