How to Be a Friend to a Caregiver
Helpful advice on what to say and do when a caregiver is going through a difficult time.
During the time my husband Bob was incapacitated, I learned some important lessons about how to behave and how I hoped others would behave toward me.
What to Say
It's okay to say, "This stinks," and to acknowledge a person's pain. Try not to make big philosophical judgments like, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" or "Things happen for a reason." That's too hard for a caregiver to hear.
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Talk about things that don't remind them about their ordeal. I loved it when people just picked up from where we were, not from where we had been, and let the conversation flow in that direction.
What to Do
Don't approach the family in tears. It makes them feel as if they have to use their energy to buck YOU up. If you can't stop crying, come back when you can or write a note.
Phone calls are great, but don't expect a call back. Just leave a message that says, "I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you." A short e-mail works too.
I know that friends meant well when they asked me out for dinner, but like most caregivers, I needed to stay by the side of my loved one.
What to Bring
Stuffed animals or other large objects are just things that need to be moved from room to room and take up space in cramped quarters. Food is one of the most useful gifts because it can be shared with the nursing staff. A batch of brownies works wonders at improving the speed for getting your call to the nurses' station answered. And for the caregiver who suddenly realizes she hasn't eaten anything in 12 hours, it's nice to have something handy.
March 14, 2012 is Caregivers Day of Prayer. Send a prayer request for the caregivers in your life!