Tips for Caregivers About Leading and Following

In this ongoing series exploring caregiver “sweet spots,” we’re looking at the challenges and opportunities experienced when caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs. Today’s focus is on appreciating the roles of leaders and followers. A strong team embraces the strengths of both.

The famous Fixer Upper couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines, are both strong leaders. Yet Chip readily admits that he and his wife are vastly different in almost every way. In fact, he is heard in many interviews explaining that the early days of working together were not always easy for them until they learned how to “stay in their own lanes.”

In his book Capital Gains: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff, he says “It’s just human nature for couples to turn their insecurities and animosities against each other during life’s more challenging seasons.” He credits the successes in their marriage and business to their faith in Jesus and learning to appreciate and give freedom to each of them to embrace their individual strengths.

When family members are caring for a loved one with disabilities or other special needs, the household runs, in many ways, like a small business. There are daily needs for logistics management, ordering supplies, doing paperwork, tag-teaming or scheduling help in shifts and maintaining morale.

Any strong business needs both leaders and followers. That includes inspiring visionaries, tough-minded decision-makers and loyal partners who will dependably implement responsibilities and enforce policies. In my own family, we are gifted with a delightful combination of gifted servant leaders. But we’ll be the first to admit that we can step on each other’s toes from time to time.

Now that my husband, Larry, and I share our “empty nest” with Carly, we have developed a sort of rhythm about how we tag-team her cares. So when one of Carly’s adult sisters visits or we all go on a vacation together, we’re grateful for help but there can be confusion about who is in charge as everyone is eager to relieve each other of responsibilities. Having so many “cooks in the kitchen” can interrupt the usual rhythm. Those situations benefit from open conversation and intentional planning about how to navigate the evolving situation.

Our daughter has reminded us on several occasions that we need to allow others more freedom to find their own approaches to certain aspects of Carly’s care. Although Larry and I, as the parents and primary caregivers, often find the most efficient methods, efficiency is not always the most important thing. So when new people come to the team or one of Carly’s sisters comes home to visit and steps in to help, we are learning to step away and trust them to navigate certain aspects of their own ways and rhythms together. As you might imagine, we have often ended up discovering some wonderful new ideas from observing their process rather than trying to micro-manage them.

A leader will need to lead. A servant-hearted contributor may appreciate clear expectations but desire great independence to implement the plan with a sense of freedom from authority.

My family has learned we have some vulnerabilities during times of change or transition. For example, Larry and I sometimes experience conflict when he returns from business travel. His job takes him out of town one week every month so I fly solo with Carly. I may try something new, especially if I’m trying to cope without extra help nearby. During those times, I hone in on an independent mode that is hard to shake when he gets back home. Unfortunately, I have not always communicated those ideas with sensitivity. Larry can feel, and rightly so, criticized or judged when I announce that I’ve found a “new and better way.” Re-establishing our usual collaborative approach takes some careful attention.

Travel away from home for holidays is another time when Carly’s routine is ripe for change. The changes may be driven by a need to manage without support staff or cope without the usual home modifications and conveniences. But sometimes those stretched periods lead to an improved approach and the adjustments become more permanent. The benefits of those adjustments are maximized when we communicate about them well with each other as a team.

It takes people with varied talents, passions and perspectives to make a strong team. Each contributor will have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Charismatic leaders have capacity for great accomplishments and to be powerful inspiration to others. But the measure of their “greatness” will rely on things like their moral code, humility, kindness and ability to control their temper.

Valuable to any caregiving team is a leader who is confident, tough-minded and visionary. They will be admired for their ability to take on responsibilities and rally a team around a project. Their challenge can be remembering that people themselves are not projects. In their weakness, leaders can be overly selective about which needs they prefer to prioritize and who they choose to align with on the team. They can become easily frustrated, even hot-tempered or cruel, when unable to motivate others to follow them.

Those who are happy to follow the lead of others may be servant hearted and eager to please. You can expect them to be extremely loyal and dependable. They will also be your strongest policy enforcers. Even if they are quite independent, they would be very willing to take on responsibilities as long as decision-making can be shared.

Without a sense of collaboration, those who are servant-hearted can become anxious or insecure. Their challenges can include becoming fearful when left alone and resentful when they don’t feel appreciated. In an atmosphere of freedom, supportiveness and affirmation, the caregiver whose nature is to serve will always go the extra mile for your family and play a key role on your loved one’s “dream team.”

RELATED: Tips for the Caregiver Who Is Very Independent

It helps all members of the caregiving team to clearly identify the big picture goals and keep them prominent in their mindset. For example, the leader who focuses on training their child with special needs towards independence may parent harshly unless their ultimate goal is to maintain a spirit of loving connectedness to their child. Similarly, a caregiver whose goal is to make everyone around them happy through their service will eventually grow resentful unless their ultimate goal is to serve God and experience their validation from knowing they are, above all else, God’s beloved child.   

