Being a caregiver can be emotionally and physically exhausting. If someone you know is taking care of someone who is elderly, disabled or seriously ill, there are many things you can do to help your friend as well as the person she is caring for.
Caregivers often feel out of control or over their heads as they try to balance the demands of their own life and the life of the person they are caring for.
Many caregivers find it difficult to reach out to others or to ask for assistance. So don’t wait for your friend to turn to you for help.
Offering to help in specific ways relieves your friend of the extra burden of thinking of what to ask for. It also allows you to keep control of your schedule so you can willingly volunteer your time and energy.
Here are some things you might offer to do:
1) Make a meal
Well-balanced meals are as important for the caregiver as they are for someone who is elderly, sick or recovering from a serious illness. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. Prepare a double batch of whatever your family is eating.
Deliver it to your friend in disposable containers so he doesn’t have to worry about returning the dish.
2) Do the shopping
You’re going to the store anyway. Offer to pick up whatever your friend needs, or pick up extras of staples you know she typically has in the kitchen and drop them off.
This can be especially helpful around the holidays when stores are crowded and shopping would take the caregiver away from home for a longer time than usual. If your friend is busy when you drop off food items, be sure to put perishables in the refrigerator.
3) Give your friend a break
Having free time can be a tremendous gift for a caregiver. Offer to sit in for an hour or two to give your friend a break. This can make a difference during the holiday season when your friend has gifts to buy and little time to shop.
But don’t set criteria for what your friend should do on her free time. Don’t be offended if she doesn’t want to leave the house. Your time will be appreciated even if she only goes outside to sit on the back patio or catches a much-needed nap.
4) Pick up prescriptions
If you’re going to the pharmacy, check to see if your friend needs anything. Or offer to be on call for a late night run to pick up a health care item if needed.
5) Do the yard work
Offer to mow the grass, rake the leaves or weed the garden. If your friend loves to work in the yard, volunteer to sit inside so she can spend time outdoors.
6) Offer holiday plans
Whether or not your friend has time to spend with you over the holidays, he will appreciate the offer to be included in your plans. If you have a party he can’t attend, bring the party to him by dropping off a plate of snacks or a party favor.
But don’t add to your friend’s already-too-full plate by making him feel guilty about not having time to attend. Be sure your friend knows it is okay to say no.
7) Be a good listener
Having a supportive friend to vent frustrations to can help relieve some of the stress of caregiving. Encourage your friend to talk about whatever is on her mind. Remember your friend still has her own interests and goals, even if they have been put on hold.
8) Nurture your friendship
Being a caregiver often requires passing up social opportunities. Don’t lose track of your friendship or feel that you have to give up your friend because of his responsibilities as a caregiver.
Find ways to continue the activities you enjoy together, whether that means taking activities to him or sharing things you enjoy through photos and phone calls.
9) Check in regularly
Having something to look forward to can be a great emotional boost. Plan a time when you can check in for a quick visit, either in person or on the phone.
You can also find helpful information about support groups, services and tips in AARP’s list of resources for caregivers. If you think they would be helpful, share them with your friend.
Remember to be specific about what you can do when you offer assistance. If your first offer is refused, don’t take the refusal personally and don’t give up. Be persistent in reminding your friend that you are willing and able to help.
Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s: How to help a caregiver. Web. November 19, 2014.
AARP. 10 Ways for Caregivers to Nurture Themselves. Web. November 19, 2014.
Helpguide.org. Caregiver Stress and Burnour. Web. November 19, 2014.
Reviewed November 21, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith