Caregivers need to hear that they are appreciated for providing care.  They need practical help that almost anyone can help if they are willing to put forth time and effort. You have said, “If there is anything you need, let me know.” Did you mean it? I am going to tell you what they need and want.

There are beneficial things you can do and say to caregivers or helpers. Last week we talked about what not to do and say. This week we move towards helpful things to do and say.

November 2, 2022

What to say to family caregivers

  • This time we are going to be talking about what you can say and do to help your friend or loved one who is a caregiver. Did you really mean it when you said, “Let me know what I can do to help you?” If you mean what you say and say what you mean then this article is for you. If you do not mean what you say then you can stop reading now. We are going to get into the practical and doable things.

What caregivers and helpers want and need to hear

    • Recognition and Understanding – Recognize that what they are doing matters and is helpful. Try putting yourself in their shoes, and be understanding when they are stressed and need to vent. Be understanding that they are exhausted and need a break from both thinking and doing. A short visit to shoot the breeze or watch a movie. Find a distraction when they cannot leave their caree (care receiver).

    • Time to recharge – Offer to stay or sit with the care receiver for two to four hours so they can go and do whatever they want to do. Are you willing to do this once a week, once every two weeks, or once a month? What day and time? Be specific.

    • Provide respite care – This could happen a couple of ways. Find a facility that allows for respite care and find a company that provides in-home care so the primary caregiver can get away. Cost is usually the main factor. How many friends, family or church members can donate money to provide this much-needed service? Imagine what a week away would mean to them.

    • Take them out to eat and to a movie. If you can, pay for the in-home care or find someone to sit with the care recipient for three or four hours. Most of the time, it really is just being there in case the care recipient needs something. It is not like you would be asked to do anything medical.

    • Emotional support – They may need to vent. They may need to talk about what is going on with their care recipient. They may need to talk about something else.

    • Feel heard and understood – Acknowledge how hard this may be for them. Understand that they have bad days and feel anger, hate, and rage.

    • Send flowers

    • Offer to be the communication person – keep others updated or put info on a website like Caring Bridge

    • Send a thinking of you text and state – no need to respond

    • Coordinate the offers of help and support

    • An email with a joke or two

    • Remind them they are loved and cared about

    • Say, “I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, every day and sending you good vibes.”

    • Share “remember when” stories about your relationship

    • Share funny stories that you have witnessed

    • Laughter provides many great benefits – watch a funny video

    • Say, “I love you.”

    • Offer to sit with their mom or dad so they can go out with their spouse and kids.

    • Ask, “How can I be a good sounding board for you?”

What caregivers would like you to do and how to effectively help them

Yes, it would be great if the caregiver had a list of things to be done and errands to run, but most have not had the time to do one. Maybe you are the one to make the list and place it on the refrigerator so folks can sign up.

    • Never offer to do anything that you do not want to do. The look on your face and being told no is more than the caregiver can handle. They will shut down.

    • Ask, “When is the best time to come for a visit and how can we help during the visit?”

    • I am coming over on Saturday from 2 to 5 to stay (with your loved one) so you can take a break. Be specific.

    • Give a Visa/MasterCard gift card of $50 – $100 and say, “Enjoy.”

    • Pick up a meal from their favorite restaurant and deliver it.

    • Make a meal and deliver it – use throw-away containers

    • Make a few freezer meals and take them over.

    • Set up a meal train to provide meals anywhere from 3 to 7 days a week (ask about likes/dislikes)

    • Make phone calls and do research for them – if asked

    • Donations to help cover lost work and medical expenses

    • Offer to coordinate medical bills, EOB’s and medical claims. Only if you know how.

    • Give a gift certificate to a spa/massage

    • Mow the yard (either the caregiver’s yard or the care receiver’s yard or both)

    • Do laundry – Pick it up and bring it back

    • Help clean the house – vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, wash dishes, change the sheets, clean the shower/tub and toilet, wipe down surfaces – nobody expects you to deep clean

    • Clean the gutter

    • Take their car in for an oil change

    • Run the errands – grocery shop, pick up Rx’s

    • Sit with the care receiver so the caregiver can run errands

    • Take the care receiver to the doctor’s appointment

    • Deliver a care basket – good snacks, a book to read(nothing about caregiving allowed), favorite lotion and skin care things, gift cards, blanket, neck pillow, board game, cards, Mani-Pedi gift certificate, etc.

    • Wash and vacuum the car

    • Rake leaves

    • Shovel snow

    • Clean out the refrigerator

    • Change the air filter

    • Shred old documents

    • Help clean out a closet or room

    • Clean out the garage

    • Replace light bulbs

    • Walk the dog

    • Clean out the litter box

    • Take animals to the vet

    • Take animals to the groomer

    • Wash the outside windows

    • Clean the oven

It is okay to choose what to do for a family caregiver

Think about the things that you do at your own home. The caregiver needs those things done either in their own home or the care receiver’s home. Find 2 or 3 things that you don’t mind doing and do them. Do the things that you don’t mind doing. Do not do things that you hate doing. For example, I don’t mind doing laundry, taking the cars in for service or cleaning, or running errands. I hate washing the outside window and cleaning the oven and I won’t do them. Other folks have different likes and dislikes. So, what I hate doing, someone else doesn’t mind doing.

Be specific about what you will do and when you will do it. Ask, if that is okay with them, and if not, be flexible. Clear communication is important. Do not assume.

Can you help financially?

It is not a requirement to help out financially. If you can, that would be great but not a necessity. Your time, efforts, and help will mean more. So there is no misunderstanding, be upfront about what you can and cannot or will and will not do. It is perfectly fine to state that you can’t help with the financial expenses, but you can run errands and pick up things that have either been paid for or they can send you some form of payment.

Most caregivers don’t assume you will pay for things, but they may forget to give you a way to pay. Just remind them that you need a check or card.