So you have a friend, and they are currently a caregiver. You see them struggle daily to make it every day. Caregivers have to juggle responsibilities for everyone including themselves. Some of them have full-time jobs, or they are someone’s parent of young children. They are someone’s secretary making medical appointments, they are the legal counsel going over important paperwork deciding on their loved one's well-being, and they are the nursing assistant feeding and giving baths to their loved one, leaving no time for themselves. Their lives for the most part has made a complete 180 degrees turn from their regular day to day.
I remember taking care of my mom making sure she was put together when she was still able to go out and about, and I ended up going outside with my shirt on backward. Caregivers who most of the time take on this role out of love knowing that no payment would be received nor a thank you.
Have you ever asked yourself what you can do to support a friend who is a caregiver? If you don’t know depending on the situation ask your friend or colleague what can I do to help? Here a few ideas you can start with.
1. Be Empathetic
Your friend is going thru something painful, if their loved one has a life-threatening disease like dementia, they worry every day how long they have left with their loved one. I grieved every day as my mom went further along in the disease. When she passed away, I was just emotionally exhausted. These feelings are normal. You may not have gone thru something like that yourself but being there is showing a sign of support. Call and check on them now and then, and don’t take their irritability personally as they are in a stressful situation.
2. Help out
Caring for a loved one is a 24/7 365 day a year job, and as the disease progresses, it’s even more draining. Help out around the house maybe cook or bring a meal over their home or assist them in cleaning up the house. If they have kids take them out to the movies to give your friend a break.
3. Family Gatherings
As we approach the holiday season, this can be very difficult for the caregiver. Depending on the family dynamic. The caregiver may get unsolicited advice from both family and friends, and this can make them feel like their best isn’t good enough. This likely comes from the family member that’s not even helping no less. If your friend is open to it, let the visiting family stay with the person who needs care so you to can maybe go for a walk for an hour or two. Be their sounding board if they want to vent.
It’s important for caregivers to ensure that they take care of themselves. As a former caregiver myself, this isn’t easy to do, but I didn’t manage to get some self-care in. You can help your friend by surprising them with a gift of getting some paid medical professional to come in for a couple of hours. If your friend doesn’t want to leave their loved one alone with someone unfamiliar, stay home and watch a movie together.
As a friend of someone who is a caregiver, even small gestures of support can make a big difference during their caregiving journey. Caregiving is a job you do with love, so reflect that love back to them. Tell them that they are not alone and you have their back.