Clear and open communication among care team contributors is always important in forging a strong and healthy caregiving team. This is particularly true when family members are leading passionately or serving with fierce loyalty. Each must learn to cooperate with the other’s strengths having humility and compassion in weakness.

The combination of emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders and followers on a caregiving team is a powerful gift! The family will thrive by appreciating each other’s strengths and gracefully holding each other accountable to sharing collaborative and godly goals.

Send us your questions then join us LIVE on Facebook April 15th!

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY GRACIOUSLY EMBRACING YOUR OWN LANE

If you are energized by leading and inspiring others

  • Be involved with setting goals, planning, making decisions, delegating responsibilities, supervising and motivating the caregiver support team
  • Offer to be the point-person in situations that require persuasion (e.g., insurance companies, funding sources) and optimism
  • Learn to be a servant-leader who is attentive to needs and respects others’ rights, feelings, thoughts, plans
  • Learn to motivate others without manipulating or dominating them (never use threats, anger, force or violence)
  • Delegate obligations where others could be encouraged and helpful (e.g., research)
  • Invest time and energy in activities your loved one enjoys (e.g., adaptive bike, swimming, wresting/roughhousing, cooking, hiking, fishing)
  • Learn to give much-needed recognition for the contributions and accomplishments of others
  • Learn to look to God in your own needs for recognition and approval

If you are naturally inspired to serve fiercely

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that surrounds you with healthy, wise and kind people to guide and help you
  • Use your servant-heartedness and intuitiveness to meet needs around you
  • Be direct about your own needs, preferences and boundaries
  • Find people who will collaborate with you in decision-making and respect your values
  • Maintain your individuality and a clear sense of your purpose on the team
  • Learn to seek Jesus for comfort and support when others are reliant on you

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for leading and serving caregivers:

Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Ephesians 4:26-27
Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Luke 9:23-25
Then Jesus said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

2 Corinthians 9:7
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

Lord Jesus, you are so wise and creative in the ways that you have put my family together. Our circumstances are so complex and challenging yet You are intimately aware of it all. You know just what we need. Your timing and ways are trustworthy. I see that You are teaching us how to live more cooperatively and generously in love and compassion for each other. I confess that I have, at times, felt things like pride and resentment about my role in our caregiving family. Help me to recognize and affirm the value of others in my family. Help me to see what I’m good at and what inspires me too. Show me how those things are valuable to my loved one with special needs but also to my whole family. Teach me how to engage my gifts in ways that pour Your love into my family. As I lead others, humble me to love and serve You as my supreme Leader and Lord (you are not my personal assistant). As I follow the lead of others, humble me to serve with healthy boundaries and with genuine cheerfulness too. Amen

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tips for Caregivers Concerned About Maintaining Their Energy Reserves

This is the sixth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re exploring some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who prefer life at a slow, steady and relatively predictable pace.

Caregiving requires a lot of energy. It can be challenging to maintain the mental and emotional reserves for the normal activities of daily living. Many situations are physically demanding as well. In some cases, there may be little margin for the kinds of activities or rest that refuel the caregiver whose energy level generally runs on the low side. If that’s you, I think you’ll find encouraging tips = here to understand and optimize your unique strengths.

Frankly, some people seem to want a slower paced life even when there are no extra demands. If you are one of these people, your “dream day” might include going to work, sitting at a desk working through your tasks (even tasks others might consider tedious), going home for a nap, eating dinner, taking another nap, watching some television and then heading to bed for the night. You may watch in wonder — or even feel intimidated — when others fill their discretionary time with things like hiking, crafts, sports, shopping and hobbies. You may feel guilty about “pulling your weight” with caregiver chores like laundry, meal prep and housecleaning but find doing the family bookkeeping comes rather easily.

Are you someone who tends to work at a slow pace or frequently worries about running out of steam? Perhaps others have expressed frustration about your making your fair share of the sacrifices. That may be because you feel that every bit of energy you extend is a sacrifice. You may feel like life takes far more effort than you have to offer.

Here’s an important fact to consider: your fear about running out of energy may be far closer to perception than reality. In fact, believing that you may completely run out of “gas” at some point could be negatively impacting your relationships while robbing you of a joy and satisfaction in doing some things you really would enjoy. Becoming more willing to make sacrifices can reduce your hidden fears, build your self-esteem and enhance your relationships.

The truth is, you have some wonderful passions, a great love for people and a profound capacity for efficiency all wrapped up in a calm, easy-going package! In your strengths, you’ll have a conservative, practical and peace-loving nature that uniquely equips you with valuable problem-solving skills and an uncanny ability to mediate tense situations. You could be your spouse’s best friend at an IEP meeting, transition planning meeting or care coordination conference.

You can be a tremendous advocate for your loved ones. You may see and respond to problems and injustices with an uncanny instinct for improving quality of life for others. Your voice and purposeful involvement are a powerful force and will help you stay energized when you’re otherwise tempted to sleep your life away. Be aware, however, that you may feel angry and anxious when others are not taking action where you see the need to make things better. Your frustration will be greatly reduced when you learn to give others permission to be imperfect.

