Caregivers have a difficult time accepting help. I know this; I’ve lived it. I’m not sure if it’s because accepting help would mean that we are less than the PERFECT caregiver or if it’s that we don’t want to place our problems on anyone else or perhaps it might even be that we don’t want to relinquish control.
Whatever the case, if you’ve ever asked a caregiver to let you know when they needed something, you probably never heard back from them with an answer.
If you’d like to be of help to a caregiver (perhaps a parent who is caring for their own parent or spouse or perhaps an aging neighbor whose spouse requires extra help), you must be specific, forward-thinking and quietly persistent.
Here are some easy ways to help:
- Make a grocery run (sort of)
If you’re planning a trip to the grocery store, call and say “I’m off to the sotre; what can I bring you?” If they say that they don’t need anything, pick up some fruit, some frozen vegetables or some soup at the deli. Anything will be appreciated.
- Bring pre-made food items
Casseroles, salad fixings, home-made soups or chili and fruit pies are great choices. My own father loved applie or pumpkin pie for breakfast. (You may need to be aware of any allergies or health issues before doing this.)
- Mow the lawn or pick weeds (or pay a neighborhood teen to do it)
Caregivers seldom have time for these kinds of chores and they are often too expensive for them to “hire out”.
- Volunteer to visit the care recipient for an hour or two each week (or even once a month). Whether they are in the caregiver’s home, an assisted living facility or a nursing home, both the caregiver and care recipient will appreciate the visit. You could bring some cards, a puzzle, some soothing music with you. If the elder is religious, you could read from their holy book for them.
- Vidoetape the care recipient
This is another thing that caregivers don’t have time to do but would mean so much to them later on. Write a list of questions to ask the elder – think about things from the past such as how laundry was done when they were a child or who their best friend was in grade school.
- If you don’t live close, send a handwritten card or small gift.
Programs such as Fruit of the Month Club or Gift Basket of the Month Club or a magazine subscription are excellent ideas and are easily set up. But DO remember to send HANDWRITTEN cards. They are always a joy to receive and can be displayed as reminders that the caregiver is being remembered.
- Encourage socialization
Caregivers tend to alienate themselves from their friends and family because they are often worn out, overwhelmed and can barely find time to have their hair cut, let alone attend functions. But maintaining outside contacts is very important because isolation can become a big problem.
If you happen to know some of the friends of the caregiver, have them call to request a lunch date. Perhaps it could be immediately after you have volunteered to visit for an hour or two. If you are the friend doing the calling, be gently persistant about getting the caregiver to say “yes” and have a plan in place to care for the loved one at home.
One last thing: if the caregiver is unaware of community resources that will help him or her to get some time alone (respite care), suggest to them that they contact their local Area Agency on Aging or their community Senior Center. The Alzheimer’s Association (even when dementia is not involved) is another great resource. These 3 agencies are a wealth of information.
If there are other ways that you have been helped as a caregiver, I would love if you would share them with us.
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