You Need Friends

woman with red top and black shorts on purple yoga mat
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Until his death, my father cared for my mother. As she slipped deeper into dementia, she communicated less. His greatest disappointment? Dad said he missed conversations with his wife. He never talked much on the telephone, but as my mother’s mind wasted away, I noticed he called more often and conversed longer. Mom’s able-bodied husband was lonely and needed to talk with someone.

As a caregiver for a relative with Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementia, we can become isolated. Friends and relatives may visit, but most of the time, we’re alone with a person who can’t hold a meaningful discussion.

So, here are three encouraging suggestions for caregivers. First, human interaction is necessary for our mental health. We must get out of the house and mingle — even if just a few hours once a week. Visitors at home are fantastic, but I prefer to escape the physical confines of caregiving for a while.

Though I find it refreshing to shop for groceries or supplies at the hardware store, I need more. We, caregivers, need to interact with people. Alzheimer’s support groups are a great place to associate with others who are going through the same struggle. More suggestions are genealogy organizations, writing clubs, quilting circles, or a Sunday School class. Socialization will keep us in touch with the real world. Researchers claim caregivers who socialize live longer and are less likely to develop dementia.

Second, our journey won’t last forever, so we should use these days wisely. Though we may be twenty-four-hour caregivers, we’ll still have quiet times. This might be an excellent time to study the bible or pray. If creative, we can author poems or a book, become a gourmet cook, or learn to sew. For our well-being, we should try to be productive with our downtime for a sense of accomplishment and refreshing.

Last, but not least, we’re not alone, for Christ is with us. We rely on his promise in Hebrews 13:5-6 NASB. He assured us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” So with confidence, we say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”
Once, I visited a friend for a cup of coffee who said he’d had a pleasant conversation with his father earlier. Since this Christian’s custom was an early morning devotion, I knew he was referring to his heavenly Father. At dawn, he read his Bible and prayed to prepare him for the challenges of the day.

His devotion to prayer reminded me of George Washington as told by his nephew and personal secretary. Washington rose at 4:00 a.m., kneeled before an open bible on a chair and prayed for an hour. In the evening, even if guests were present, he prayed from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. My hope for we caregivers are a fraction of the blessing God gave Washington when he prayed.

Being a full-time caregiver for a dementia patient can be lonely. It takes an active effort on our part to stay healthy. We are more prone to mental and physical disease than the general population, so let’s remember, we’re not alone — Christ will help us.

© Ronald Milburn 2018