Wednesday, August 17, 2011

5 Quick Tips on How to Help a Caregiver

Caregivers are a stubborn bunch (or so I’ve heard!). We take on caring for loved ones (or sometimes friends) even if it seems to others like an impossible undertaking. We may not always ask for help (in our defense, sometimes we don’t know what help to ask for) but there are ways to offer assistance that will be both welcomed and appreciated.

1. Ask what help the caregiver might need. You may have the best idea since the invention of the iPhone (faithful readers know of my phone addiction), but if it doesn’t work for the caregiver or their loved one, then it’s not a good idea! Ask the caregiver what she needs help with, not what you think she needs help with.

2. Offer to visit with the caree. A visit doesn’t have to last all day (and, in a lot cases, that may not be welcome anyway). There are caregivers who are with their loved one all the time. No, really. I mean All. The. Time. Offer to visit with the caree (or in the case of a certain someone, play cards) for thirty minutes or an hour so the caregiver can run to the store or can go to another room and call a friend – without worry tagging along.

3. Offer to grocery shop. It doesn’t have to be a full shop (and that offer would probably be met with resistance, anyway). Call the caregiver and say, “Hey, I’m going to the store. Can I get you some milk/bread/bananas/chocolate?” (Not necessarily in that order). The caregiver may take you up on it if they don’t think it’s a special trip you’re making for them.

4. Learn about the disease. If the caregiver cares for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, learn as much as you can about it. The caregiver will appreciate talking with someone who knows what they are dealing with on a daily basis. [A little extra tip for those who aren’t quite on a first name basis with Miss Manners (which leads me to ask: is anyone actually on a first name basis with Miss Manners since that might be considered rude?). Back to the tip: do not presume to know more about the disease than the caregiver because you happened to read a couple of articles about it. Please. Save yourself (and the caregiver) from doing that.]

5. Be a friend. There is a high rate of depression among caregivers which may lead the caregiver to withdraw from friends and family when they feel overwhelmed. Call to see how the caregiver is doing. Be a friend and visit with them but don’t be super sensitive if the call is cut short and certainly don’t complain to them that they never have time for you any more! Of course they don’t – they’re busy taking care of someone who is either sick or disabled. Set aside your ego and keep in mind, they need you now more than ever!

Bonus tip:

6.  Bring the caregiver chocolate!  Well, this one may be a bit self-serving but thought I'd give it a shot . . .   

What tips do you have to offer assistance to caregivers? I’d love to hear your ideas!


Joan Oliver Emmer said...

Very simple, yet useful tips. As one who dealt with a serious illness a number of years ago, these appear to me to be spot on.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Joan, I appreciate your perspective as someone who was the "caree."

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