As caregivers, we’re often all asking similar questions despite the unique nature of our individual situations. Am I doing right by my parent? Am I providing the best possible care? How can I be a better caregiver?
To answer that last question, people often start exploring specific ways to improve. One question you might come across is, “Can spiritual practice make me a better caregiver?”
The simple answer is: yes, it can. Here’s how.
How Spiritual Practice Can Make You a Better Caregiver
Spiritual practice helps make you a better caregiver by bolstering your parent’s overall care, reframing your caregiving experience, and lowering your stress levels.
Improving Overall Care
The practice of spirituality helps improve the quality of care your parent is receiving, whether you’re the primary caregiver or not.
Incorporating spiritual aspects into a care plan can help improve overall health. Of course, it’s not a replacement for medical care. Rather, it’s a holistic way to supplement the overall care of your parent.
Holistic living is the concept that physical, mental, and social well-being all play a vital role in overall health. For example, at The Esquiline, the cornerstones of health are seen as spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social wellness. By nurturing all four aspects, you can enjoy a healthier, happier life.
Regarding spiritual wellness, there are many physical and emotional health benefits that come with spiritual practice. Prayer can help lower stress and increase optimism. Turning to religion can help build a sense of purpose. And spiritual practices like meditation can help reduce the risk of depression and manage pain.
One way to incorporate spirituality into your parent’s life is to encourage them to get involved with their chosen church or religious group, like a bible study club or choir. This can help with feelings of isolation and also give them a sense of purpose.
You can also try these tips for nurturing your parent’s spirituality, including bringing them books on spirituality, sharing the journey, and taking them to parks or hiking trails to spend time in nature.
Reframing Your Caregiving Experience
By taking some time out of your day to meditate or pray, you can help reframe your experience of caregiving.
In this excellent AARP article by Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., caregivers are reminded to focus on the positives—because while we know there are many challenges that come with caring for someone who is suffering from an illness, there are also many good moments with your parent or loved one. You have to hold onto those.
Jacobs suggests creating a “caregiving mission statement.” For example, a mission statement could be something like “I’m repaying my mother for the wonderful care she took of me” or “This is how I live my faith.” This helps connect your daily caregiving to a higher purpose, which will hopefully see you through any dark days.
What’s your caregiving mission statement?
How Spirituality Helps Reduce Caregiver Stress
No matter how much you love your parent and no matter how high your endurance is, there will be days when it gets to be too much. There’s no shame in that—caregiver stress is very common.
The Mayo Clinic identifies the following as caregiver stress risk factors:
- Being female
- Living with the person you are caring for
- Social isolation
- Having depression
- Higher number of hours spent caregiving
- Lack of choice in being a caregiver
It’s important to address caregiver stress before it goes too far. Some of the negative effects of caregiver stress include depression, a weak immune system, higher risk for chronic diseases, and short-term memory issues.
Caregiver stress is a big challenge, so remember to take care of yourself and practice stress-relieving exercises on a regular basis.
One great stress-relieving practice? Focusing on your faith. Research has shown that spirituality can help lower stress and improve mental health.
What’s more, it also helps by growing your support network. By relying on your church for support, you help grow your safety net. Your family and friends are wonderful for emotional support, of course, but having someone removed from the situation is sometimes helpful when you need an unbiased yet considerate opinion. Let your faith family help carry the load.
Take advantage of your church’s counseling services and groups. Depending on the parish or church, there may be someone on staff that you can talk to for emotional support. There may also be support groups or social clubs with other parishioners. And if there’s not, you could consider starting one yourself to help others in situations similar to your own.
And of course, there’s always prayer. Learn more about prayer and how it can help reduce caregiver stress here.
When Being a Caregiver is Too Much
Of course, sometimes caring for your parent becomes untenable. You might eventually find that being the primary caregiver for your parent is unmanageable due to your time restraints or the severity of your parent’s needs.
One avenue of relief available to you is respite care. You can prevent caregiver burnout by creating a respite plan. Ask family members to pitch in or consider hiring someone to take care of smaller tasks like housekeeping or meal prep. There may even be professional respite care services available in your area. Check with local assisted living communities or ask your friends for recommendations for home-health aides.
But you might also want to consider other options. Even if you’re managing the caregiving responsibilities now, it never hurts to have a long-term care plan in place. At continuing care retirement communities (or CCRCs), a full continuum of care is offered. Your parent can enjoy an active, enriching life in independent living for as long as their health allows. When they need more help with their daily routine, they can receive assisted living services at the same location. It’s a convenient way to ensure long-term care with an experienced, professional care team.
Continuing Care at The Esquiline
The Esquiline is a CCRC, also known as a Life Plan community. Your parent can live independently in our apartments for seniors until they need a little more assistance. And if they start to need more help with daily activities in the future, they can move to the St. Francis Center for Assisted Living, where they can enjoy a wide array of activities and amenities.
We’re a faith-based nonprofit founded by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and our goal is to stay true to our values of respect, wellness, stewardship, hospitality, and quality. If you’d like to learn more, you can explore our website or contact us for more information.