Challenge for churches: How to care for caregivers - Word&Way

Challenge for churches: How to care for caregivers

Members of the "Classic 55-plus" ministry at First Baptist Church in Allen, Texas, assemble layettes as a service project for a local organization, Real Options for Women. (PHOTO/Courtesy of First Baptist Church in Allen)

As churches minister to the most elderly and infirm among members, some also seek ways to serve their caregivers—often family members—who often labor around the clock.

Frank Fain, director of educational services for The Baptist Home system for older adults in Missouri, offered these tips.

• Provide a support group—a place for caregivers to express their feelings and to talk about their needs.

• Provide counseling or direct caregivers to available counseling, if needed. Sometimes people need help to deal with the emotional, mental and physical toll caring for loved ones can take.

• Teach families, deacons, caregivers and others who minister with older adults how to communicate effectively with the elderly and to treat them with respect.

• Offer educational events for caregivers. Draw from local experts at your state’s department on aging, hospice, hospital or government agencies.

• Develop a caregiver section in the church media center. Many Baptist state conventions have an adult consultant or specialist or can point the church to resources.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas is developing resources and soon will have a website in place specifically for caregivers.

Care facilities—such as The Baptist Home in Missouri and Buckner Retirement Services in Texas—also can suggest resources. Find out what local resources are available as well.

• Develop a caregiver respite ministry to give individuals a break to shop, run errands or relax. Also consider providing res-pite on Sunday mornings to allow caregivers to worship.

• Partner with local hospice organizations. Perhaps staff members would be willing to be hospice chaplains. Find out what needs other older adults in your group could help meet.

• Take the Lord’s Supper to the homebound and their caregivers.

• Include caregiver ministry as part of care for the homebound. First Baptist Church in Allen, Texas provides Keep in Touch ministry to make sure homebound members receive weekly contact from the church. The ministry assists caregivers by helping meet some of the homebound members’ needs.