A grateful heart makes caregiving easier

By Rayna Neises
The practice of giving thanks can impact your life. “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with Thanksgiving,” St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:4.
Learning to receive everything with thanksgiving is difficult, but very important.
While caring for my dad I found gratitude to be an important part of daily life. A few years ago I found myself struggling with the demands of care giving and the decline in my dad’s abilities. One day, while doing some yard work, dad got his shoes extremely muddy. I had him take them off and went to get a clean pair.
In the few minutes I was gone, he found the muddy shoes, put them on and walked into the house – on the carpet. “You have got to be kidding me!” I thought. Needless to say, I was very frustrated. I had noticed in the last month it was becoming increasingly more difficult to enjoy the time I had with him. My patience was running thin.
My dad’s ability to understand and be helpful had significantly declined. Yes, that is what Alzheimer’s is, a disease of decline. But like all things that change gradually, we don’t see the change until something happens that calls our attention to it. So yes, he had changed. Now how do I adjust?
Focusing on being present to my dad and not allowing the heartache of what he could no longer do was a step in the right direction. This was easy early on but it became more challenging as those things which he could do became limited. That meant it was time to shift again by learning more about gratitude. Gratitude was a powerful tool in my caregiver’s toolbox. Focusing on being thankful made all the difference.
I had to move into being grateful for him, the time with him, and the amazing person he is and was. True gratitude is focused on what you have in moment. I am so thankful God has shown me how gratitude makes life better. I found more peace in the time I had with dad.
Of course, Dad’s abilities never improved, but my heart of gratitude helped me to handle it with more love, grace, and peace than I ever imagined.
Neises is Nourish ministry coordinator.

Nourish meeting assists caregivers
How can gratitude help you handle your role as a caregiver better? Learn more at the Nourish ministry meeting held on the second Thursday of each month from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the St. Joseph Pastoral Center at 437 N. Topeka in Wichita. If you are caring for a family member in your home or in a nursing home and would like more information about the Nourish program call Senior Adult Ministries 316-685-5240 or the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities at 316-269-3900.