Oh, how I pray you do not have to experience this. But what if you do? It’s one thing to be a caregiver, but quite another to be the caregiver of your dying parent. There are no words for the challenges you face in that role.
Every situation is different, but you can and will get through it. Sometimes, we get the terminal diagnosis and we face the dying process head on. Other times, there is no terminal diagnosis, but we watch as our parent’s health declines. It may take days, weeks, months or years to watch and care for them. And it wears on you.
First, know you’re not alone. Believe me when I tell you, you are NOT alone. Others have walked this path before you and still others are there on the sidelines wanting to help you but not knowing how. So when someone offers you a break, TAKE IT. When someone offers to help in other ways, TAKE IT. If you need help, and no one asks if they can help you, ASK for help.
Second, take care of yourself. Rest when you can. All those things you feel like you are leaving undone, leave undone. Trust me, there will be time for the dishes later. You have to take care of yourself if you are going to take care of your parent.
Third, remember, your patient is still your parent. Treat them with respect and dignity, even if they are being difficult. Imagine how they feel…They’ve been independent for years and now that’s coming to an end. They have never had to answer to you and now they’re doing that, too.
Make some happy memories during this difficult time. Maybe it’s watching the World Series together with the sound off or telling them things you thought you got away with as a child only to find out they knew all along.
Have no regrets. If you need to make peace with your parent or a sibling so your parent knows, then make peace. Cherish every moment that you have with them. Even in the midst of exhaustion, appreciate being with them.
Time is fleeting. Tell them you love them, now while they can hear you. And tell them often. Tell all those you love that you love them. You never know when that time may come to an end.
Ask God if there is something in particular you should do in caring for your dying parent. Maybe, you need to share the gospel with them. Maybe, you need to read their favorite Bible passages to them. Maybe, you need to let them share the gospel with you.
But know this…you can and will get through it. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” And YOU CAN.