When it’s time to make decisions, you may appreciate finding someone trustworthy to share in that process with you. And release yourself to make imperfect choices along the way toward satisfying conclusions. You may need to share more information than what comes naturally for you so that others can understand your thought process, perspectives and ideas. But discussing the options and coming to mutual agreement with your spouse or loved ones will be pleasing for everyone.

If you’re worried about being blamed or criticized when decisions don’t turn out well, you may benefit from approaching more decisions from a mindset of safety and encouragement. For example, you might agree to say, “Let’s give this new therapy a try. If it doesn’t work, we can always try a different approach.”

Logical persuasion and positive reinforcement can be very motivating for you. So it can be helpful to you and your family if you stay open to conversations about how detailed caregiving responsibilities need to be implemented. It will also help your family to know how important it is for you to hear that your contributions are recognized and valued. You may not think you need this, but you likely do. You may be inclined to dismiss those positive vibes from others rather than allowing yourself a moment to soak in the caring and loving words others are offering. In actuality, you will greatly benefit from staying attentive and receptive to affirming feedback and appreciation. (Consider reading my previous article in this series called Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent.)

Be aware that when you are feeling stressed, pressured, or inconvenienced, you may be very difficult to be around. Your family, friends and co-workers may struggle to find peace anywhere around you during those times. In frustration or resentment, you may be inclined to procrastinate, be indecisive, and be difficult to motivate. You may also be hurtful to others with your verbal defenses.

To stay in a positive groove, it will help to maintain a moderate amount of independence, alternate frequently between task-oriented responsibilities and people-oriented activities, be clear and direct in communication, and learn how to use your skills in persuasion for godly causes.

Your family longs for your involvement — not just because more hands make lighter work but because they genuinely enjoy your presence. You have so much to offer and your peaceful spirit is always appreciated in the room. You will benefit from staying engaged with others. So, be encouraged to join the family for a trip to the park, table games, movie night and a weekend getaway. Linger at the dinner table and take part in the conversations (without adding your sarcastic comments).

When you take initiative to stay engaged with your loved ones and community, you will discover the power that well-paced and positive socialization has to energize you.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you tend to be laid back or need a lot of rest

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that maximizes your natural motivations and mutual interests with the person who has extra needs (e.g., reading books, watching movies, going for car rides, listening to music)
  • Frequently alternate time between doing task-oriented things and spending time with people
  • Take frequent breaks, even short ones, to rest your mind and body
  • Ensure for yourself an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Maintain a clear definition of your value and purpose on the team
  • Learn to recognize Jesus’ promptings and follow Him one step at a time


The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement.

Proverbs 21:2-4
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.

Psalm 19:12-14
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
    Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
    Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
    and innocent of great sin.

May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Ephesians 4:22-24
Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Psalm 37:6
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for showing me that my peace-loving ways are valuable to those around me. You have given me an important ability to see different points of view and help my family come together around common goals. I do confess, however, that sometimes I can be stubborn and inflexible. I feel exhausted and afraid I’ll never have enough wisdom or the energy that others need from me. I need your help. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to courageously and sacrificially invest in my family. Teach me to notice your promptings and follow you in faith, one step at a time. Amen

To learn more about tapping into your strengths as a caregiver, you can also watch one of my conference presentations on the subject at YouTube.

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


Tips to Help Deep Thinking Caregivers Find Their Sweet Spots

This is the fourth article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today we’re looking at some challenges and opportunities for caregivers who think deeply.

Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Do you have a strong capacity to thoughtfully weigh a variety of options when you’re at a crossroads? Perhaps you’re the one in the family who researches therapy and treatment options. Do you have a helpful critical eye when it comes to reviewing details on your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)? When someone suggests it’s time to start thinking about guardianship or future planning for your loved one with special needs, are you already two steps ahead starting the file with background information?

I’m a thinker so I can appreciate the tension you may live in. Your thoughtful and pragmatic ideas are of great value to your complex family. But you may have trouble sleeping at night!

Deep thinking people have a wonderful coping tool built right into them by God. Their moods and anxiety can be shifted by their thinking process alone. But that means it’s important to stay on guard about the tone and focus of your thought life. A great motto from scripture for the deep thinker is found in Philippians 4:8, which says:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

When you are raising a child with disabilities or caring for a loved one with complex needs, there is always plenty to think about. There are decisions to weigh, strategies to plan, causes to support, and perspectives to consider. It’s wonderful to have someone on the caregiving team who has the capacity for keen observation and analysis. You may even be energized by serving the caregiving team through a role of that nature. But you may also feel prone to anxiety if forced to bear this role alone or under pressures of deadlines.

If you’re someone who spends a lot of time “in your head,” try to have some quiet time alone for positive thinking every day. This may feel impossible for a caregiver whose attention is required without interruption. But if you understand how important those few minutes are toward keeping you in your sweet spot, you will prioritize finding a way.

