A Ministry of Care by Dr. Daniel G. Bagby

Pastoral Care Guidance for Deacons, Stephen Ministers, and the Congregation of River Road Church, Baptist

Caring for the Aging

  1. Allow parents as much independence as they can handle: every autonomous activity taken away reduces freedom and self-esteem.
  2. Prepare mature adults by regular dialogue on changes: Even those who face imminent change will adjust better with several opportunities to discussion needed or upcoming changes.
  3. Where possible, provide options a senior adult may choose from; choices extend independence, self-governance (state remaining choices clearly).
  4. Where major changes are necessary, invite/solicit family member participation (the gathered family symbolizes joint responsibility).
  5. Review options and study available choices in independent living, nursing care, total care, critical care, hospitalization, finances, and insurance coverage. Consult on “power of attorney” needs.
  6. Remember that you and your family member are both moving through a grief transition, and that denial, depression, bargaining, anger, and cooperation are normal stages toward acceptance of change (and loss).
  7. Personal safety is a major issue: if driving, cooking, or living alone are no longer safe, secure “witnesses” to ensure changes: ministers, police officers, doctors, nurses, and other authorities may be needed to convince family member to disengage from an activity; offer options if possible!
  8. Read material on senility, Alzheimer’s, and other possible events in your family life, so that you will understand when it is “not your mother or father talking” when you are “told off” or abused.
  9. Exercise as much patience as prudence allows, listening longer, expecting less, adjusting to the loss of your parent as you knew her/him; you may need to prepare to say goodbye gradually to a loved one who is only a shadow of the person you once knew.
  10. Energy and perspective are needed in the care of a parent; expect consumption of much emotional energy in caring, especially if at home; make sure all who live with you have been consulted before you bring any older adult to live in your home (the whole family system is traumatized).
  11. Rely on the church as a community of faith to offer activities and opportunities of service for a senior adult, and support for you, along with workshops where you may be equipped and encouraged as you make tough decisions because you love.
  12. Join (or form) a support group for children of institutionalized parents, so that you have a compassionate and understanding sub-group to meet with regularly.