In part one of The Who Cares for the Caregiver series, we learned who caregivers are, We also looked at the affect caring for someone who has cancer or another serious illness, has on them. In this post, I share some of the many ways you can help a caregiver.
By choosing a couple of these suggestions you can help a caregiver greatly reduce their stress, and cope with their role as a caregiver. Which suggestions you decide to take on, will depend on your relationship wth the caregiver and their specific situation, such as whether or not they have children.
These suggestions come from chapter 10 of the book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer
Here are some ways you can help a caregiver is you are close to them:
- Make sure the caregiver doesn’t neglect their health. They should be making regular trips to the doctor and dentist.
- Keep an eye out for signs of depression in the caregiver.
- Encourage the caregiver to set up a blog such as caringbridge.org or an email list so that they can keep people updated without having to repeat themselves so often. If they are overwhelmed by this, you could start it and maintain it until they’re ready to take it over. Of course, only do what they are comfortable with. And, have the caregiver review any updates for accuracy before posting.
- Allow the caregiver to vent. They often feel guilty expressing feelings of discouragement and frustration, so they keep them inside.
Here are some ways you can help a caregiver if they have young children:
- Bring your young children to visit elderly patients, caregivers, and their children. This can often brighten up their day.
- Babysit their children. Take them to and from school and activities. Take the kids out for a fun couple of hours. It can be an event, a restaurant, taking them out for ice cream, having them over for a sleepover, or just an hour in the park.
- Take children to dental and doctor’s appointments. All too often, these appointments slip through the cracks of a busy schedule being maintained by exhausted parents. Ensuring the kids get their normal check-ups can prevent problems for them later on.
- Offer to bring children to their place of worship if the parents are unable to go.
You can help a caregiver if you are close to the patient:
- Offer to spend time with the patient if the patient is too ill and unable to be left alone. This will enable the caregiver a couple of hours to get out of the house or even to just take a much-needed nap. This time can be very renewing.
Here are some ways you can help a caregiver by pampering them:
- Take the caregiver out for a coffee or lunch date.
- Schedule a weekly walk with the caregiver. This will help them get often needed exercise and fresh air. During inclement weather, you can walk in a mall. Often malls open early, before the stores do, so people can walk without the crowds. Check out the Wikipedia article on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mall_walking.
- Offer to take them out to a movie. If they’re too tired, drop off a rental with or without some microwave popcorn and some beverages. We have a couple of friends who took our entire family to the movies. It was an amazing gift to our family which we really appreciated.
- Treat him or her to a spa day or a beauty treatment: manicure/pedicure, facial, makeup application, massage, etc. It may be the first time they’ve felt pampered in a while.
- Arrange for a hairstylist to make a home visit to trim the entire family’s hair. This is something that’s often put on a back burner in the chaos of caregiving.
Here are some practical ways you can help a caregiver:
- Call when you are en route to a store to see if you can pick anything up for him/her.
- Say to the caregiver, “Give me a task.” It could be laundry or an errand like picking up groceries. Often, a patient will refuse the help that a caregiver greatly needs. Let them know that you can be in and out. No socializing needed (unless they would like some).
- Offer to clean one room of their house. Bring dusting polish, window cleaner, etc., so that you can get right down to work. He or she may want to participate. Many hands make light work and you can chat while you get the job done. Your help will be greatly appreciated.
- Offer to wash/fold laundry.
- Wash and clean the car.
- Help with seasonal tasks like cleaning gutters, raking leaves and shoveling.
Here are ways you can help a caregiver financially:
- Donate money or vacation time to cover paid-time-off hours for the caregiver (some employers allow this).
- Donate air miles so that they can take a trip or a family member from far away, with limited resources, can visit.
You can help a caregiver, spiritually, too:
- If you are a praying person, pray for the caregiver and any children the patient has. Tell the caregiver that they are in your prayers. It can make a big difference, especially if they are a Christian.
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com