How to Help the Caregiver
By Nancy Lamb, Health Coach and Caregiver’s Copywriter
It’s time to answer that question. You know the one. That nagging feeling inside you when you know you could do some little thing to help your friend or family member, but you just don’t know what – and worse, you are afraid to ask!
Here’s the thing, folks. Your loved ones are so busy giving care, juggling the management of their lives that they don’t have time to even think about who to ask or for what. Most of us don’t ask until we reach that breaking point.
I know. I’ve lived it. My husband was recovering from surgery followed by life threatening complications. At the same time, Mom was challenged with dementia. I worked full time plus did all the care. I desperately needed a break.
I raised the white flag and called out for help. The trouble was, I wasn’t specific enough. Some friends rushed over that weekend. Suddenly, I was being caregiver, hostess, and coordinator. What I wanted was 4 hours weekly to not even think. I wanted what I saw my Mom’s friends doing – coordinating amongst themselves to offer a little love.
There is always some little thing you can do.
I know. I’ve been the caregiver for over 15 years now. Many people ask me if I had other relatives or friends who would help. Instead of assuming other people are obligated to help, Why don’t YOU be the hero for YOUR caregiver and offer a bit of help.Think about it. Does it really help to tell your friend that someone else should be helping them? Um, NO! coming soon is an article on what not to say.
With that in mind, I offer you this idea-generating list. What I do is glance around and look for little things I could do to make it easier for a person. Instead of saying YOU NEED HELP say “hey, let me do that for you”.
Giving is an art in itself. Offer help, not advise. Offer Love not pity and certainly not judgments. If the person truly wants advise, give it freely and without any expectations. They may have already tried your ideas. Offer suggestions, but don’t force your opinions!
Top 25 30 Ways to Help Your Caregiver
1. Ask how they are doing?
It’s a simple question. Really listen and validate the person. Don’t just offer random advice that makes you feel better. Show them you care and that you know it’s hard.
2. Ask if there is anything they could use a hand with right now?
You never know. It might be simple little thing that takes no extra time. Most people would never take advantage. But if you are on the way to the store or pharmacy, just ask if you can pick something up. So simple!
3. Offer to vacuum or better yet, hire someone to clean his or her house once. It’s a one shot deal, but in many cases, this is most needed and the first thing that is neglected.
4. Mow their lawn – send your teenage son over to mow their lawn. You pay the kid, the kid feels good about helping, and it’s one less thing on that list for the caregiver.
5. Offer to walk the dog.
6. Cook them a meal – the classic casserole or stew that can be eaten now and leftovers frozen for later.
7. Take them for a walk.
8. Offer to elder sit while they take a break for a few hours.
9. Stop by to visit with the Care Receiver while the caregiver tends to some household things.
10. Offer help with actual care – activities of daily living or ADL’s are often non medical and easy to help with.
11. Take them somewhere they love: shopping, art gallery, museum, local park..
12. Menu Planning and Shopping – Some spouses are not used to this. Help them understand how to create a balanced menu, how to plan and shop, and in some cases, how to find things in the grocery store.
13. Offer to help organize pertinent information: Important Phone numbers, Family Phone Numbers, Doctors, Medications, Symptom Tracking,
14. Take the Care Receiver to the Park or the Beach. They may be limited in function, but they will love getting out.
15. Just call and check in like you would any friend. There is nothing like a hi, how ya doing? Just do it.
16. Remind them of their value.
17. Offer to identify local respite care services available.
18. Guys often want to know how to shop for their wives clothing articles. Offer to help them figure out sizing, how to get help at the store, and how to care for these articles.
19. Help them clean out and organize closets or cupboards.
20. Weekly visits can become a treasured respite all in their own self.
21. Offer to take the car in for an oil change / tune-up. They can even pay, but just want someone else to do something.
22. Empty the garbage.
23. Do the dishes.
25. Clean the refrigerator
26. Tell funny stories
27. Reminisce about fun times together
28. Ladies day: Offer a spa day or pampering session for the ladies;
29. Men’s day out: Might be a golfing day, lunch at the club, a drive, a movie, whatever the man really treasures and can still enjoy. My Dad’s guy pals loved their routine Friday lunches for decades.
30. At a bare minimum, just send a note, email or text saying you are thinking of them. That little second may be the brightest spot of their day!
Your one hour of help is worth a million in love and in gold. It’s not hard. Just think a bit about what you might love if you were the caregiver and offer that!