How Your Parish
Can Help Caregivers

Any parish beginning to establish a ministry for caregivers would be wise to keep three basic points in mind.

First, parish members who are caregivers may not use that word to describe themselves because they truly don’t see themselves as that. It’s not uncommon for a caregiver to define his or her role as "just helping Mom [or Dad, or my husband or my wife] with a few things." What this means is that when the parish announces a new service or program for caregivers, the caregivers themselves may not realize it applies to them and that it is being offered to help them.

Second, because caregivers have extremely busy schedules and little or no energy to spare, it can be difficult for them to attend a meeting or other event, even one designed just for them.

And third, because caregiving is very personal and no caregiver is in it for the glory, the caregivers in a parish may be uncomfortable with any form of public recognition.

With those points in mind, here are some suggestions for starting or enhancing a ministry to caregivers in a parish:

•Read a copy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ "Blessings of Age." Purchase copies and make them available for parishioners.

•Survey the parish to identify the needs of the caregivers in your community.

•Collect and distribute information from the local Area Agency on Aging, diocesan programs, the Internet, and other sources.

•Start a caregiver support group.

•Begin a program that offers respite care to caregivers.

•Talk about caregivers in homilies and remember them in the prayers of the faithful at Mass.

•Provide caregiver information on a regular basis in the parish bulletin and school publications and on the parish Web site.

•Instruct parish pastoral ministers making visits to the homebound to also offer assistance and encouragement to their caregivers.

•Host a "Caregivers Day" to honor your families’ caregivers with an event that recognizes their contributions, offers them information to help them in their tasks, and gives them an opportunity to meet and pray with fellow caregivers. (Include respite care as part of the event for those who need it.)

•Get parish groups—such as the Knights of Columbus—interested in finding ways to help.

•Sponsor educational presentations for pastoral ministers and parish staff to increase their awareness of a caregiver’s roles and needs.

•Set up a prayer chain so that fellow parishioners can remember the needs of caregivers in their prayers.