'I had to give up my job in social work which I loved'
Caroline’s story | What God teaches through care for others, and yourself
“I’ve always liked this verse: ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’ (Philippians 4:8)”
“As a social worker, I’ve been trained in ‘strength-based’ theories. It’s not that different. Focus on what is working well, affirm the good things in any situation. Try not to pathologise everything. Be encouraging, while at the same time, not minimising suffering.
“My mum died of lymphatic cancer in 1993 when I was 24. She’d been in and out of remission for 12 years, which really impacted our family. Then my dad was diagnosed with dementia in June, 2019, and he went to hospital. I went and stayed nearby (in Canberra) for three months, to care for him.
“It was a chaotic time … and it was the coldest winter they’d had for 30 years. Dementia is a cruel disease and the hospital was very busy. I really missed my husband back in Sydney. But I had to find the strength and the energy. The thing that got me through was the Scriptures. I found a copy of [Charles] Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’ devotionals on my dad’s book shelf, and I read it every day. I became really disciplined in reading the Bible and praying. It really changed me and it even changed the situation around me.
“I think when you become a carer, life can be exhausting. It’s hard to think straight. So I had to go back to the simple things that I knew really well. I knew the Lord’s Prayer, so I would say that over and over again, as Jesus encouraged us. And every day, God would use the truths in that prayer to direct me and give me hope. Dad and I also read the Bible together whenever we could and I prayed with him. It really calmed him.
“After three months in hospital, he was transferred to an aged care facility near where I lived in Sydney and I was able to go home. And then COVID started. But there was another miracle. We had a phone line installed in his room, just before lockdown and we could speak to him every day. He passed away at the end of last year.
“We’ve been grieving, but I think that the routine of daily prayer and Bible reading has really helped me. It’s carried on!
“Back in 2016, I started having my own health problems. I noticed I was wavering when I walked around the office, and I was starting to stutter. I’d never stuttered in my life before. My mobility and speech slowly deteriorated. In 2020, I was diagnosed with Spinocerebellar Ataxia, which is a neurodegenerative disease. It will worsen, but it’s difficult to predict how quickly that will happen. I now walk slowly and I use a stick. I speak slowly. I had to give up my job in social work which I loved. I’m 52 and I don’t know what’s ahead.
“But God has been teaching me to be patient and to slow down and to trust him. I need to pray regularly. I try and claim his promises. It’s the same as before when I was caring for dad. I try to look for the good things and the strengths in my life – whatever is lovely and admirable and praiseworthy. I can’t do paid work but I still love music and reading and cooking. I can still hang out the washing. I have time to volunteer at my church, which is wonderful! I can give praise to God. I’m grateful for the NDIS, which means that I can access therapies and go for a walk regularly with my physio!
“And I still pray the Lord’s Prayer a couple of times a day, which really helps me. I think the hard times can seem endless, but things do change over time. Suffering is never wasted. God always uses it! I also hold on to Psalm 37:23-24 – ‘The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; although he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.’”