Respite Care: Caring for the Caregivers

It is important for churches to see caregivers and prioritize their inclusion alongside those who have disabilities. What might respite care for caregivers look like for your church?

What is it like to be a caregiver?

Caregivers can be lots of people: younger or older family members or siblings, paid professionals, volunteers from your church. But many caregivers have a few things in common: they love what they do and they can very easily feel like they are on their own. It may seem to them like nobody sees who they are as a person other than as a caregiver. They may feel as if only they really know the person for whom they are caring.

Respite care for caregivers tips

  • People who serve as caregivers do so because they need to, yes, but also because the person they care for is important to them, and is worth their love, their time, their investment of energy and care.
  • If the church is providing caregivers, it is important to give support and breaks to each person involved in that process as a way of caring for caregivers.
  • Help to organize a “circle of support” or “wraparound” for a caregiver and his or her family.
  • Offer care for children with disabilities or other needs during worship so parents can worship in a relaxed setting (ideally, your nursery team will be prepared to accept this responsibility).
  • Be available for childcare or to take children of single-parent families on outings.
  • Consider the specific tasks that people with disabilities (or their caregivers) face from day to day and find ways to assist with:

Physical tasks: eating differently, dealing with medical staff, using a walker.
Social tasks: overcoming isolation and belonging. One simple action could be to send a card, preferably a blank one that you have personalized with a written message expressing your support.
Psychological tasks: self-esteem, talking about one’s feelings.
Spiritual tasks: faith, hope, meaning for life, connection with God. Avoid any pretense of “knowing why God allowed this.” References to God’s plan or intention are painful in most cases.

  • Ask caregivers about what they need and how they would like to be supported.

Respite care and assistance questions to ask caregivers and people with disabilities

Your church can use these questions to ask caregivers and people with disabilities how you might be able to offer them support or respite care as a church community.

1. How do you want to serve?
2. How can we free you up to use your God-given gifts?
3. Can we assist with respite care?
  • Time away with your spouse
  • Time with other family members
  • Time for some of your favorite hobbies
  • Time to serve others, using your gifts
  • Time to sit in church together as a family
  • Others? Please list
4. Can we assist with household chores?
  • General housecleaning duties
  • Outside chores, lawn mowing, leaf raking, etc.
  • Meals brought in, how often?
  • Baked goods brought in, how often?
  • Grocery shopping
  • Others? Please list
5. Can we assist with transportation?
  • Transportation for medical appointments
  • Help with car maintenance
  • Transportation to recreational or other social events
  • Rides to church functions
  • Others? Please list
6. Can we assist with financial support?
  • Help to defray disability expenses
  • Regular visits from the deacons, how often?
  • Professional estate planning
  • Others? Please list
7. Can we assist in your church involvement or participation?
  • Serve on a committee
  • Teach Sunday school
  • Worship team, usher, greeter, or other Sunday morning activity
  • Help with nursery
  • Join a Bible study group, couples’ group, etc.
  • Would you need respite care to do this?
  • Others? Please list
8. Can we assist in other ways (for example, inquiring about medical opinions, assisting with insurance issues, writing letters seeking government aid, providing spiritual support, securing advocates, making visits, etc.)?
Download this as a printable questionnaire

Suggested resources:

Everybody Belongs, Serving Together is a collaboration of RCA and CRCNA Disability Concerns, Christian Horizons, and Elim Christian Services.

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