Both Deb Kelsey-Davis and Kelly Johnson became caregivers rather unexpectedly. Deb stepped into the role when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and Kelly became a caregiver for her 5-year-old son, after he was diagnosed with cancer that required years of surgery and radiation.
As a nurse, Deb thought she would be able to handle the demands of caring for her mother-in-law.
“Very quickly what I realized is that I was becoming isolated,” Deb told Guideposts.org. “I was focused solely on her needs and forgetting about my own needs.”
Deb said after her mother-in-law passed away, she felt drained physically, emotionally and spiritually. It wasn’t until she began to help out with her parents, that she realized she couldn’t be the only one experiencing the specific challenges that arise from caregiving.
Deb and Kelly met at their local parish in Downers Grove, Illinois. Kelly had taken on the role of Director of Adult Formation, after a successful career in advertising. When Deb brought up the idea of creating a program for caregivers, Kelly identified with the isolation and burnout Deb had experienced. Together, they created Nourish for Caregivers.
“Our mission is to really reach out and address the needs of family caregivers,” Deb said.
Kelly explained that Nourish is a curriculum that any church can use.
“It gives the churches the tools in order to minister to family caregivers,” Kelly said. “An important component of that is that all of the materials are there, and it can be a lay-led effort, so that it’s not another thing that the pastor has on [their] plate.”
The curriculum addresses the practical needs of caregiving through a series of 12 topics, ranging from negotiating with family members to self-care, each centered in Christ and Scripture.
“For example, you talk about safety, which could be a pretty dull and dry topic, quite frankly. [Same with] fraud, abuse, elder abuse. Those are pretty practical topics, but what we do is we weave in Christ to all of that,” Deb said.
Kelly added that the program was designed to be tailored for the specific needs of the local community. Monthly meetings include prayer, discussion, a group activity and time for sharing and reflection. The program is currently available in 50 churches. Churches pay a one-time program fee for the curriculum and a small annual renewal fee, which includes updated content for the new year.
“One of the things that we hear people say is that they really realized for the first time that they’re not alone,” Deb said. “They have other people that can relate to what they’re going through, and they feel that there is deep compassion and understanding, which further allows them to open up and share.”
Visit the Nourish for Caregivers website for more information on the program and available resources.