We all know the saying: A friend in need is a friend indeed. A caregiver often finds this out the hard way. Their supposed friends drift away over time because the caregiver is too busy to go out with them. These superficial friends are not bad people. It’s just so much easier for them to share their time with people whose lives are not so complicated than to be a real friend to a caregiver.
What Kind of Friend to a Caregiver Are You?
If your friendship with a caregiver is only casual, perhaps it’s best to keep it that way. However, maybe you are really fond of your caregiving friend but don’t know how to help. So in honor of National Family Caregivers Month held every November, here are six tips for you to be a true friend to a caregiver:
- Listen attentively. Caregivers don’t usually expect you to solve their problems, but they do sometimes feel the need to vent about their situation. So when this happens, listen attentively so that the caregiver feels you are engaged in their story. Pretending to listen hardly ever fools anyone. So, if you want to be a good friend to a caregiver, be a good listener.
- Don’t tell alarming stories. Your caregiver may be stressed by realizing that they may need to place their loved one in a nursing home. Therefore, they don’t need to hear your tale about a substandard facility where something terrible occurred. Resist the temptation to converse on the topic in this way. All you will do is increase the caregiver’s feelings of worry and guilt.
- Ask how you can help. A caregiver who has to cope with an end-of-life scenario is in an emotionally challenging state of mind. You can’t be expected to automatically know what kind of help might be needed. However, by asking: What can I do to help? you are sounding more sincere than just offering the generic comment of Let me know if I can do something.
- Offer the gift of your time. You might assist in researching the care receiver’s health issues, or offer your services as a care sitter to give your friend some time off. Maybe volunteer to run some errands or cook dinner. Just make sure not to offer something that you can’t deliver.
- Avoid making extra work. Don’t do anything that makes more work for the caregiver, e.g., gathering up the gang to drop in for a visit. The caregiver will feel under pressure to prepare for company. However, if your caregiver would love a whole group to come over, make it clear that you will handle all the preparations.
- Try not to exclude your friend. Don’t shower the caregiver with invitations that you know they can’t accept, but do ensure that they are kept in the loop. Along with practical help, offer invitations that can conceivably be accepted. Moreover, don’t lay a guilt trip on the caregiver for declining – they might simply be too tired to want to do anything.
Friend to a Caregiver: Final Thoughts
No matter how hard you try, there is no guarantee that you will always do what’s right. Try not to drown in guilt if you’ve done something “wrong.” Just do your best, and keep showing your friendship in every practical way. Remember, one day, you might be a caregiver yourself. Then, your caregiving friend could become your most valued supporter.