Explain the significance of your need for this kind of intentional quit time to family and caregiving team members. As for help and creative ideas that will allow you to make it happen. Consider a cooperative exchange with someone who can trade responsible times with you so that each of you has opportunity to re-fuel your soul. Let me give you an example from my house. My husband will wrestle with our daughter for a few minutes or snuggle with her on the couch watching a movie so that I can take a break. Then he will do his workout while I give her a shower.

It can be difficult, at times, for deep thinking people to be at peace with themselves, others and even God. You may have high expectations, particularly of yourself. And you may see things clearly in ways that don’t always line up with how others see them. It may help you to meditate periodically on Psalm 51.

To live in your strengths, you will need to learn to make healthy attitude and behavior adjustments by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To stay in your sweet spot, you will also need to learn to deal constructively with anger. Yelling, screaming, hollering, throwing objects, hitting, being passive-aggressive and burying or denying your anger are all destructive responses.

You may find that one of your strengths is that you have the ability to analyze your way through anger. Once you recognize and admit your feelings, you’re able to think through the situation and come to a decision about how you are going to choose to move forward in a positive way. Be on guard, however. The longer you think about the situation, the more vulnerable you may be to becoming depressed, or growing even angrier. Be careful about isolating yourself when you’re angry. Reaching out to a close trusted friend for prayer and processing can help you avoid a negative spiral.

Friend, give yourself and others the right to be imperfect. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes. And talk through your disappointments with God in prayer. Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to move on like nothing ever happened. But it does mean choosing not to harbor negative feelings. Forgiveness and healing often involve a process of choosing, again and again, to forgive until the negative feelings are genuinely resolved.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY REMEMBERING, OFTEN, THE FAITHFUL WAYS OF GOD

If you tend to think deeply

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team where your keen observation and analytical skills are needed
  • Work toward an adequate balance of work, exercise, diet and relaxation
  • Learn to keep your mind more present in the activities and relationships of the moment (less on past and future)
  • Express appreciation to others frequently and specifically
  • Resist analysis and criticism that can feel discouraging to others
  • Release others and yourself from unreasonable expectations
  • Allow flexibility to work at your own pace whenever possible
  • Learn to slow down, letting your moods and thinking patterns rest with Jesus

Here are some tips if you are someone who tends to be pragmatic and well-reasoned in your thinking

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by contributing to conversations that involve decision-making and strategy planning (e.g., education/vocation transitions, guardianship roles, long term care)
  • Optimize your role as mediator and consensus builder in team discussions
  • Recognize that your passions for “the cause” may become a source of pride or inflexibility
  • Respect the rights, feelings, thoughts and plans of others
  • Help give voice to the value of varied perspectives
  • Learn to rely on Jesus to guide your own values, reasoning and humility

The Bible offers an abundance of help and encouragement for thoughtful people:

Philippians 4:8
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Galatians 5:16
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Psalm 94:19
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

1 Thessalonians 5:16
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Lord Jesus, take my mind to a quiet and content place with you. Make a way for me to have a daily routine that includes quiet time to let you fill my mind with truth and encouragement. When my thoughts are racing and my passions are strong, remind me of Your faithfulness. I am tremendously capable of the assignments you give me, only because your Holy Spirit fills me with power and wisdom. Yet I am easily discouraged and often stubborn. Show me how to live. Show me how to serve my family well. Teach me to have reasonable expectations of myself and others. My hope is best placed in You alone. Amen

Feel free to share the “Tap Your Caregiving Strengths” graphics in this article on your social media to encourage others. You can follow the entire “sweet spots” series here.

Tell us in the comments what helps you and your caring family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.


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Tips for Caregivers: Feeling Valued and Competent

This is the third article in a series exploring what puts family caregivers in their “sweet spots” when supporting a family member with special needs. Today’s focus is on how caregivers experience refreshment through affirmation, appreciation, respect and a sense of competence.

If you are a caregiver in a family impacted by special needs, you have a full plate! My hunch is that you feel a lot of pressure to juggle quite a few plates, in fact. Some of that pressure comes from the circumstances themselves. And sometimes there is pressure from others. Very often, caregivers experience an inner tension from their own expectations too.

I want to encourage you to have compassion on yourself (1 John 2:1-2). You don’t need to carry the whole load and you don’t need to carry it all perfectly. Sometimes you’ll long for things from others that you legitimately need but they are not capable of providing. You won’t always feel the things you should. Your responses aren’t always healthy or helpful either. You are human. You have weaknesses and you will fall short of God’s standard. That’s why you need Him! In fact, if you do your job too well, your spouse, your children and others may quit looking to Almighty God for their help too. After all, if their needs are getting perfectly met, they won’t think they need anyone else!

