I have known Ron and Maggie Hilmer for a long time, since I was in my teens and they were...well, younger than they are now.
Ron is a pastor with Parkinson's disease and Maggie is a physical therapist who has congenital heart problems and chronic back pain. As it turns out, they now share a life of mutual caregiving and care-receiving. It has become a "new normal" for them.
In "Speaking of Care: Giving and Receiving," a booklet they wrote together, Maggie writes:
In our lives we all have many roles—child-wife-husband-mother-father-daughter-son—besides any professional roles we might have. Sometimes, we ask ourselves, "Who am I?" since our present role in our relationship with the person for whom we care has changed. It may have even reversed. Our new role may not be one we wanted but one we received by sheer circumstance. Through it all, it is important to keep our thoughts centered on God, who alone is unchanging.
As she indicates, faith plays a central role in their ability to care for each other, and in how they encourage others.
It strikes me that two realities will make issues of caregiving and receiving all the more urgent. One: our society is aging. Two: medical advancements are allowing people to live longer even while coping with difficult illnesses.
Given these realities, more and more people will find themselves either caring for loved ones in a way they didn't anticipate or getting caught in a "sandwich generation" situation for a much longer period of time than previous generations. And faith communities will have to adapt to become crucial networks of support and care in their midst.
By one estimate, over 50 million Americans are trying to take care of their parents, a spouse, or other relatives as a caregiver. This is part of society's "new normal."
Ron and Maggie Hilmer will be sharing insights into the dynamics of their care for each other at Laclede Groves Senior Living Community, next Tuesday, March 29, with a lunch and program that starts at 11:30 AM. for more information, contact Vicki Polk at Lutheran Senior Services, 314-446-2403, firstname.lastname@example.org.