Dear Caregiver Friend,
Are you a friend of a caregiver and want to help out? Do you feel at a loss when you see us with so little time to socialize, have fun or even care for our own basic needs? It’s true, caregiving overtakes most of our life. It is a precious gift, a sometimes painful sacrifice and a significant responsibility. But as a caregiver friend, there are some helpful things to understand.
- Understand Caregiving (for elders) is not like raising children. The parent-child relationship if VERY different and making decisions for elderly parents is not always well-received by the parent. Add to that their neurotic behavior, outbursts of tears, agitation, etc… is not from bad-behavior. These are from the brain shrinking or being riddled with disease. It’s not a journey that leads to more and more life. It’s a sacrificial journey whose end is extraordinarily painful. One we as caregivers are aware of every day.
- Please do not urge, push or exhort us to ‘do more for ourselves’ or to ‘get out more.’ It takes EVERYTHING to stay afloat–emotionally, financially, relationally, etc… We would love to have more to give but we just don’t have it. Add to that sometimes we need to be with our loved one 24/7 for reasons that we cannot always share.
- Please restrain the desire to give advice, offer solutions, etc… Our financial challenges would be abolished for every person that told us how to do it their way or what we are doing wrong. Each situation is unique. Each person is unique. And each way of handling problems is unique based on appropriate information. Information you may or may not have. Listen, but please refrain from judgment or fixing perceived problems.
3 Things You Can do to Help a Caregiver Friend
- Bring over a meal in a container that does not need to be returned (otherwise it becomes stressful). This is an amazing help. Caregiving is exhausting work and meals with subsequent dishes are overwhelming. Just because we are not in a hospital crisis doesn’t mean there isn’t a daily crisis of resources, most often emotional and an energy crisis.
- Pay for someone to professionally clean the house. Some would say why not do it as a friend of caregiver? You can, but not everyone likes their friends to see their very most intimate and dirty parts of their house. A professional takes that pressure off. And furthermore if something goes wrong or it becomes stressful, you as a caregiver friend are not caught in the middle.
- Be available to listen. When a caregiver finds someone who genuinely listens without getting themselves with advice and what-not, it’s priceless. Also it helps to come be available to listen to the one being cared for. Sometimes the older generation knows how to show hospitality even in their sickness, and just a few minutes or even a few hours of visiting with them can relieve the caregiver to catch up on other responsibilities.
Having friends in the caregiver season is precious. The very demands of caregiving often lead us to narrow down who we spend time with. There’s only so much energy to go around. But when you have a good friend in this process? Who knows how to be wise? Priceless.