Advice for Friends of Caregivers

In traditional flower meanings, a pansy stands for loving thoughts.

In traditional flower meanings, a pansy stands for loving thoughts.

When you have a friend who is caregiving, there are a few things to remember. Caregiving is something that will come to most of us at some point, perhaps only for a short while, but possibly for decades. Whether you’re the caregiver or a friend of a caregiver, it helps to know a bit about what it’s like. If you missed the first article on this topic, you may want to read it for a little more information on the subject.

Here are a few comments and suggestions that come from my experience and the experiences of caregiving friends. Please feel free to comment if you have additional ideas.

  • It’s not that your caregiving friends don’t want to see you, it’s just that getting an elderly or disabled person ready to go and out of the house requires so much energy and focus that we have to carefully choose where we go, what we do, and how long we stay.
  • Even if you don’t think we’ll be able to come to an event, it’s still nice to hear about things and have the option of coming if we can make it.
  • The children of caregivers don’t always get to go out and do as many things as other children. Inviting them to share an event or experience with your family can give them a delightful memory.
  • People who are being cared for have feelings, and even if they are hard of hearing or don’t seem to be listening, please be tactful in what you say around them. Caregivers do their best to help the caregivee feel loved, and appreciate it when you do too.
  • People who are being cared for are often conscious of being different. Just a few kind words or a smile can brighten their day. Even if it’s a person whose speech you can’t understand or who can’t hear or understand you completely, you can still make the effort to smile and greet them. It will be a blessing to their caregiver, at the very least.
  • When you invite a caregiver and her family somewhere, please be sure to mention whether or not the caregivee is welcome to come along. It’s awkward to have to ask.
  • Caregiving families often have enormous strains on their budget, as well as their time, so please be understanding if they opt out of things that cost money.
  • Caregiving takes time away from other family members, so many caregivers try to preserve family time by avoiding long phone conversations. It’s always nice to hear from friends, but be conscious of the fact that we may suddenly have to go, and that others may need our attention.
  • Elderly and disabled people and their caregivers routinely face things that are embarrassing or unpleasant. If something happens in your presence, please remember to be kind. If an accident happens, it’s not necessary to tell other people or further embarrass the caregivee.
  • If the time comes when a caregivee can no longer be cared for at home and must move to an assisted living facility, don’t imagine it’s an easy decision. Caregivers facing this move need nothing more than your kindness and support. They don’t need to be second-guessed or quizzed on reasons, details, or how the new living situation will be paid for. Some things are simply private and don’t need to be shared.
  • At the end of life when the caregivee passes on, know that caregivers experience a lot of mixed feelings. There’s relief at having your life back, guilt that you couldn’t do as good a job as you wanted to do, and sadness at losing a major part of your family, your history, and your life. Each caregiver will deal with these varied emotions differently, but above all, they don’t need to be told how they should feel. (No one ever has the right to tell another person how to feel, and it’s disrespectful to do so.)
  • If a caregiver is dealing with an elderly person who is bullying, abusive, manipulative, or otherwise toxic, please focus on being kind and supportive, and when appropriate, encourage the caregiver to seek additional help through counseling, respite care, or finding another long-term care solution. Caregivers who survive this situation often experience symptoms similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which gives you an idea of how traumatic it can be. Even respite care can be a challenge, because having to willingly return to the situation after a few brief hours of freedom can be almost harder than staying in it.
  • If you haven’t been through long-term caregiving, it’s probably best if you don’t try to tell caregivers how to do their job.
  • If the caregiver prefers not to talk about the caregiving job, please don’t press for information. It’s exhausting enough to live with it without having to spend your few time-off minutes talking about it.
  • Conversely, if the caregiver needs to talk a bit, please take a moment to be gracious, even if you don’t like the caregivee or aren’t interested.
  • The bottom line in most of these bits of advice is to be kind. Caregivers are doing the best they can with what they have.

Caregiving is a challenge, but by the grace of God and with the love and support of family, it can be done. If friends are kind and understanding, that’s an added bonus. I hope these suggestions will help you love your caregiving friends wisely and pray for them more knowledgeably.

Previous article in this series: Caregiving for Homeschool Families: Don’t Go Into It Lightly

I plan to write one more post on caregiving: Homeschooling While Caregiving: Can It Be Done? You’ll find it here on the blog in the next week or two.

5 Responses

  1. Brooks Kenny says:

    A wonderful article! So often, friends of family caregivers want to help – and, the family caregiver is so overwhelmed that managing multiple offers of help can become a significant part-time job.

    I thought your readers who are building their circle of helpers may want to add Lotsa Helping Hands to their toolkit. Family caregivers can get respite and relief from tapping into the many offers of help they receive from their circle of friends and family by creating a free, private community. The service includes an intuitive group calendar for scheduling meals, rides and other daily activities as well as community sections (well wishes, blogs, photos) that provide emotional support to the family.

    I look forward to your future blogs. Thanks for what you do!

    • Thank you, Kenny. Lotsa Helping Hands looks like a very nice resource. Most of the long-term, non-critical caregiving families I know have few support systems in place, unlike those experiencing short-term crisis caregiving. Many have walked alone for so long that they don’t have the energy to consider finding help. Thanks for sharing!

  1. July 6, 2010

    […] Advice for Friends of Caregivers […]

  2. July 14, 2010

    […] Advice for Friends of Caregivers | Janice Campbell […]

  3. September 6, 2010

    […] 2- Advice for Friends of Caregivers […]

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