One of the challenges of long term care is the gradual and difficult adjustment to the extent of the problem. The phases listed below were gleaned from an actual small group that had offered care to a family where the husband had a stroke and needed around-the-clock assistance for many months.
Deer in Headlights — This is the beginning of a crisis and requires a care group to be mobilized to help the family think clearly. Sometimes people even need to be reminded to eat! It is an opportunity for caregivers to step in and remind the family that not all is caving in and that they are surrounded by a loving community of believers who will shoulder the burden with them.
This Isn't Going Away — The family and those involved get a clear picture that this is going to be something that will not be resolved quickly and will require long term care. This is where the small group needs to be involved. It is important to communicate to the family that you will be there for the long-haul and you need to mean it. There are people in your congregation who are at stages and seasons of life that can be more available (singles and empty-nesters) and it is a wonderful place for them to serve.
Settling In — The small group and helpers begin to gain momentum. The family is out of crisis mode and beginning to adjust to a new routine. Although life has been radically disrupted, the family has adjusted and is beginning to take more responsibility for their own day-to-day needs. This is when the small group overseeing things will need to re- evaluate what the ongoing needs are, how they will be handled, and how to guard everyone from burn-out.
This Is the Way It Is — At this point, the small group needs to decide what the family’s ongoing needs will be and what the family can begin to do for themselves. It is also crucial to attend to the needs of those who have been caring for the family. This, to me, is where the elder and deacon in the group need to focus. They are there to care for the care-givers. This protects both officers and care-givers from burning out.
Remember that this is a long term situation. Having a sense of the terrain can help you navigate and be the best support you can possibly be for the family you are helping.
Copyright © 2013 Timothy S. Lane. All rights reserved.