The caregivers life becomes consumed with the one they love, the one they care for. The entirety of their conversations with others are always about the one they take care of. It might stray off that path for a moment but it returns. It is not their fault. No more than a new mother talking constantly about her child and how special they are. It is what we know and thinking beyond that becomes difficult if not impossible.
We often don't reach out for help. Maybe we are afraid of being a burden to feeling like "I've got this." Suddenly we're experiencing something called caregiver stress. It is very real and makes us feel helpless, like we have failed in what we're doing. We can be so overwhelmed that we don't even know what to ask for IF we reach out for help.
The illness doesn't have to be terminal. Many illnesses and injuries require 24 hour care, perhaps even temporarily. Listen hard to what your friends and family are saying. "I'm fine," could mean "I don't want to trouble you, but I'm drowning."
If you want to help the worst question you can ask is "What can I do?" You will most likely here, "We're good." So instead of asking, just do. Not sure what to do? Check out this list and base your choices on what you know about the family.
Bring them meals (Cooking for the holidays? Make some extra for them.)
Gift cards for restaurants
Offer to run errands
Buy them groceries-fresh produce, breads, milk, coffee- staples that run out quickly
Buy them a tank of gas
Mow their lawn
Offer to help clean or hire maid service for a day
Be a handyman
Hire a handyman
Vacuum/wash the car
Laundry, ironing or mending
Help clean a closet, room or garage
Offer pet care/grooming
Offer respite or take the suffering loved one out for a while
Depending on the caregivers age, call, text or Facebook them just to check up on them.
Keep these very important things in mind:
If you want to visit don't make it a surprise. Call ahead. Don't overstay your visit. (We get tired quickly.)
If you have a visit scheduled don't be hurt if the person cancels it. They may not be up to it when the time comes. (Happens often.)
If you schedule a visit. Be on time. They are waiting for you. If you are going to be late or have to cancel please let them know.
If you are sick don't go. The last thing a patient and their caregiver needs is someone bringing a bug.
If you schedule anything with a memory impaired person make sure you notify their caregiver too. (PLEASE!)
Don't give advice unless it's asked for. Chances are the caregiver has already tried everything you're going to suggest. (PLEASE.)
Don't be afraid to laugh with them. It's okay. Laughter is the best medicine.
We will be moving back to Minnesota soon. There are so many that will want to visit. We both want to see everyone but are planning on a visiting schedule as both of us will be overwhelmed and tired. So for our Minnesota family and friends, we aren't snubbing you. We also know you will understand the need to schedule visits and have limits so he doesn't get 20 people in one day. There won't be delicious meals or snacks made for you, nor will coffee be made. I'm too tired for that. We still love you though.