The California home of Kurt and Irma Dahlin, where they homeschool the youngest of their six children and run their mission organization, Water Wells for Africa, has also been the site of a third special ministry—caring for their elderly parents. It is a task that they see as a blessing and an opportunity.
Courtesy of the Family
The Dahlin family.
“I DO NOT BEGRUDGE
“Every experience is different; every parent is different. There were different time periods where we cared for our parents until they were back on their feet. And then there was terminal care,” says Kurt. “My dad died at home; Irma’s dad also died at home. My mom was in assisted living because she needed another level of care than we could provide.”
Though it took work—from remodeling a home to learning to give injections, monitoring medical needs, and coordinating with extended family members—the Dahlins say that caregiving blessed their family. Not only did Kurt and Irma invest in their parents, but their elderly parents also invested in the Dahlins’ children.
Irma says, “Even if grandparents were strangers before, the six months they may spend with us will be a time that they give input into their grandchildren’s lives. That is important to us as home educators.”
Kurt describes how caring for Irma’s father brought their children into a stronger connection with Irma’s Hispanic heritage. “It was a great opportunity for our young kids to get to know their grandpa and share a little of the language. And, since we consider all of life homeschooling, learning how to cook posole and make sopa is as important to us as history and geography!”
And there were plenty of other learning opportunities, says Irma: “We looked at it as socialization—not just with the same age group, but also with the elderly, the middle-aged, and the young.”
Irma worked to prepare their family for each eldercare situation. “We sit down to consider what we are trying to do and whether we can do it,” explains Irma. “Then we prepare our children spiritually, physically, and mentally. When the children were young, we just let them know what we were going to do and why we were doing this, so everybody could try to be accepting and have patience.”
Ultimately, says Kurt, it comes down to the big lessons of life. “Honoring parents is one of the Ten Commandments. We wanted to model loving a relative to our children. We’re saying to them: this is how it’s done; this is the time it takes; this is the money it takes; this is the running around, filling prescriptions, making sure the phone works—that’s what you do.”
Both Kurt and Irma agree it takes time and energy. “But it’s temporary,” says Kurt.
“I have no parents anymore. And I do not begrudge one moment or one dollar I spent on them.”