You may mean well. You may even mean what you say, but you are hurting them rather than helping them. Will you be open to learning how to better support someone who is helping a loved one? It will require some effort and thinking on your part.
October 26, 2022
I have said some things in the wrong way. I really meant to help, to be supportive and available. What went on in my own mind, did not play out well for someone I was trying to help. I had to realize that I was looking at their situation through my own ways of caregiving and what I would have liked help with.
If you truly want to be a help to your friends or family members that are caregivers, you have to buck up and take the time to learn what they need and want help with. No, that does not mean rapid-fire questions. A lot of the time, they do not know what they need or want because they are in hell and too stressed out to think.
What do you do? How about you learn what they don’t need and don’t need to hear?
- Judgement – Don’t second guess them or their choices. You don’t know their family dynamics and you are not in their shoes.
- Horror stories – They don’t need or want to hear about all the messed up crap that happens in nursing homes or what happened to “so-and-so.” Just shut up, there is no good that can come from that.
- Don’t ask what they need – Granted, this is difficult as you may want to help, but you don’t know what to do. Give them the gift of your time. You know the things that need to be done at your own home. Mowing, cleaning the house, laundry, running errands, grocery shopping, and making dinner.
- Don’t make more work for them – Don’t just show up, don’t call and say. “the gang is coming over to visit you.” They will feel the need to clean up and get the place cleaned up.
- Don’t ignore them – Maybe they can’t attend functions much anymore, but you can keep including them. Update them and let them know that you are thinking of them.
Now we will move on to, “What NOT to say…”
- “If you ever need a break, call me.” – What the hell. They do need a break and they don’t have time to go take a shower, much less call you.
- “You have to take care of yourself, too.” – Do you really think that they don’t know that? You are adding more stress and guilt, so unless you are offering to sit with their caree (care receiver) so they can take care of themselves, shut up.
- “You look tired.” – They are tired.
- “I don’t know how you do it.” – They have no choice.
- “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” – That statement is wrong on so many levels.
- “You will get your reward in heaven,” – You have just discouraged them more.
- Why do you keep going to visit them, they won’t remember it anyway.” – Their loved one still deserves love and care. They may not remember your name or who you are to them, but they sense and know that you are someone that loves them and cares for them.
- “You should put them in a home.” – You don’t get to decide what is best for them and their loved ones. Pretty much, anything that has a “should” or “would” in it ….keep it to yourself.
- “I could never do what you do.” – You don’t know what you will or won’t do until you are in your own situation. All relationships are different. All families are different.
- “I wish there was something I could do to help.” – Bullshit, you would do something if you wanted to. We will get into the things you can do and say next week.
- “You should get some help.” – Do you really think that they haven’t thought of that? Maybe, they can’t due to finances. Maybe, they have hired folks that do not show up.
- “How are you doing?” in front of the caree (care receiver) – Really? Do you want them to vent right in front of their loved one?
- “You need to find some time to relax.” – I am sure they would love to, but when and how?
- “Don’t feel guilty about …” – Feeling guilt is a part of caregiving.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” – No, it doesn’t. Stuff happens and we have to deal with it.
- “I know just how you feel.” – No you don’t. You may have had a caregiver type of experience, but it is not the exact same. Situations are not exactly the same, people are not exactly the same, and needs are not exactly the same.
- “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” – Do you think this hardship is making them stronger? That is foolish.
- “At least it’s not cancer.” – At least it’s not…statements cause more pain to the caregiver.
- “Just think positive thoughts.” – Way to go, you have just increased the feelings of guilt and pressure they put on themselves.
- “Your mom (dad) used to be a great person.” – Don’t talk about their loved one in the past tense. It is hard enough to watch a loved one decline, without being reminded of what has already been lost.
Think before you speak. Practice what you will say. Say it out loud. How does it sound? Is it uplifting or helpful? How might it be taken by someone who is stressed out and exhausted?
If you find yourself using any of the following, don’t do it. “I think,” “You should,” “I would,” “You could,”
Shut up. I get it, I want to help and fix things too, but some things are not meant to be fixed by you. That is a hard lesson, but a helpful lesson on being fully present and letting them vent. You just sit there and be the listener.
Next week we will talk about what to say and do to help a caregiver.