My conversion to believing the Bible as the inspired word of God and accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior happened almost 30 years ago. Since then, I have been attending church services regularly and have used my marketing experience to help one particular Arkansas church double the size of its congregation.
So, I have been involved and have heard a lot of preaching about caring for community, the deprived, the hungry, the homeless and others in need all over the world. Yet not once have I heard a preacher conduct a sermon on either of two Bible verses I believe focus on one of our most important responsibilities; caring for our own! They are 1 Timothy 5:4 and 1 Timothy 5:8.
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” — 1 Timothy 5:8
Caring for our own is one of the strongest commands in the Bible. Denying the faith and being worse than an unbeliever are pretty scary consequences for not obeying a command! So my question to pastors is why isn’t your church helping your families care for their own through encouragement from the pulpit and providing resources that will help identify and mitigate health care issues before they become unmanageable?
Don’t get me wrong: I support our outreach to help people with needs both here and abroad, but I believe we should include our own families in the mix. I’m not talking about senior programs that recognize our elderly and their social needs; I am referring to meaningful programs that help raise awareness of the importance for adult children to stay in touch with their parents and grandparents on a regular basis. That is the only way children will become conscious of their parents health care needs and be able to help them have a better life experience before leaving us.
By now, most everyone is aware of how aging demographics have changed the health care landscape and will continue to have a critical affect on our society. We are living longer, but not because we are healthier; in fact, the opposite is true. An American Hospital Association study concludes that the baby-boom generation is bringing more chronic health care issues into old-age than any generation before them. I don’t want to bore you with statistics, but here are three important ones that help make the case for kids staying in touch with their parents and having the resources to help them:
• “Greater geographic mobility and fewer multi-generational households result in long-distance caregiving.” — Family Care Alliance
• “Caregivers live an average of 480 miles from the people for which they care.” — Alzheimer‘s Association
• “Of those caring for someone 65 years or older, the average age of the caregiver is 63 years and 33 percent of them are in fair or poor health.” — Administration on Aging
That last is especially disturbing because it indicates a less than healthy husband or wife is caring for a spouse who is worse-off. Where are the kids?
Some of you know that I carry a guilt burden because I was more interested in my own career and lifestyle than I was at a time when my father was battling Parkinson’s disease and some undiagnosed equilibrium issues. He committed suicide. Forgive me, but I use that as an excuse to bloviate about family caregiving.
My personal experience plus my belief that there is nowhere one will find, or should find, a stronger family affinity than in our churches are the reasons for my focus. I would love to hear from pastors and church families with your opinions and questions. I want to help in any way I can.
Bob Meister is a certified care resource specialist who has been studying America’s aging demographic and has been involved in caregiving and health care since 1989. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.