By Alison Wood, Contributing Writer
Many of us know someone who is caring for a friend, partner, spouse, parent, or other family member. Caregiving can be a stressful and lonely experience, and perhaps you’ve thought of helping in some way.
But you might not know how to go about it. You might be hesitant to make the first move. What if you are intruding? What if your help isn’t really needed or wanted?
The truth is that many caregivers bear a lot of responsibility alone — some are driven to the point of caregiver burnout. (CLICK HERE to read more about caregiver burnout and what can be done.) Most would likely welcome your help! It’s just a matter of learning how you can do that in the best way.
If you want to help someone in your life who is a caregiver, here are some ideas on how to get started.
Ask how you can help
It sounds obvious, but sometimes you just need to ask the questions: Can I help? And if so, how?
By asking, you are letting the caregiver know you are there for them. Plus, it gives a caregiver the opportunity to be open to help. From that point, the caregiver can decide what kind of help is needed most.
Of course, you might be told that everything is OK, and your help isn’t needed. That’s fine. At least you posed the question and didn’t assume.
You can always offer additional suggestions on how you can lighten the caregiver’s load, in the hope that you might still be helpful. But be sure to be sensitive to the caregiver’s needs and conscious of his or her own feelings about the situation.
Keep in mind that turning down help might be a knee-jerk reaction of a caregiver who is used to doing everything on his or her own. Given time, thought, and more consideration, the caregiver might take you up on your offer at a later point. Ensure the caregiver that your offer of support is genuine and that you are there to help, whether that be now or in the future.
On the other hand— and probably much more likely — you might find that the caregiver enthusiastically welcomes your help! For all you know, he or she might have been afraid to ask, but desperately in need. It can be hard to reach out for help, as those in need also make assumptions: “No one will want to help me. I don’t want to burden anyone else. This is my job alone.” No matter what, your offer of help — and your friendship — should be deeply appreciated by the caregiver, if not outright accepted.
Offer practical help
If the caregiver is open to help, there are so many practical ways you can make life easier.
The caregiver might need someone to occasionally sit with and offer companionship to the person in their care, while he or she deals with other aspects of life. If transportation is an issue, you could help by driving the senior to medical appointments or other activities. Cleaning, shopping, and meal preparation all need to be done — both for the person being cared for, as well as for the caregiver and his or her own immediate family. If the caregiver has young children, volunteering to provide childcare is another helpful option.
Be a good listener
Being a caregiver for a family member or a friend can be isolating work, so being sounding board or a metaphorical shoulder to cry on can be enormously helpful. When you are caring for someone else, it’s reassuring to know you have someone with whom you can let off a little steam and vent without judgment.
Offer to research helpful options
You can offer your time for practical tasks as already discussed, but you can also offer your time for research purposes. What does that mean in practical terms?
Many caregivers could benefit from government grants, voluntary associations, and even from in-home caregiving, but they simply don’t have the time to look into all the options. This is where you can help by undertaking the initial research, which is often a time-consuming task. Someone is going to be much more likely to benefit from the help available if they have the facts presented to them in an easily accessible way. Use your time to benefit the caregiver who is often short on time.
Make them laugh
It’s said that laughter is the best medicine! So why not help by simply by being a good friend and sharing some cheer? Help the caregiver focus on the lighter side of life. We all need time for fun, humor, and relaxation. Caregivers, who are often juggling multiple roles, are no exception.
As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Lending your help to a caregiver can absolutely lighten his or her load!
We can help!
At Care & Comfort at Home, it’s our job to help lighten the load experienced by family caregivers. Our professional, experienced Caregivers provide excellent care that help relieve the stress and strain on family members who carry the burden of caregiving. If you are in the Chicagoland area, we can help! To learn more, call 630-333-9262 or just CLICK HERE to contact us today!