While if there are 50 ways to leave your lover (according to Paul Simon), there are easily more than 50 ways you can be helped as a caregiver.
For those of you who are or have already been caregivers, you could put a list together in less time than it would take to look up Paul Simon! For those of you who have not yet had your turn as a caregiver, you can simply draw on those who have.
Do you find it hard to ask for help? Or when people say “Just tell me what I can do to help”, do you go blank? At Elizz, we use the 5 LifeStages of Caregiving [link to article] to describe the caregiving journey. Based on the amount of hours spent on caregiving tasks and activities, the 5 LifeStages are: Helping, Involved, Intensive, All-Encompassing, and Closing. You can benefit from support and help within all 5 LifeStages. In fact, when a caring friend or family member asks “How can I help you?”, i suggest you offer a copy of this handy list. I’m sure they can draw some inspiration from the following list. Some of these suggestions help with caregiving tasks/activities, others will help you in your life outside of caregiving, while others focus on your self care.
- Drop off a meal. Even better, if there is enough for leftovers, consider packing it up so that it can be frozen and thawed for a quick and easy meal at their convenience.
- Invitation for a home-cooked meal Woa!!
- Lets go out for a meal! Change of scenery is great!
- Start a food chain with others interested and willing to help.
- Call or text when you are going to the grocery store; Offer to pick up and drop off items in need.
- Double your baking recipe. Yummy!
- Share a gift card to a local restaurant/fast food place or even a coffee shop! Which coffee is better? Tim’s? Starbucks? Second Cup? …we aren’t touching that subject with a ten foot pole!
- Arrange for prepared meal delivery for a day, once a week, every full moon, whatever works!
- Offer to help pay for services such as house cleaning, health care, or respite services.
- Print out or give the link to information on government funding, programs, and tax credits for caregivers (link to article). Help fill out paperwork, find answers to questions I have, or seek out information about eligibility.
Emotional support and advocacy
- Wait for a real answer, when you ask “how are you?”Don’t accept the typical “I’m fine.” Remember, 66% of caregivers are never asked how they are feeling (link to HAYFT article). When they are asked, many respond with a short “fine” rather than the fuller story.
- Related to above, be present and listen without trying to ‘fix’ anything.
- A suprise / feel-good outting, such as a massage, pedicure, manicure, or some other self-nurturing gift.
- Quick check-ins! Call or text. Even if I am too busy to respond, they will know you are thinking of them, and as they say ‘its the thought that counts.
- Offer to stay with the person in their care, while they go for a walk or read a book at their favourite coffee shop.
- Watch The Caregivers’ Club film.
- Drop off funny movies in the form of DVDs, USBs, UFOs…whatever media system you have! Or, schedule a movie date (popcorn and all!).
- Drop off favourite magazines.
- Send or drop off flowers or a plant.
- Send a ‘thinking of you’ card in the mail (or if you forget how, revert to sending an e-mail!)
- Send a coupon for a hug, a meal, a walk, a movie, an uninterrupted vent session, etc.
- Make a playlist of favourite music or music you think they will love.
- Acknowledge (the difference) they are making, via the care they are giving.
- Offer a reminder that caregivers are the unsung heroes of the healthcare system.
- Be the driver; head out for a scenic drive.
- Research and share information about about support groups (virtual and face-to-face in the community).
- Offer to attend medical appointments as another set of ears and for support (with the consent of the person being cared for).
- Arrange to do something fun together.
- Pray together or arrange for a prayer circle.
- Pray to what you believe in for the family.
- Offer to help with transportation – to /from aith meetings/worship gatherings or attend the service with them..
- Gift a subscription for an audiobook.
Hands on help
- Offer your time. Be very specific with your offering. For example, “I am all yours from 9–2 on Saturday or every Monday.”
- SEek out what the most taxing (physically or emotionally) part of the caregiving journey is and take this on (as a a break or take it on permanently).
- Do research on some caregiving task or activity of interest — caregivers oftenI don’t have the energy, time, or skill to gather and weed through the information.
- Offer what you do well. For example, if you are an amazing organizer, offer this service. If you are a great gardener, offer some gardening help.
- Volunteer to be a ‘backup’ person for emergencies (thus creating a network of support).
- Mow the lawn.
- Shovel the snow.
- Rake the leaves.
- Fill the bird feeder.
- Take the dog for a walk or a trip to the dog groomer.
- Pet the cat and if you’re brave – trim its nails!
- File and organize paperwork. Create forms or documents to help with organization of emergency phone numbers, appointments, etc.
- Arrange to take vehicles in for an oil change or a tune up.
- Schedule a visit and while doing so, wash the dishes, do a load of laundry, or load/unload the dishwasher.
- Pick up and drop off the kids at school or extracurricular activities.
- Pick up a load of laundry and bring it back clean (Hint: ask me about any soap or scent allergies/sensitivities before you bring back socks smelling like a field of daisies!).
- Organize photos because well, many of us could use this help!
- Set up e-mail if it is not already set up.
- Troubleshoot computer problems and/or set up the computer to be user-friendly.
This is in no way an exhaustive list. But, sometimes caregivers get stuck at respite as the only thing that will make a difference. This list is to remind you that there are many ways that you can be helped. There are creative ways to help that can reduce your workload and stress.
What is the most helpful thing that someone has done for you as a caregiver?