A couple of posts ago I wrote about caretakers and how important they are. In this one I wanted to give some tips on supporting someone who’s in that situation.
There are many people these days who are taking care of a friend or loved one who has chronic or debilitating medical issues or special needs. Long term care giving in this sort of situation can be difficult and stressfull on the caregiver. Now, I don’t mean to minimize the station of those suffering from challenging situations, I just wanted to focus on the caregivers this time.
The role of caregiver is a challenging one; often people in this situation provide assistance to their loved ones on top of working at a job and sometimes in addition to caring for children. Imagine the challenges of carrying such a load.
Supporting someone who provides care to others doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming. One of the best things you can do is to just be a friend. You might wonder if that is enough, but it is. Knowing someone is there for you can mean a lot to someone in a challenging situation. Here are some ideas for how to do that:
1)Send a text message: Avoid a phone call. I emphasize texting over calling because this makes it easier on your friend. You see, schedules for care givers can be erratic and complicated. Also, caring for someone else can leave a person stressed and not in the proper mood for talking. They are trying to cram so many things into a day and deal with both expected and unexpected needs. Now, this doesn’t mean that your friend won’t enjoy a phone call sometimes, it’s just that texting can be a bit easier for them.
2)Listen to them: Sometimes those in the caregiving situation just need to talk to someone to share feelings, get opinions or vent. Caregiving is stressful and challenging and isolating; just the simple act of listening can help your friend feel less alone and allows them to get some things off their chest. Just being there for them and listening goes a long way!
3) Talk to them: Sometimes they may want more than just someone to listen, they may need a sounding board occasionally or may need some encouragement. There’s no need to worry about saying the right thing, either. Your friend knows that you may be worrying about this and isn’t expecting the perfect, comforting comment; they simply may want someone to talk to. You can also talk to them about other things, too. Your friend may find that talking about things not related to their situation to be a relief. Chat about something you’re both into, something uplifting or catch them up on things in your life. This provides a respite and distraction from the challenges of caregiving.
4)Offer to make them a meal or two, help with housework, or run an errand: Doing any one of these things for a caregiver will help ease their stress. You can’t take it all away, but even one or two attempts at helping will make things a bit easier and make them feel better. It’s nice to know someone’s supporting you!
5)Baby sit for them if they have kids: Trying to take care of children and a loved one is insanely difficult. Offering to baby sit from time to time could help ease the stress your friend is going through.
5)Invite them to an activity or out to dinner/lunch. Don’t forget to invite your friend to something sometimes. They may be able to attend, and then again, they may not. But keep inviting them, even if they can only make it occasionally. It’s nice to know that you’re missed and included. They will likely try and make it to see you when they can, so be patient here. If you stop inviting your friend, you may think that they just can’t make it to stuff and it’s no big deal, but they may feel like they’ve been left behind, so keep them in the loop and invite the to things from time to time.
6)If they don’t accept an offer of help or don’t talk to you as much as they used to, don’t take it personally. Ok, so this kind of flys in the face of everything I just wrote, but this can happen sometimes. You need to know that sometimes it’s hard for caretakers to accept help from friends and family. It is possible that your friend may simply be embarrassed that they need so much help, or they feel like they are dragging you into their challenges. If your friend doesn’t contact or talk to you as much as they used to, it’s no affront on their part. Caregiving can really take it out of you, physically and mentally and sometimes, there is little energy left to talk to people. They still like you, they’re just overwhelmed.
So if you know a caregiver, try these things if you’re not sure how to provide support. Hopefully they help a little.
So how many of you have experienced either side of this?