Whether or not the people in your world effectively tell you so, you are highly valued. You are an “essential worker.” I recently learned to use that phrase in referring to myself. I am a full-time home care provider for Carly who has Angelman Syndrome. She requires round-the-clock attention that includes developmental support and medical care. In the phases for implementing the Covid-19 vaccinations in my state of Minnesota, I am considered an “essential healthcare provider.” It may seem trivial, but it felt very validating to see myself and my husband acknowledged in that very first category.

Personally, I appreciate knowing my efforts are valued and that my sacrifices are respected. Since Carly is non-verbal, I’m delighted by her hugs and smiles. On some rare occasions, she will even clap in appreciation for a meal I prepared or because she likes how I brushed her teeth. Most of the time, however, the burden for keeping me bolstered with encouragement falls on other family members. For example, Carly has a sleep disorder that is tremendously complicated and resistant to medications. When I’ve been awake throughout a long night with her, it is very helpful to begin the day with affection from my family. I feel so valued when my husband greets me at breakfast with a long, empathetic hug and a simple word of appreciation for the rest I’ve relinquished. It also encourages me when one of my daughters simply asks, “how much sleep did you get last night, mom?” and then responds with “I’m sorry” when she hears it was a long night.

These kinds of things move me toward my “sweet spot” and help me get through an exhausting day.

We may not like to admit how important things like validation, encouragement and feeling appreciated are to us. It doesn’t seem very Christ-like to depend on the affections of others to keep our spirits boosted. But let’s be honest, we all have some degree of need to feel known, understood, respected, affirmed and reassured of our worth.

Our needs are not necessarily unbiblical. God wonderfully and uniquely created each of us with a body, mind and spirit (Psalm 139:13-14). Each of us has strengths (1 Corinthians 12:4) and weaknesses (Romans 3:23). Both are necessary. Our strengths are a gift to others. Our weaknesses keep us humble and dependent on God. They are a way for God to put His own perfection on display (Isaiah 40:29, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 11:34, ).

It is not weakness to need affection. God made us relational beings. The exchange of affection is essential for maintaining satisfactory relationships. The Apostle Paul found great encouragement from others. In Romans 1:12, he wrote, When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Strong emotional ties are accomplished by sharing feelings of love, appreciation and affirmation. We can learn from the example in the New Testament letters. These apostles not only prayed for God’s people but also told them so through encouraging words (Ephesians 1:15–23, Philippians 1:3–11, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3, Philemon 1:4–7, 3 John 2).

What is weakness is relying too heavily on others to keep us feeling affirmed. That weakness can lead us into sin if we start trying to get the need met in ungodly or unhealthy ways. God insists on being our first love. But He doesn’t deny us the exchange of love with others. In fact, he insists on it.

Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

You don’t need to apologize for needing encouragement. In fact, sometimes you’ll need to be direct with others and ask for it. Don’t expect people to read your mind and intuitively know what bolsters you. Educate your community about what encourages you then leave it to God to shape and refine them. Have compassion when people are slow learners!

The world will always fall short of meeting our needs to feel valued and protected. Loving relationships are a gift from God but they will always leave us incompletely satisfied. Only intimacy with God is completely satisfying. Only Jesus completely understands our longings and will interpret them for us (Romans 8:26-27).

Friend, God’s advocacy for you is without fail (John 14:15-21).

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS BY KNOWING YOUR TRUE VALUE COMES FROM BEING A CHILD OF THE ONE TRUE GOD

If you’re fueled by receiving affirmation, appreciation and affection

  • Explain your need for more positive feedback to those you are close to
  • Spend time with people who are expressive and encourage you toward a godly life
  • Acknowledge expressions of love and appreciation from others with words of gratitude
  • Remember you are valued by the loved one(s) you serve (even if they don’t express it well)
  • Learn not to be jealous of time and attention your deep relationships spend with others
  • Recognize when you are feeling rejected and renew your mind with truth about your value as God’s son/daughter
  • Cultivate intimacy with Jesus to meet your deepest needs for love and security


Some people are more sensitive than others to feeling like they are being criticized or if their competence feels questioned. Most people will be more sensitive to feeling inadequate or rejected when they are stressed or exhausted too. And since many caregivers experience significant fatigue and pressure, is it any wonder that we can be vulnerable to perceiving disappointment from others even when it isn’t really there?

Here are some tips for those times when you may feel inadequate, incompetent or criticized

  • Get clear information about what is needed and expected of you
  • Focus your responsibilities in areas where you feel familiar or confident
  • Establish respectful boundaries where you feel pressure to perform outside of your capabilities (consider delegating, ask for time to grow and then learn something new about the care responsibilities)
  • Find areas where there is freedom to work at your own pace
  • Learn to be more direct in expressing your needs
  • Learn to deal constructively with anger
  • Develop trust in the Holy Spirit to equip you for every good work and be perfect in your weaknesses
  • Learn to trust God with your life and your future to reduce fears of unknown


The Bible offers an abundance of encouragement and reassurance for caregivers. Here are some examples I hope will be of help to you:

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Hebrews 10:24-25
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Psalm 94:19
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Ephesians 3:18-19
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Lord Jesus, I confess that I am hungry to feel loved. I need reassurances that I am seen, known and valued. Forgive me when I misplace my focus on worldly things and expect too much from others. Above all, I am Your beloved child. I need reminding how much You love me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally to the point of death. I also want to thank you for the gift of my community and loved ones. Help us to love each other well. Show me how to be an encourager and teach me how to humbly receive what others have to offer me. Most of all, I am refreshed and energized to persevere in caring for my loved ones when I trust Your unfailing love for me. Amen

Tell us in the comments what works for you and your family!


