Paying back in love

At a point in worship at my church, members of the congregation are invited to offer aloud prayer petitions in behalf of others, often for healing for the ill or bereaved, or celebration for joyful events in life. Sometimes my friend Andre speaks up, invariably requesting prayers for caregivers, both lay and professional.

Andre knows caregivers well. He has suffered cancer, an ugly, cruel battle in his case, yet always presenting a positive outlook, optimistic, appreciating every new day and its opportunities. His approach to life inspires me and others in his world.

We all grow older, and as health care advances, we are living longer than preceding generations. This thrusts our children, siblings and spouses into the role of caregiver, which can be stressful, costly, exhausting.

This is where my dear bride Betsy and I find ourselves. The brilliant woman I married, having contracted polio as a child, now can no longer walk. Dementia is taking away her memory. A few days before Christmas, she suffered a mild stroke. Care for her at home, even supported by visits from home health professionals, became too much for me to manage, and she moved into an excellent assistant living facility in our town.

For 56 years we had lived together under the same roof, raised our three daughters together. Now she is there in her room, and I am alone in our house. We spend time together virtually every day, playing cards, swapping news, enjoying being together. I arrange her multiple medical appointments away from the facility, negotiate with assisted-living staff concerning her care, and manage to arrange occasional outings for her. Our lives have changed.

She urges me to get out and do things she knows I would enjoy, perhaps attend a ball game or concert. Recently I discovered a Road Scholar program that assembles participants into a choir that rehearses for a week, then performs a concert. As a choral singer for most of my life, I would love doing this, and Betsy is urging me to sign up, so I have, and here is the best part: Road Scholar officials, recognizing the prevalence of aging caregivers, now offer grants to pay the tuition for qualifying caregivers to attend their programs. I have applied and now wait to see if my application is accepted.

Someday you might be thrust into the role of providing care for a loved one, as I have been. This often happens unexpectedly and occurs more frequently than ever before in our lives. If it comes your way, consider it an opportunity to pay back some of the love and care you have experienced from the hands and heart of your parents or spouse, and take it on, joyfully.





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