Millions of Americans—and people all over the world—care for a family member or a friend with a significant health ailment. Caregiving can be a labor of love, yet it can also be very stressful and overwhelming, especially when you are just getting started. Hence, it’s of vital importance to assess your loved one’s needs to determine what kind of help is needed and for how long.
Historically, caregiving has been linked to gender, according to the social scientific literature on caregiving.1 Women, to be sure, have been most often the caregivers. Many suggest that caring comes natural to women, and others simply make caregiving women’s responsibility. Yet the truth is that men and women often find themselves taking care of a loved one at different stages of their lives: whether their own children who need to be cared for before they become old enough to go to school; a spouse who becomes prematurely incapacitated; or an elderly parent in need of care for any number of reasons.
Caring should not be a foreign concept to people of faith. After all, the Bible says in Colossians 3:12: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”2 James 1:27 takes up a similar refrain when it offers: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” And the apostle Paul continues by stating: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).
What we know is that caregiving is important and necessary work that can become overwhelming and extremely stressful. This means it is necessary to become intimately familiar with the particulars of caregiving, to better position us not only to survive but to thrive in our quest to offer support to another human being. Especially in circumstances when we least expect to be called on to offer necessary caregiving for a loved one or a friend.
Following is a list of resources that may be accessed as a menu of caregiving for different situations and circumstances.
1 See Francesca M. Cancian and Stacey J. Oliker, Caring and Gender (Walnut Creek, Calif.: Altamira Press, 2000).
2 All Scripture quotations have been taken from English Standard Version.