New Roles, New Challenges:
The church can offer support for those feeling stretched thin while caring for aging parents by approaching them with compassion and understanding. Church members who are providing care and individuals needing care may be navigating these new roles for the first time. As parents age, their children are often asked to step into the role of caretaker. This happens with or without their parent’s blessing.
Caring for an aging family member comes with unique challenges. This can strain relationships and it may be difficult for both generations to navigate their new roles. Parents who raised their son or daughter may have trouble seeing them in the new light as their caretaker. They may also have difficulty relinquishing freedoms, such as their car keys, when the time comes. Approaching this new season with empathy and patience can improve their relationships with each other. And it may make the transition easier on both the caregiver and aging family member.
What may be a challenge for the aging population could include seeing their child as their caretaker. This might even be impossible for some, straining their relationship and making conditions unsafe for themselves. Faced with losing their independence, many seniors may become angry and lash out at their children or caretaker. They may see them as their captor rather than a caring family member. Adding a complexity to the role, children in this position are often at the age where they are expected to take care of both their aging parents and their own young children. The caretakers, being pulled in both directions, could be given support through resources provided by the church.
Aging population and caregiver resources/support:
According to the Population Reference Bureau, in America today there are over 46 million adults, aged 65 or older, living in the United States. However, by 2050 the group is expected to grow to 90 million individuals. Just since 2017, the number of individuals who say that caring for an aging parent was a high concern has increased by 50 percent. The challenges of caring for an aging parent won’t diminish in the future, but they present an opportunity for the church to love it’s members and provide resources to help them navigate their new stage of life.
The church can offer prayer and a helping hand:
The church can offer prayer and empathy for those struggling with caring for a parent with dementia or an aging family member struggling with a recent loss of freedom. In this difficult transition, many individuals are looking for comfort and for help navigating this new stage of life. By praying for members, the church can offer aid to both family members. This can show them they are not alone even if they may feel isolated in their struggles. When offering council, the church can offer both companionship and compassion for those seeking help.
The church can act as both a support system and resource:
By offering support groups or caregiver resources, the church positions itself as a safe haven for those in need of help. The church should be available and loving to others, providing a support system, and pointing people to community resources that they need. In doing this, the church is showing others that it is a safe, welcoming place. And that it can provide relevant help to both individuals caring for their parents and the parents themselves. By hosting a caregiver support small group, offering transportation services to the grocery store or an appointment, or providing a ministry that delivers warm meals does wonders for fighting feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Andrew Esparza is the founder of Kingdom Analytics. This company has served over 300+ organizations doing good in the world by helping better connect them to their community, congregation, or customers using advanced demography research. He also has experience in the church world. This includes working for the largest high school ministry in the country at North Point Community Church. Andrew graduated from Arizona State University with degrees in Design Management and Tourism Development. He is also CITI certified in Social and Behavioral Research.