I will never forget the first Respite Night we held at First Christian Church in Canton Ohio for multiple reasons. The highlight for me was at the end of the evening when parents came back after their time away. Many came back excited and refreshed sharing stories of getting to go on a real date for first time in years. Others shared stories about getting to go and sit quietly at their favorite coffee shop. Others got to go shopping uninterrupted.
What I remember most vividly was the mom that walked in and said, “I never left the parking lot.” That statement shocked me. I instantly felt bad and wondered if she never left because she didn’t trust that we’d be able to care for her son or not. She then added to her statement by saying, “It was wonderful. I was able to take a three-hour long nap in my car. I cannot tell you the last time I was able to take a nap.”
Let that sink in for a moment. There is so much that we take for granted when we are not in the shoes of a full-time caregiver. That three-hour long break was refreshing for her soul.
In my work in the disability ministry field I am beginning to see a real void that is rising to the surface. Caring for the caregiver. You can find books, blogs, sermons, videos, and trainings on how to start a Disability Ministry. There seems to be no shortage of resources coming out in this emerging ministry. What you don’t readily find is helps for the caregiver.
The caregiver plays such a unique role. They are the unsung heroes in the world of disability. They are selfless. They are the people who constantly pour themselves out and rarely get poured back into. They are the people who often hold it all together.
There are many different types of caregivers. Many caregivers are parents. They are on the clock full-time for their loved ones. Some are spouses who are also on the clock full-time. Some may be full-time or part-time staff that come in and out of the lives of those affected by disability.
The bottom line is caregivers need more than a few Respite Nights a year. If you are a caregiver, may God bless you and meet your every need. It is my prayer that God would use the Church to meet many of those needs. This blog series will look at some of the unique needs of the caregiver and how they can be filled. Stay tuned!