What Caregivers Wish You Would Say
When a person takes on the heavy responsibility of caring for an aging parent, it changes their entire life. Not only is it lonely and draining, but it can also feel like there’s no one else in the circle of friends and family that understands what they’re going through.
Loved ones want to help but may not feel like they know the best way how. Instead, they may ask the caregiver things like, “What can I do?” which seems kind, but in reality is just one more decision to lay on an already drowning person. Try saying these things instead.
Caregivers already have a million and one decisions they’re overwhelmed by constantly making.
Instead of asking them what you can do to help, just do something — liking bringing a hot meal for the entire family — and follow through.
A Watchful Eye
Well-intentioned friends and family love to tell caregivers they need to take time for themselves and exercise self care in the midst of what is surely one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Easier said than done. Instead, if the caregiver has kids, offer to watch them so that they can have a few hours to themselves.
Take the Time
Same goes for offering to watch the aging parent in question. In the midst of caregiving for an aging parent, family time often falls by the wayside.
So, offer to sit with the parent so that your friend can have some time with just their partner or kids. Better yet, get them movie and restaurant gift certificates they can use while you do this.
Being responsible for an elderly parent often feels like a thankless job with no goal in sight.
Acknowledge that it’s both physically and emotionally hard and incredibly isolating for the caregiver. Most importantly, let them know you see them.
A Helpful Vent Session
Sometimes, it’s better to say nothing at all and simply listen.
Just letting the caregiver vent and share whenever they want without any comments, criticisms or well-meaning advice can be extremely therapeutic.
Sing Their Praises
They may feel like they’re drowning in a new world they have no control over, so it’s up to friends and family to keep lifting them up.
Show Your Appreciation
This is surprisingly obvious, but not often said, especially by other family members who don’t live in town or are unable to help with the aging family member.
Acknowledging the Awkwardness
It’s often awkward for friends and family to figure out the right thing to say in this situation, but instead of ignoring it and making the person feel even more alone, acknowledge what’s going on, offer your help and just be there for them.
Helping With Chores
Offering to knock one more endless chore off their list will really help lighten their load.
Don't Forget to Commiserate
Sometimes, honesty can go a long way in lifting a dark mood. The truth is, it does suck to be a caregiver and nothing will really change that.
So, instead of saying things like, “I don’t know how you do it,” or “I’m sure they really appreciate all you’re doing,” let your friend know that you get how difficult their life is right now and that you’re commiserating with them.
An Unexpected Visit
Being a caregiver is extremely isolating and, after a while, caregivers get used to it being the new norm. Instead of making it hard for them to find time to leave their home to socialize for a mental break, go to them instead.
Whether you stay for just 30 minutes or two hours, they will really appreciate the change in scenery and having a friendly ear in which to vent.
This one should also be pretty obvious. Caregivers are often pouring so much love and care onto their parent, but they need their tanks filled, too — and often.