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. I’m sorry, I have to respectfully disagree. In fact I have to 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 someone’s life.
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 a few simple things you can do to bring a smile to the face of the caregiver in your life:
- Someone offering to be the “Communication Person” who updates others. Repeating the details of a surgery or diagnosis over and over can be difficult and draining.
- Receiving a text or email saying you are thinking of them. Including a “no need to respond” note helps to know it’s okay if they are too busy to return the message.
- Receiving a pre-made meal in containers that don’t need to be returned.
- A Gift Card for a restaurant coming in the mail or by email with thoughtful words of support.
- Receiving a text from someone at the grocery story or pharmacy, asking if they could pick something up for me.
- Someone offering to be an “In-Case of Emergency” point person.
- Receiving the gift of massage, consider a mobile masseuse if that makes it easier for them.
- Someone offering to sit with the patient so the caregiver might have a break to rest, take a walk, exercise, or enjoy time with other family members.
- A friend offering to take them to a movie. Or someone bringing DVDs of personal favorites.
- Receiving a weekly take-out order from a favorite restaurant for a fixed period of time.
- Someone offering to handle the administrative work of medical claims and medical billing.
- Someone offering to handle yard work, tire rotation, dog walking/grooming. Preferably on a consistent basis.
- An email with a silly joke.
- Donations to cover medical expenses or lost wages.
- Someone reminding them they are loved and cared about.
- 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?
- 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.
Join the dialogue with your tips and suggestions for helping the caregiver in your life. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have regarding help or resources regarding caregivers.
As always, I am…the Boomer Explorer.