Each Sunday in the Prayers of the Faithful of parishes the world over, the sick, suffering, and drying are lifted up in prayer. Less often, however, is the inclusion of their caregivers—the men and women who, often by themselves, provide the physical, medical, and emotional care of loved ones.
As a former caregiver to my mother who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, I can assure you that such prayers are needed. And they matter.
Before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, my mother suffered from a series of minor medical issues, to say nothing of the emotional devastation at the loss of my father. But throughout it all she persevered with only a little help. She was tough, even with the advancement of her Parkinson’s symptoms. But in her last several years, as this dreaded neurological disease accelerated with increasing physical and then psychological symptoms—as hallucinations and dementia added to loss of movement—the round-the-clock care she needed became extensive. And as the disease progressed to its worst stages, she lost a son, one of my older brothers. Weeks later, the world stopped with COVID-19. And then for months, bringing help into our home was a practical nightmare.
That I was able to care for her throughout all this—and to keep her home until she died peacefully—was in no small part due to grace upon grace, granted to her and to myself thanks to the prayers of so many.
In its statement “Blessings of Age,” the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops says that “[w]e know that caregivers themselves need care. The responsibilities of caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting.”
The bishops continue,
Too often, however, as a Church and as a society we have not provided adequately for the needs of caregivers. As more people provide care—and as more people receive care for longer periods of time—we must respond to this new reality. We must look for ways to support caregivers who are themselves growing older, who are trying to balance multiple responsibilities, and who can expect to provide care for a number of years.
The entire statement is a powerful one, and it is one worth reading and sharing.
After all, caring for the ill and suffering in our communities also means the care of caregivers.
There are resources that can help and ways for professionals within our parishes to connect each other with local healthcare programs and services. But the simplest step we can all take is to lift up in prayer the caregivers among us.
As you read these words, people of all ages are quietly providing the daily care of a loved one. They are cooking, cleaning, and washing; they are organizing medications and lifting tired bodies to and from transport chairs, bathrooms, and beds. They are advocating for medical care and agonizing over not doing enough.
All of this, and much more, is why both our individual prayers and those of our parish communities are so vital, for they truly bring to all these sometimes dark moments the immeasurable relief of God’s life-giving light.
And so, let us pray,
Healer of souls and Comforter of the weary, help lighten the burden of families who are caring for their sick loved ones. Accompany them on their journey and ease their anxiety and fears. Surround them with the love and strength of others, so they may experience the healing presence of the communion of saints. We ask this through the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and in the name of your Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. AMEN.
- A Prayer for Family Caregivers (The Catholic Health Association of the United States)