>> by Chris Finley, Director of Chaplain Services, Baptist Village Communities

Considering the prospect of caring for an aging loved one brings images of doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, struggling with medications, taking the keys away from dad or the emotions of moving after living in the same home for years.  Caring for an aging loved one is a sacrifice and brings with it many heartaches and struggles.

Scriptures speak of not only honoring your mother and father (Ex. 20:12), honoring and esteeming those who are old (Lev. 19:32), but Heb. 10:24 indicates that we are to consider one another to stir up or stimulate love and good works.

II Cor. 4:16 helps put things in perspective when “honoring” and “stimulating” aging loved ones in his or her faith.  “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though the outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” No matter your loved one’s physical or mental capacities, his or her soul never deteriorates or fades away. A believer can receive spiritual wisdom and understanding within their soul, no matter their physical or mental abilities.

Here are some ways to honor your aging loved one.

>>1. Telling their story: As people age, they begin to recount or compose a summary of their lives. They examine questions like “Has my life made a difference?” “Have I had a positive influence on my family and others?” “Will I leave a legacy?” This is a great opportunity to assist your aging loved ones in writing or telling their life story. “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O, God till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18). Video or write down answers to these type of questions to share with family members: Tell us about growing up? Tell us when you first became aware there was a God? Tell us about when you became a believer? Tell us a very meaningful spiritual experience and how the Lord helped you through a difficult time?

>>2. Recognize their accomplishments, successes, and abilities: Compliment them and remind them of their past achievements of raising a family, serving our country, providing for the family, serving the Lord and their community, how they have influenced and encouraged you and others, how they use their talents and God-given abilities.

>>3. Celebrate holidays and special events: Make visits, send notes, call on birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, religious celebrations and anniversary of losses. Revisit and recall special vacations or family gatherings.

>>4. Worship, Bible study, fellowshipping with the body: Make every effort to keep your loved ones participating and involved with the body of believers.  If they are unable to drive, arrange transportation to church. If they are unable to attend church for physical reasons, connect them with the church’s homebound ministry or locate a health center that offers Christian worship services and Bible study.  Have recordings of worship services delivered to where your loved ones are living. Arrange for the pastor or deacons to bring the Lord’s Supper to your loved ones.

>>5. Music: Many churches today have re-organized their worship style and have moved to a contemporary style.  Seniors need to stay connected to the familiar hymns that have brought them comfort over the years. Carry a hymn book with you and sing the old hymns with them or bring CDs of Christian hymns. Baptist Village Communities (BVC) offer large print hymn books.

>>6. Scripture: Some seniors’ eyes can no longer focus on the words, so always carry a Bible and read the Word to them. Purchase a CD with the Bible recorded. If your aging loved ones worry or dwell on the disappointments in life, share God’s promises with them. God never leaves us or forsakes us (Heb. 13:5). “God is our refuge and strength and a very present help in time of trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

>>7. Religious Symbols: Pull out the family Bible. It often has Scripture bookmarks, underlined favorite passages, religious or inspirational articles or keepsakes stuffed in its pages. Create a scrapbook or a picture album of your loved ones’ services and lives at their church.  Place on the walls in their room pictures of Bible stories or decorated Scripture verses. Have children from Sunday school classes bring pictures they made of Bible stories.

>>8. Prayer: According to a study by Duke University, prayer is the number one coping mechanism for those over the age of 65.  When difficult times and physical challenges come about, stop and lead your loved ones to take the concern to the Lord in prayer. Many aging believers have experienced the Lord’s answered prayer.

>>9. When honoring is difficult: Physical changes and losses can cause some to become negative, critical or resentful toward those who are caring for them.  Even when you disagree or have conflict with your loved ones, listen respectively and consider their words. “Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth.  Only say what will edify your loved” (Eph. 4:29). “Be gentle, and kind and compassionate towards your loved” (Eph. 4:31-32), even when they do not appreciate your assistance.

For specific training in caring for your aging loved ones, go to www.baptistvillage.org and click on the LINC tab for scheduled LINC training events.