5 Ways to Help the Caregiver in Your Life

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.  ~His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama

It’s true – there are those who insist one person can’t make a difference in this world. However, having recently been through an extremely difficult time, I have to respectfully disagree. In fact, I can say with complete confidence that each one of us holds the power to do wonderful, often simple things that can categorically change the course of another human being’s day.

If you have ever tried to extend a helping hand to a caregiver, you’ve likely found that they have a very hard time accepting assistance. Nurturers by nature, they’re used to offering support, but really struggle when they find themselves on the receiving end. Most caregivers don’t want to be a bother or appear the least bit needy, so even when people willingly offer, they have a natural tendency to smile and politely decline.

That doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Here are 5 simple things you can do to bring a smile to the face of the caregiver in your life.

  • Wintertime is perfect for sharing comfort food. Just about anyone would welcome a crock pot of hearty soup or a steaming hot casserole. These things not only make for a wonderful dinner, but will likely provide enough for a few lunches as well. Other ideas: Next time you’re cooking a meal, double the recipe and deliver the extra portions to your friend with reheating instructions. Don’t cook? How about sending a gift card for a favorite local eatery?  Be sure to take any special dietary needs into consideration.

  • Would your favorite caregiver enjoy a relaxing massage? Consider going in with a friend to purchase a gift certificate, and present it along with a “coupon” offering to provide respite care while she enjoys an hour or so of pampering.
  • Is your caregiver friend a member of the ever-growing sandwich generation? If so, make a play date with her kids. Perhaps you can pick them up from school for a movie and dinner, or how about a Friday or Saturday night slumber party with pizza, popcorn, and board games?
  • No matter the season, most caregivers could use a little help around the house. Some ideas include shoveling snow, raking leaves, trimming, or mowing the lawn.  Have you heard your friend mention any household “fix it” jobs that are screaming for attention? Maybe you and a few others can pitch in and hire a handyman service for an afternoon.
  • It doesn’t get much easier than this! Next time you’re out, simply pick up a heartfelt greeting card. Write a personal note inside and put it in the mail. Everyone loves finding a card in the mailbox; knowing that someone is thinking about you during a difficult time can make all the difference in the world.

These are just a few things you can do for the caregiver in your life; there are lots of other ideas. Remind them to take care of themselves. Get creative! Bring them a new journal, a pretty indoor plant, or just a good cup of coffee and their favorite indulgent dessert. Not only will it make someone smile to know you care, but you’ll be fulfilling a need they may not have realized they had. Most importantly, never underestimate the power of a kind word or caring gesture, no matter how simple. I promise it will make a difference.

Please share your suggestions in the Comments section. As a caregiver, what gestures have you found particularly helpful or heartwarming? Or, what have you done for a caregiver that you felt was especially appreciated?

One Comment

  1. Jenniferami

    A plate of treats during the holidays was a wonderful gift, as was a pretty fresh wreath for the door. A friend you can call for prayer or to come sit with you while your cared for loved one is in the hospital is very meaningful. A call just to see how you are doing means a lot. I try to be positive and not talk too long. Someone once planted some lovely perennials for us so that every year I have at least some blooms. Someone offered to help me replace my broken mail box which was very helpful.

    People who sent grocery and other gift cards were much appreciated. Remembering a family member’s birthday means a lot too whether with a card, a dinner, or however. Someone offered that I could call them for a ride if ever my car was in the shop which was nice.

    It means a lot if people continue to remember you even if you have been a caregiver for more than a year or two. It doesn’t really get easier with time and when people start contacting you less and less it can be tough. It is nice when people keep remembering you.

    It is nice if people anticipate potential needs rather than having to ask for help. It is so hard to ask. People who are kind and gracious when you do ask make it so much easier even if they can’t help you at the time.

    One thing I have hoped that people would offer, but I hate to ask, is an offer to put up outside
    Christmas lights, nothing too elaborate, but it really isn’t my skill set and I always have other things to do, but I would love an offer. I even have some lights, I just need help putting them up. A cute decorated pumpkin to put on the porch in the fall would be fun. We frequently skip things like pumpkins and decorations since they seem extravagent when there are other needs. Holidays in general can be tough so a special pie, cake, cookies, decorations, etc. can bring a lot of joy for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, etc. If someone has children, an offer to share a skill with the child such as baking, knitting, crafts, a card game, gardening, tennis, even tossing a ball around would be appreciated. If you are a close relative, inviting the child to visit or even accompany you on a short trip would be wonderful.

    There are many times I could have used an extra driver for help, but no one has specifically mentioned that except to pick up a car, so I don’t ask unless it’s a super emergency. It would just make life easier with an occasional help with a ride so a family member wouldn’t have to miss out on something important for them.

    The above article has lots of good suggestions. I hope these additonal ones will give people some ideas too. Please don’t worry that you have to be everything to the caregiver. Even a one time offer of help means a lot. Some people prefer to help anonymously, that is fine too. Somedays just one kind gesture can change a person’s day or week, and that of their entire family. Thanks for thinking of caregivers and their families. 🙂

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