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Join us for Reach Night and learn more about resources for families with special needs!

Tips for Caregivers Energized by Connectedness

This post is the latest installment in a developing series for caregivers. We’re exploring what helps us find our “sweet spots” in the family that cares for one another amidst the challenges of disability. We hope today’s article encourages you and offers tips that help optimize your strengths.

The life of a caregiver can be socially isolating for a variety of reasons. And limited socialization has unique impact from one person to another. Some people simply don’t need a lot of interaction with people. Others have great need to feel loved, cared for and valued. One person may be grateful for weekly conversations with staff at the therapy clinic. A different person may be satisfied going weeks without so much as a trip to the grocery store or have little need to interact with neighbors while on a walk around the block.

Ultimately, the spectrum is broad and varied in terms of our needs and expressiveness in relationships. But this fact remains. Caregivers who thrive in community but do not experience adequate and consistent connectedness or associations are likely to struggle with energy levels, moodiness, discouragement, anxiety and unfulfilled longings to feel valued.

Here’s the good news! Intentionally cultivating community will keep your spirits refreshed and will energize you to care for your loved ones from a position of strength.

It can be very helpful to understand that not all connectedness or socialization is equal. It is simply not as straightforward as being introverted or extroverted. Our unique needs and capacities for relationships are actually quite complex and nuanced, aren’t they?

Consider these examples and questions:

You may be a caregiver who appreciates generous amounts of solitude but needs to feel seen and known by people.

You could be that person who enjoys getting to know something about almost everyone you meet.

Are you someone who likes to feel some personal connection to your child’s teacher, para, therapists or physicians? Do you know you mail carrier’s first name?

Do you feel deeply the sting of rejection when a relationship is strained? Or do you rather easily move on to a new friendship if a relationship isn’t satisfying?

Are you very selective about who you relate to? Upon walking into a crowded room, do you quickly scan faces to find the people you have interest in connecting with and move quickly past everyone else?

Do you tend to be understated in communication and hope people will intuitively understand you? If you are one of those caregivers who isn’t particularly expressive, you may feel forgotten or sense that someone is taking advantage of you.

As you ponder the nature of your own needs for community and relationships, consider how these tips may help you function from a place of strength.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you’re energized by a sense of CASUAL CONNECTEDNESS in your broader community, here are some guiding tips for you:

  • Seek a role on the caregiving team that allows you to be among people as much as possible (e.g., take your loved one to appointments, do the grocery shopping, run errands, go for walks together, attend sporting events such as Special Olympics, volunteer to help with a fundraiser)
  • Identify people willing to connect spontaneously when you’re feeling isolated, lonely or disconnected
  • Listen to talk radio or podcasts if forced to be away from people for long periods of time
  • Put yourself in situations where you can interact with people when performing mundane duties (e.g., talk to a friend on speaker phone)
  • Complete a task before indulging in pleasures
  • Learn to deal with anger constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God

If you are energized by CONNECTING DEEPLY in your close relationships, here are some guiding scriptures and tips for you:

  • Serve your family and caregiving team with frequent expressions of love, affection, appreciation and affirmation
  • Maintain adequate pacing of rest and refreshment
  • Keep fun activities, social dates and respite on the calendar so you can look forward to them on hard days
  • Recognize your tendency to fill life with activities that bring attention to you or make you feel valued
  • Learn to deal with intense emotions constructively and in ways that are pleasing to God
  • Ask questions and learn about what matters to the people you care about
  • Ask God to grow your bond with the person who has extra needs
  • Develop intimacy with Jesus to meet your deepest needs for love and security
  • Learn to experience a tangible sense of God’s nearness though prayer, scripture and worship music when feeling afraid or lonely

The Bible offers our best plumbline and an abundance of help for relationships.

Romans 12:10
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Proverbs 14:10
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can fully share its joy.

Colossians 3:23
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

Matthew 5:5
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Ephesians 4:26-27
And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 
for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

John 15:13
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Lord Jesus, You created me for community. Even still, relationships are complicated. I am prone to disappointment when it comes to experiencing satisfying community. Search me and know my anxious thoughts. Just as my body needs food to survive, my soul needs to connect with others in meaningful ways. Lead me to grow in connections that matter from a Kingdom perspective. Help me to be intentional, strategic, humble and prayerful about who I associate with and how I develop deeper relationships. Help me to communicate my needs clearly. Show me how to love and encourage others well. In Jesus’ name, I ask you to provide adequate and satisfying community for me and for my family. We need practical help, a sense of inclusion, emotional support and places of belonging. AMEN

At Walk Right In Ministries, we pay close attention to people’s unique needs and capacities for relationships. We understand how important it is for caregivers and families impacted by special needs to cultivate community that is practically helpful and emotionally satisfying. We look to Christian temperament theology in helping families build their “tribe.” If you would like to explore God’s unique imprint on you and grow in intimacy with Him and others, please reach out.


