If you are a friend, relative or neighbor of a caregiver, you are in an ideal position to provide this person with much-needed help, assistance, and gestures of appreciation. You can provide care for the caregiver in large and small ways, either occasionally or regularly. Whatever you do can make a huge difference in the lives of both the caregiver who receives the help and the care recipient who benefits when the caregiver is less burdened and stressed. This is a classic win-win scenario because you can have a positive impact on two lives, and that should make you feel good too.
Below are suggestions for some of the many ways you can care for a caregiver. No doubt, you will think of other ways to care.
- Cook and deliver meals: Call ahead to find out if there are any dietary restrictions and what kind of meal schedule would work—breakfasts, lunches, or dinners. Ask if the caregiver would like meals delivered once a week or more often. You might also send several main dishes that can be frozen.
- Provide a “Senior Sitter” service: If moms have babysitters, why can’t caregivers have senior sitters to take over so that the caregiver can have some free time? That time can be used for exercise, for shopping and appointments, for having lunch or dinner with friends, for a pedicure or a trip to the salon, basically for whatever the caregiver needs. You might add an occasional gift certificate for a massage, something every caregiver could use. You can offer to be either a regular or an occasional senior sitter, whichever works best for the caregiver. If your schedule prohibits you from providing this kind of personal help, offer to hire an in-home caregiver or contact another family member or friend to help out.
- Run errands. Often a caregiver cannot find the time to run necessary errands, such as picking up prescriptions or the cleaning, so you can offer to run those errands. You also can offer to do the grocery shopping if the caregiver provides a list. That way the caregiver need not worry about how and when to do these routine tasks and can stay home to provide care.
- Clean the house: Keeping the care recipient’s home neat and tidy can be a challenge for the caregiver who may not have the time or energy to vacuum, wash dishes, do the laundry, or even dust. Offering to clean once a month or even more often may be a great help. If you cannot do that, perhaps you can split the occasional cost of a housecleaning service with friends or family members.
- Keep in touch: Caregiving can be a lonely job, so caregivers need social contact. You can help with regular phone calls or visits. But before you visit, check ahead to find out the best schedule. Be sure to allow ample time to listen to the caregiver. Caregivers need a chance to vent and to talk frankly and openly about the frustrations of caregiving and any personal issues they may have.
- Take the caregiver out: Give the caregiver a break from caregiving and a time to socialize by offering a dinner out and a movie, or simply a time to chat with you and other friends. If the caregiver has no backup, make sure you find a reliable substitute to fill in for a few hours. Taking time for a social break can be a valuable morale booster.
- Provide a support network: Organize a group of friends and/or family members who can pitch in to provide services, from cooking and shopping to senior sitting. But before you talk about setting up a help schedule, be sure the caregiver understands what you hope to do. Also, you might compile lists of local caregiver resources, sources of healthcare equipment and educational programs geared to help in-need caregivers.
- Remain a true friend: Besides listening and helping, the best support you can give the caregiver is to stay positive and avoid criticism or confrontation. Remember, one day you, too, may be in the caregiver role.