UP FOR DISCUSSION … Can you imagine a scenario where people you know gather together and basically say to you “we’ve got this for the next four hours! You go and relax, take care of yourself, and have no worries – your loved one will be well cared for until you return.”

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Respite from this journey we are on is something every caregiver struggles with.  Finding time away from our loved one’s situation and taking a breather from daily caregiver tasks becomes one more thing that needs to be managed and creates in some cases more work to be done.  It can be expensive, it is not always well received by our loved ones, and as is often the case finding respite is the last item on a caregiver’s to-do list.    But it is so very important to the health and well-being of the caregiver – in some cases, mandatory for keeping the caregiver away from becoming a care recipient!  Time away from the stresses of caregiving, even if only for a couple of hours each week, can make the difference between crisis and calm at home.  We need more of it, yet it is hard to come by.  But I witnessed something so beautiful this past week related to respite, that I need to share it with you.

A sister church in our community saw a need for something to offer weary caregivers at no cost to them and came together to address it.  A small congregation with limited resources and a small space, they thought big.  What if we offered our caregivers respite right here where guests can come to their own church home, be cared for by familiar faces while socializing with simple conversation, playing games, making things, eating lunch together, do some singing and end their time together with a bowl of ice cream?  Would that give caregivers enough time to get away and do something for themselves?  Could we find enough volunteers to assure those caregivers that their loved ones would be in good hands?  How do we create an environment certain to make our guests feel safe, seen, and loved while their family caregivers are away?

They went to work, and now beginning their second year, they invited me to witness this ministry in action.  I stayed for only half of their four-hour program, but I left there with a full heart for what I had just seen firsthand.  The kindness, the caring, the attention to detail, the warmth with which each volunteer engaged with their guests and with each other, and the importance of every component and the planning that no doubt went into it told me this was sacred time for everyone involved.  I was having a difficult time telling who the guests were and who were the helpers, as there was conversation around the tables, smiles, laughter, and each person present was engaged at some level in every activity.  There was love and kind patience everywhere I looked.  As a caregiver, I knew instantly they had not only achieved their objective to provide caregiver respite but had created an environment where their guests felt comfortable and loved.

As I look back on the experience, I remember Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages about how individuals demonstrate their love for one another.  As I recalled all that I had seen, I realized all of those love languages were in action that day.  The architects of this program, and the many volunteers who chose to become the caregiver for the time their guests were present, modeled an affection for each other, spending quality time together with physical touch, words of affirmation and celebration, and repeated acts of service that showed nothing but dedicated kindness and an acceptance that made this time joyful and fun for everyone involved.  It looked effortless.  It looked genuine.  It was a miracle to see.  Wow!



Up for Discussion:  How about you?  How are you finding time for respite?  Have you considered your church family as a viable resource for finding help to achieve some time away from your caregiving responsibilities?  Share your thoughts and ideas below!

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