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. She also serves on the Key Ministry writing team where she contributes monthly articles for special needs parents and church leaders. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tips for a Task-Oriented Caregiver

The job of a caregiver is never done. Depending on the needs of each unique situation, there may be meals to plan and prepare, tube feedings to do, hygiene supports to provide, toileting and bowel routines to perform, supplies to restock, behaviors to decipher and manage, sleep schedules to implement (and hope the best for!), seizures to monitor, entertainment to arrange, community supports to coordinate, social needs to meet, legal matters to tend, school forms to update (constantly), medical appointments to navigate, medical insurance calls to make, IEPs and assessments to review, safety to ensure and general advocacy to maintain. There is laundry, housekeeping, more laundry and more housekeeping. Add to that matters of self care, soul care and other care. All of this in addition to the usual maintenance of a home, family and job.

Are you breathless with me?

Truly, it takes a community with a fierce divide-and-conquer commitment to each other to maintain the wellbeing of the whole family and its systems. But cultivating and nurturing that community is another project in itself!

Thankfully, some people are “wired” for projects. They actually get energized by putting things in order, finding efficiencies, coordinating team members and checking the lists.

If this describes you, let me just say how admired and valuable you are. I am sure those around you appreciate your essential contributions to caregiving. And I hope they express that to you in satisfying abundance!

Of course, not everybody is given the same temperament or giftings. We all have unique degrees of need for organizing the kitchen junk drawer. Some people will find deep satisfaction in throwing themselves into a project. But if that is not you, rest assured there is something equally valuable about what you have to offer. Your caregiving team is like a body — with many parts, all valuable (1 Corinthians 12:14-27). The person who needs extra care is a valued part of the team too.

The people we care for are definitely not our projects. But the responsibilities involved with caring for them can be right up the alley for people who appreciate having step-by-step processes to work out.

If you are one of those people in your family who tends to enjoy some task-oriented responsibilities, here are some guiding scriptures, tips and a prayer for you.

Proverbs 3:6
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 127:1
Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.

Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

TAP YOUR CAREGIVING STRENGTHS

If you’re energized by task-oriented activities….

  • Serve your family and caregiving team by identifying efficient and caring ways to be involved
  • Consider being the point person on scheduling
  • Delegate relationally demanding aspects of caregiving so that each person on the care team can experience satisfying balance between tasks and people
  • Monitor and maintain lists and records (e.g., emergency contacts, nutritional priorities, finances, healthcare, IEP, social security and/or disability benefits, guardianship, scriptures on disability theology)
  • Create a daily checklist of essential caregiving activities that keep team members focused and motivated (get input from others about a format that will work for them)
  • Have quiet time every day to organize your thoughts
  • Be sensitive about making others feel like they are one of your projects
  • Learn to rely on Jesus for discernment about priorities and what tasks to release

Lord Jesus, thank you for creating me with a unique and important capacity for getting things done. Help me to know when and how to be involved with the tasks of caregiving in my family. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, to be a humble, strong and cheerful contributor to the caregiving team. Sometimes you call me to do things that feel beyond my ability. In those times, and at all times, teach me to rely on You. AMEN


Lisa Jamieson

Lisa Jamieson is a caregiver consultant, licensed pastoral counsellor and author of popular books and Bible studies including Finding Glory in the Thorns and Jesus, Let’s Talk. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Together, the Jamiesons founded Walk Right In Ministries in 2008, a non-profit organization building faith and community with special needs families. Lisa is the primary contributor on the www.WalkRightIn.org blog sharing practical and spiritual encouragement for parents and other family members caring for children with health and developmental challenges. Her personal blog www.lisajamieson.org also provides encouragement for people who find themselves in challenging places.

Tap Your Caregiver Strengths

I am a full-time caregiving mom for an adult daughter with severe-profound developmental disabilities and complex health issues. Family caregivers like me understand that self-care can feel daunting, even impossible much of the time. A nap is rare for most. A pedicure, while offering a sweet pampering pick-me-up, doesn’t have far-reaching impact.

I get up every day with more than an aching back and sore forearms. I start each day like every other parent caring for a loved one who has disabilities or mental health concerns. Those caring for an aging parent our spouse understand too. We all have desperate needs to keep up our energy, feel competent, provide safe and efficient care, remain loving and compassionate, fight fears, feel a sense of control over our circumstances, get satisfying socialization, balance attention to each loved one in our lives, do adequate self-care and generally stay encouraged.

Caregivers don’t need to live at the end of their rope! There is a way to stay energized and effective.

