“Please……don’t give me one more $#%& thing to add to my to-do list!”
My close friend stated this nicely, but emphatically, after I suggested she should get more rest. As the primary caregiver, medical advocate, designated head of household and emotional support for her husband, she is beyond exhausted.
I thought I was being helpful with some sage advice. Of course, rest is important. So is air. She knows she needs rest. This was clearly obvious and from her perspective, I just gave her one more thing to do!
After I apologized and we laughed, I asked her what support she would find helpful. While there is no “best way” to provide support, there are a few they come up repeatedly. Everyone’s caregiving situation and their personal needs are different, be sure to observe, ask them and listen.
Caregivers are the unsung heroes and angels on this planet doing God’s work. Far too often, family and friends are at a loss on how to help.
I’ve been on a mission to learn how I can be a good support to my caregiving friends and family members. Fortunately, when asked, most everyone was very generous and honest with their advice. (If you are a caregiver, you may also want to check out my blog on self-care for caregivers.)
Five Ways to Support a Caregiver
1. Ask your caregiving friend how they would like you to check in with them and how frequent. Ask what works best for them. Everyone is different–some prefer a personal call, an email, text, or a visit. For others, minimal or no contact is preferred as they deal with their own personal situation.
Respect and honor what they tell you.
2. Remember your caregiving friend’s life is bigger than caregiving. When talking with them, inquire about the situation, but be sure to ask about other family members, life in general, and include light-hearted humor if that’s normal for your friendship. Talk about what they want to talk about and listen. Then listen some more.
If caring for a spouse or partner, many have also lost their best-friend and confidant with whom they used to share daily conversations. They most likely appreciate having good conversations with friends.
3. If they can get away for a bit, invite them to lunch, coffee, a glass of wine, or outing. Your time together provides a diversion from the constant neediness of their situation. This may offer some normalcy in their difficult situation. The greatest gift we can give another is time and personal attention. Caregiving is generally thankless and under-appreciated. Let them know someone sees them doing this important work.
4. Give them a helpful gift. Give a small gift, flowers, a book, or a gift certificate for personal care–a massage, pedicure or a favorite cafe or deli for take-out. Consider bringing a meal, soup, or something nourishing.
5. Give them a break. If it’s possible to drop in to stay, this allows the caregiver a respite to run errands knowing all’s well.
Hopefully, these suggestions give you several ways you can do something positive to support your caregiving friends.
Share Your Ideas
If you have ideas, please share them in the comments below. Everyone knows a caregiver in this challenging time of life and we’re all looking for ways to help.