Is Caregiving a Secret in Our Communities?

I received a very nice email over the weekend from a colleague who forwards information about our site’s activities to her colleagues, which includes ministers at her local churches. She forwards the information so they have resources to share with their church members in a caregiving role.

In response to her messages, they write back, telling her “thanks, but no thanks.” They tell her they “don’t have caregivers here” or, if they do, “it’s a secret.”

Oh, my. I’m just not sure what to think about these responses. Is the response from laziness? Denial? Fear?

(Disclaimer: We know that many churches and synagogues have been very helpful to many family caregivers, including to those who blog here. To those churches and synagogues, thank you!!)

I guess it’s the secret part that gets my dander. I’m wondering if this is a reflection of our world? That we’re all too busy to notice when a member of our house of worship stops attending because of caregiving? Or, now brings an aging relative to service? Or, wheels a spouse to the front pew?

The idea that leaders in some communities don’t know their family caregivers reminds me of an excuse that’s tossed around regularly by organizations targeting family caregivers: “Family caregivers don’t self-identify, which is why we can’t reach them.” This excuse took root in the late 1990s; national caregiving organizations even spent research money to prove this—which only proves to me you can prove anything as long as you have the money to prove it.

If a service provider or organization who targets family caregivers can’t reach family caregivers, then I would suggest re-writing the marketing plan or improving the services offered. Don’t point the finger at your customers—family caregivers.

So, I guess to any leader of a house of worship, who says that they don’t have family caregivers in their midst or they don’t know because it’s a secret, I offer this challenge:

Have you asked?

Because once you ask, you’ll see that family caregivers sit right in front of you, doing God’s work.

(What’s your experience with your house of worship? Please share in our comments section, below.)

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About Denise

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

6 thoughts on “Is Caregiving a Secret in Our Communities?

  1. Donna Webb

    Let me be the first to express….Aargh! Family caregivers who don’t let it be known to their church family or anyone else for that matter, could be ashamed of their situation, they are probably afraid to let it be known. The normal responses a caregiver elicits when they tell people are enough to make them turn grey and run. Our church has not just those who are being cared for, but caregivers as well. It was one of the first things that was known about me when I started going there. Support, love and understanding from all. I have never held back at anytime during the years I cared for mom. I was actually proud because I knew what a formidable job I had, and that I had taken it on.

    If a church does not know that they have caregivers, or carees in their congregation, then someone better step up with the greeting and getting to know you areas! What about home visitations to visitors or members? Does that not occur anymore?

    Thanks Denise, you gave me a mini soapbox platform lol.

  2. Sharon

    My experience with our church is loving careful concern and prayer for us. When we moved they were there for us without being asked. When I asked for help transporting my husband to his Wed.appointments it was readily provided. With my husband’s Mom’s recent passing people have again shown concern. That is how is is supposed to be among people of the church. It is a sad situation, if that is not always the case in every church.

    • Profile photo of DeniseDenise Post author

      Hi Sharon–I’ve thinking of you. Let us know about your mother-in-law’s service when you have a chance.

      I also wanted to ask about your church, which is just terrific: What programs or process does your church have in place that ensures such caring? It’s really just wonderful.

  3. Bette

    I think wherever you have people, you have imperfections. Whether it is in a church, or in a community center, or in a neighborhood, we are not always going to get the support that we so need. For me, my biggest support from our church has been from another caregiver. Others are too busy to notice or to take the time to make a phone call. Again though, they are people. I am learning to not expect a lot, and be so thankful when someone shows their support, or help in holding the door when I have the wheelchair.

  4. Sharon

    I agree with Bette. Even people of God are falliable. Not every one will show the concern that they should when they should. We must remember that everyone has heartaches of their own which sometimes consume their life even those who are not caregivers.

    I also believe that those who have gone through similiar circumstances can identify with people of like circumstances best.

    Having said this we have seen a lot of concern, prayer, and tangible help given to us by our church. Do I still feel alone in all this at times. Absolutely. I don’t think anyone can meet all our needs all the time except God.

    Denise, I approached our deacons for help with Wed. for Wayne. They also helped organize things for our moving in Feb. Other people spontaneously offered help. We also have a prayer list in our church bulletin etc.

    I will try to blog soon about Wayne’s Mom’s funeral etc.

  5. Profile photo of DeniseDenise Post author

    Hi, Bette and Sharon: Your reminders to me about imperfections are such a healthy perspective to keep. It’s such a kind way to look at others. I love that!

    I guess my concern is this: Members of a church (or another house of worship) support the church financially. I think if you take money, you have to know from whom you take money and what help/support they need.

    This has been such a helpful conversation for me! As part of our Happiness Project, I committed to joining a church. I’m still in the midst of my “church search.” Our dialogue has been helpful as I think about what I want/need from a church as well as what I can give back.


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