REFUEL

Caregivers must explore with great intention how we get energized right down to our soul. Many popular self-care tips are little more than “Band-Aids” with relatively short-term effect on a person’s capacity to serve sacrificially, let alone for the long haul. Caregivers with sustained, long-term energy pay attention to nourishing themselves in body, mind and spirit. Psalm 139 is a wonderful reminder that each of us is complex and unique, beautifully woven by the hand and heart of Almighty God. Christian temperament therapy has been one of the most valuable and transformative tools God has used to help my own family understand and appreciate God’s imprint on us. Caregivers can learn to fuel their souls in very personal, targeted and efficient ways. The process of fueling up helps us optimize our strengths, recognize areas of weakness and vulnerability, identify ways to cooperate with others and ultimately lean into the power of Jesus.

REASSESS

Caregivers are spurred on by having a vision. Do you have a sense of why God has called you to such a situation? God’s Word is rich with truth about His sovereign goodness in disability and reasons for asking us to take care of each other. We benefit from understanding our role on a team that includes God and others. We also need a well-fitting “yoke” and we need to wear it right alongside our Supreme Apprentice — Jesus. A prayerful look at Matthew 11:28-29 gives clues about how to walk in our strengths as caregivers:

Am I really carrying the “burdens” that are meant for me?

Am I carrying these responsibilities in the way that God means for me to carry them?

REPENT

Sin creates a sense of burden and fatigue. No caregiver needs any extra weight! I love the promise of Acts 3:19-20 that offers me a refreshing when I repent of my sin. Every caregiver has his/her own habits and hang-ups that hinder our connection with God and the fruitful potential of our life. I’ll be the first to admit that my caregiver stress can make me vulnerable to sinning. I am not my best self when I don’t pay attention to fueling my soul in godly ways. Psalm 139:23-24 reminds me to take an honest assessment of myself. Second Corinthians 12:9 reassures me that God’s strength is perfect, enough for me and fully accessible to me.

REORIENT

A strong and fruitful caregiver organizes time and priorities around God’s values, their own sweet spots (gifts, talents, experience and temperament strengths) and God’s calling (His unique design and purpose for each of us). Verses like Exodus 14:14, John 15, Acts 17:25 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 assure us that God wants to take care of caregivers. We must keep circling our wagons (or wheelchairs, walkers and adapted bikes) around Jesus Christ.

Learning to find our strengths as caregivers is a process. Learning to stay in a sustained groove of energy, effectiveness and sense of purpose is a life-long commitment. We are works-in-progress, after all. The opportunity in that process is to develop a precious intimacy with God and others. God is patient with us and delights in the adventure of our “growing up” with Him. We need to have compassion and patience with ourselves. We must also develop compassion and patience with others around us who are trying to learn their own sweet spots on the team.

Here are some ways to tap your strengths if you are someone who gets energy from doing tasks and thinking about ways to be efficient…

Check out several other practical tips for caregivers who want to optimize their role and stay energized on the caregiving team. (Click the download button below.) Use this downloadable file as a springboard for discussion with your family about how to keep each other energized and satisfied.

One of my conference presentations on this subject is also available to watch on YouTube here.

If you are a strained caregiver, let me assure you that there is hope. There are opportunities and great purposes in what you do. You will be imperfect but God redeems sins and weakness while empowering us with His Holy Spirit. He is able to create much out of nothing. He will remain trustworthy in our atypical lives even when we are doubting. Your mustard seed of faith is enough for Him. God wants you to experience peace — body, mind and spirit — and He will meet you with power right now and forever.

Psalm 73:25-26
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.


Walk Right In Ministries can help you or someone you care about to tap their caregiving potential.

  • Read the multi-part series on Tips for Caregivers by searching “sweet spots” on this blog.
  • Learn about God’s imprint on you, your needs and your purpose with a temperament therapist who is certified through the National Christian Counselors Association (NCCA) or the Sarasota Academy of Christian Counseling (SACC). WRIM’s own Lisa Jamieson is certified with SACC and a licensed pastoral counsellor.
  • Work with a licensed pastoral counselor to help your family understand areas of unique strength, weakness and vulnerability. We can help you identify causes of things like anxiety, anger, exhaustion, depression, fear and resentment through scripture, prayer and tools that help explain God’s unique role and purpose for you.
  • Get involved in our peer support group for family caregivers.
  • Explore practical strategies (e.g., ways to build your “tribe” of support, growing as God’s disciple). Reach out for WRIM’s caregiver consulting services.

Write us at info@walkrightin.org or fill out our online Interest Form.


LISA JAMIESON is a special needs family advocate and co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries where she serves as a caregiver coach and licensed pastoral counsellor. Lisa and her husband, Larry, live in Minnesota with the youngest of their three grown daughters, Carly, who has Angelman Syndrome. Lisa’s books and Bible studies include Finding Glory in the Thorns and the picture book Jesus, Let’s Talk.