November is National Family Caregivers Month, and since being a caregiver for my late husband Kenny, I’ve come to learn that the caregiver can often be overlooked. I decided to write this post and share some ways you can help & support a caregiver. After talking with friends, who are also caregivers, there seems to be a general feeling of loneliness and lack of support.
We also acknowledge how hard and awkward it can be for our friends and family during these difficult times. They may not know what to say, what they can and can’t say, what to do, how to help without being in the way or a burden.
Hopefully this post will give you or your loved ones some ideas and ways to help & support a caregiver in your life – or encourage you, if you are a caregiver yourself, to share these ideas with your friends and family!
11 Ways to Help & Support a Caregiver
Here are some ideas and ways you can help a friend or family member who is a caregiver. Some of these ideas I personally contributed and others were contributed by some dear friends of mine. This was a collaborative effort, and I want to thank them for their time, ideas, vulnerability, and trust they had with me to share their personal stories and struggles.
– Offer to relieve them.
Even if it’s for 30 minutes to take a shower or an hour for them to go to the store – it doesn’t have to be a full weekend or even a full day. Giving them a break and moment to rest and regroup can help immensely.
– Be a good listener.
This one seems obvious, but I think it’s often overlooked. Being a good listener can be letting them talk or express their feelings – or just letting them sit with you, watching tv together or in complete silence. Whatever they need, be that for them.
– Quality alone time with spouse.
It’s understandable that family wants to be around and help where they can, which is great and can be helpful (and needed sometimes). But having that alone time with their spouse is important. When you are going through something extremely difficult, like a serious illness, you want everything to feel as “normal” as possible. Having family around and in your home 24/7 doesn’t give that sense of normalcy. So it’s something to keep in mind when visiting and helping.
– Bring them dinner or a treat or a coffee.
This was always a major yes in my books. A bonus if you stay and keep them company! A silly little latte can go a long away. The little things are always the big things.
– Ask them how they are doing.
This was a big one for me. The caretaker can sometimes be forgotten (not intentionally) as most of the attention is on the person who is ill. So often the caregiver’s well-being is overlooked. A simple “how are you doing with everything?” can go miles. Even if they don’t want to talk about it or simply respond with “I’m fine!”, the gesture of asking does not go unnoticed.
– Don’t be afraid to come around.
A lot of people think that since treatment is happening we don’t want or need to “entertain.” In reality, it can be pretty lonely and isolating not seeing people while we are tied up with treatment 16 hours a week or being cooped up at the house. It’s nice to have company and a nice distraction
– Say a prayer for them.
Or pray with them if they are comfortable. Sometimes when we don’t know what to do or feel like everything we’re saying is the wrong thing, saying a prayer is never the wrong thing.
– Help them get away sometimes.
Running to target? See if they’d like to join! Want to catch a yoga class? Ask them to go! Although it can be hard for us to leave our loved one, it’s good for us to take a break and take it with someone else.
– Don’t be afraid to ask.
About how things are going, checking in, or offering help. I believe some people assume if we need help, we will ask. But as we all know, it’s difficult to ask for help. And honestly, we sometimes don’t know what we need until we are asked and can talk it through with someone outside the situation.
– Be willing to let them vent without trying to fix things.
I know this is a hard one, but sometimes we need to talk and vent about our current situations. And some of the things may scare you or you may not understand, and you can tell us that. It may help us even more. What won’t help is you saying, “Oh well that won’t happen.” or “Don’t say that!” Our reality is probably pretty scary during these difficult times. Some things we need to live and grow through as they are. Trying to fix our situation may seem helpful, but we are frustrated and may just need to vent. And although offered solutions are truly appreciated, sometimes we simply need support in the decisions we have made.
– Be patient.
I understand everyone has a lot going on, everyone is busy. But when you have a spouse or loved one sick, going through treatments, checking in and out of hospitals, it can be a little more overwhelming than our “average normal.” We may not respond to texts as quickly, see that email, or have the physical, mental, or emotional energy to engage. But we are still here, and we still care. Our priorities may have shifted for this particular season.
Kenny and I had amazing support from family and friends who helped us immensely, and I will forever be grateful for the time and resources that were provided to us from them. I honestly couldn’t have done it without them.
Most importantly, at the end of the day, we are so grateful and blessed to have friends and family, like you, who help and support us. We can’t do it without you and your support.
Whether you are a caregiver or have a caregiver in your life, I hope this post helps and gives you some useful ideas. If you have any others to add to this list, please feel free to share them in the comments below! Your ideas are valuable and helpful for others!
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