A Closer Look… At Caregiving

Alina Zygmunt, SFO
National Family Commission member

 "All creatures… bear the imprint of the Most High." (SFO Rule, Article 28)  Each of us has the spirit of God within us.  We belong to God - it is a kinship bound in love and commitment.  We must let our "thoughts and deeds conform to those of Christ." (SFO Rule, Article 7)  These beautiful words take on special meaning when we consider the role of caregiving in our lives.  Today, more adult children are finding that providing care for an elderly parent or other relative takes a "heavy toll emotionally, physically, and financially."

The Family Commission recognizes the role of the caregiver as an increasingly necessary one for our aging population.  "Today there are 34.7 million Americans 65 or older, according to the Census Bureau.  By 2011, there will be 40 million; and by 2050, nearly 82 million."  We, as Secular Franciscans, will be a part of these numbers - first as a caregiver ourselves to another needy individual, and then moving into the stage of being the recipient of the care.  The purpose of this column will be to address the problems and cares of the elderly, or any individual that experiences diminished capacity.  The viewpoint will be taken from the perspective of Saint Francis and his ideals.  Modern medicine is allowing our lives to be extended, but we must approach the challenge of those added years through the Franciscan way.

Being Franciscans, we have the Rule to uphold.  The Rule can provide guidelines to how we handle our own problems of aging and how we address the responsibility of caring for another individual.  We must combine the ideals that we learn from Saint Francis and the Bible into the reality of the challenge that we are actually facing in our own lives.  We are aging and changing - but we will always have the spirit of God within us, no matter what happens to the inside or outside of our physical body.  Spiritually we will be tested by guilt - knowing what we are supposed to do for a loved one - and yet feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of our task at hand.

Over the future course of the Family Commission newsletter, look for this column that will help with positive ideas on how to handle our own issues on aging and how we can get help for being caregivers.  Know that you are not alone!

Website on care-giving http://www.caregiving.org

(Quotes taken from "How Can We Help?" by Bemard Gavzer from Parade Magazine, July 16, 2000)