Chances are you have a close friend or relative who is currently caring for an aging loved one. Maybe you are doing this yourself. For these caregivers, life can be challenging. Many people caring for aging loved ones are not trained or well-equipped to handle what has been thrown at them, and this can lead to stress, injury or illness.
What does that mean for you? If someone close to you is caring for a loved one, offer them support. You may not know exactly what you can do, but you could ask. Your friend/relative may tell you exactly what they need, and that would be ideal. Then you could help fill that need. They might not want to tell you what they need. If they don’t, there are still some things you can do:
- Offer to bring dinner a few times a month- don’t take no for an answer. Having this one task checked off a to-do list can really be a big relief to someone who is feeling overwhelmed with their caregiving responsibilities.
- Offer to take some of the responsibility for the day so the caregiver can relax, get a haircut, or do other personal errands. This may mean offering to sit with the loved one who is receiving care, go grocery shopping, drive kids to their activities… It could be anything the caregiver “has to do” that you could do for them for the day.
- Help the caregiver to set up a “care team.” A care team made up of friends and acquaintances will help the caregiver focus on the spiritual connection with his or her loved one without being distracted by what needs to be done. If multiple people help with small tasks, such as fixing dinner or providing transportation to religious services, no one person is left shouldering a major responsibility.
- Just be there and listen when your friend needs to talk.
There are many ways we can help support our friends and family who are caring for loved ones. While it would be ideal if they would ask for help, it is a difficult thing to ask. You should offer specific help. Just making a blanket offer of “let me know if there’s anything I can do,” may not seem sincere or may be easily forgotten. However, saying “I am bringing you dinner tonight,” or “Make me a grocery list. I am going shopping for you this weekend,” may be more readily accepted.
Make a committed effort to support those around you who are caring for older adults or special needs adult “children.” It could make a big difference to them! For more information on caregiving, visit AARP’s Caregiving Resource Center.