More than any other demographic, elders rely and cherish their faith. For children of religious parents, we've been blessed by their faith and many of us have a relationship with God because of our parents' beliefs and teachings. As our parents become older, it often becomes harder for them to attend services and even read about their faith. How can we as caregivers and adult children support our parents' faith?
Some of my earliest and most cherished memories are when I sat next to my parents at church during worship services. Three times a week, we attended the small white church just six blocks from our home. I mostly sat between them and loved to hear my father's deep voice as he sang the hymns that I still love. "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace" are just two of my favorites.
I didn't have to wonder if my parents truly believed in God. They showed me every minute of every day. We thanked Him before our meals and my father read me the Bible throughout my childhood. They lived their faith and taught me that it was the most important thing in our lives. When I was young, I thought we were among the few people who still believed in God. But as I've gotten older and have interviewed many seniors, I realize that many still hold strong to the Christian faith and it is a vital part of their lives and defines them as individuals.
My parents are still able to read the Word and drive themselves to church. But they are both in the mid to late 70's and I know the time is coming when I will be the link for them to go to church. As a gerontologist, I also know that their eyesight might not hold up. My father has the beginning of glaucoma so it's likely that reading will soon become difficult.
I always ask the elders I interview, "What in life is the most important to you?" Family and faith are almost always their answers. Many elders in assisted living homes and retirement communities are not able to attend services where they spent a lifetime worshipping. Mary is one of the older ladies that told me just how much she misses her old congregation. "My husband was a pastor," she said. "I loved our home congregation. The people are just like family, but I can no longer drive and my children are just too busy."
Staying connected to our church families is so important for all of us. For older people, it is life sustaining. Those friendships and the support is vital to their lives. Without our connections to lifetime friends, even our physical health can suffer, as well as our emotional well-being.
So I encourage you to help your elders stay connected to their faith. Make it a family project and everyone will be blessed by the experience. Take turns driving them to worship and get-togethers. If they aren't able to read, get them the Bible on tape or on CD's. Better yet, read to them when you get a chance. You 'll both be blessed.
How do you support your parent's faith? How has their faith impacted your life? I'd so love to hear from you!
If you or a family member is going through a crisis, I want you to know that you're not alone. The support and education you need is available at your finger tips from expert care professionals at Lutheran Homes of Michigan. You may talk to a real person who does have the answers, without any obligation by calling 989.652.3470 or by emailing
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