When I became a caregiver, it was not a planned process. The situation was complicated for many reasons. First, I lived out of town, and had no real core family support (no siblings, etc.) Second, my mom did not recognize her need for help (very common in Alzheimer’s or related Dementia), alongside being a very independent and self-sufficient person. Third, I had no idea where to turn for help in a variety of matters – disease knowledge, clinical support, legal advice, caregiving support (Alzheimer’s or general). When I tell you it was overwhelming that would actually be a severe understatement.
Even when it came to emotional or Spiritual support, the disconnection to the situation made it seem like as a caregiver I was existing in the world all by myself. People not understanding always started conversations with “why don’t you?” or worse stopped coming around at all. Perhaps some felt helpless or that they had nothing to offer that could solve the problems I was facing. However, truth is caregivers rarely need a problem-solver they need love and support of which there are many ways to express that - an engaged listening ear, committed fingers to research, a car to go for a drive, 30 minutes to go for a walk).
It’s hard to watch someone in a disjointed state, but what I learned is that it’s okay to be uncertain and it’s even more okay to stand with someone in an uncertain place. Having fully made the transition to caregiver, on one hand I have more answers (baptism by fire so to speak) on the other hand every day still requires a new trust in God. As I do my best to live as fully and healthy as possible during this season, I pray some of the things I share will bless you and give insight in supporting those you love that may be on the divine assignment of giving care.
5 Ways to Support a Caregiver
1. Commit yourself to Consistent Communication – no matter how busy your caregiver friend may be, or how unresponsive or disconnected they may seem. Send a note/text, visit/call your friend with no agenda other than to let them know you care. Remember, caregivers don’t choose isolation, the situation often lends itself to being isolated.
2. Don’t Offer but Bring a Helpful Resource – Caregiver’s don’t need to feel judged, and without meaning to saying things like “have you thought of this” or “why haven’t you done” are upsetting. Bottom line if they could have don’t it they would have? Be engaged enough in your friend’s struggles to by listening to what they say, then take initiative to make it happen. (For example, if they say something like I heard about a support group that interest me and the days they meet may just work but I haven’t had the time to look into it yet – you look into it, pull the information together and bring it to them with an offer time to sit with their loved one so they can go.
3. Accompany them on Errands – This seems so simple but do you realize how often caregivers are alone? Remembering this is not usually by choice by out of necessity. Don’t offer but initiate going with them on a grocery run or routine errand. Relationships and companionship are fuel for the caregiver because it shows that you are connected to their reality.
4. Pray with your Friend (in person, facetime) So often we say to someone, I’m going to pray for you tonight. No! Caregiver’s need some immediacy of care just like all of us do at times. Instead of saying I’m going to. Stop. Pause. Pour into the Spirit and soul of your friend right then. Take 15 minutes call them and facetime or go over to where they are and pray with them alongside a good, warm piece of king cake.
5. Bring a Gift (Dinner, Friends, Snacks, Pet Love) Caregivers can go 14 hours never sitting down to take a breath because of the care they give. Then the next day they get the treasure of doing it all over again. Go to your friend and cook dinner, bring their favorite pizza. Grab two buddies and give your caregiver friend the gift of being appreciated and loved.
These are the things that give energy to your caregiver friend and helps them to keep going.
By: Deborah M. Jackson