Do you know caregivers who need an encouraging word or a listening ear? I don’t know about you but when I was mired down with caregiving and stressed beyond belief, I often overlooked the obvious. Folks were there to help me.
I was so task-oriented and caught up in the achievement of the day-to-day to get it all done, motivated by quest and guilt and ethic and “ought to’s,” that each day was a battle. I had to complete what was coming at me that day. “Take care of myself”? You must be kidding. Take a breath, maybe tell myself I did something well? How dare I. Accept help? Nope. Can’t stop now, next thing’s coming. Blinders.
I witness this in friends and the families I work with professionally. I recognize it because it is a kind of pain that is all too familiar. Friends or clients are caught in the kaleidoscope of caregiving: just when things come in to focus someone adjusts the kaleidoscope and the view is changed. So then must our actions be and, darn it, reactions. Once again we are reminded that we are not in control.
All in all, and whether caregivers or not, I believe most people do a pretty good job of handling things, but they don’t take the time to acknowledge that.
We’re all going to make mistakes; nobody emerges with a perfect score, in caregiving or in life. We are not going to have a perfect season. While we may not emerge unscathed, I am here to tell you that we will be better people. If you’re so inclined, and I hope you are, we will amass a wealth of experience and hope which can be available to those coming alongside or behind us.
Supporting those we love can be simple, and it can be easy. Consider these ways we can help those around us, caregivers or not, by taking a few simple steps.
Informal Support Is Key in Helping Caregivers Around You
- Just listen. Quietly let folks know you’re available if they wish to talk. It doesn’t mean that you will be providing answers (or that you must be ready to). Simply let the other person know that they are important to you and that you’re willing to listen, without judgment, whenever the situation calls for it.
- Show that you care. Often it’s enough to know that someone cares. Someone cares enough to help you through times of stress, or awful-ness. Think simply and creatively. Give a call, send an email, drop a card in the mail, go up to them when at your house of worship, after a meeting or in the grocery store. Let them know you’ve been thinking about them. Simple, unobtrusive, no obligation required on either’s part, just there.
- Help out when you can. This can apply whether you’re local or some distance from the individual you wish to support. If you are local run an errand, or offer to BOGO (Buy One Get One) if going to the store or for take-out. Offer a ride or to ferry another concern, to take that off someone’s plate. Make life easier in a small but meaningful. If out of town maybe plan a trip to come in every so often to take care of some of the “heavy lifting,” tackle a needed chore or duty, whatever tough or sticky thing is looming for the person right now.
- Support your person during a decision making process. We don’t have to make the decisions for them or be part of the stress of making one. Rather, we can patiently be willing to walk them through the steps, be a soundboard, or offer a balanced perspective if asked. Sometimes it’s just a matter of helping another through a lock and dam situation to reach another level. Up or down, but forward.
- Be available with advice. If you are approached for advice and have it, that can be true support. Be sure the other party is ready to receive it. Don’t provide unsolicited advice, but be ready with suggestions when asked.
- Be trustworthy. Be the kind of person someone can trust and confide in. Trust-worthy. No matter if you are physically there or not it is the trustworthiness that folks often migrate toward and will remember. When you can, be available to hold someone’s confidence. This lessens the stress of their situation and thus you are of help, not hindrance.
- Just be around. One of my strongest memories is of two friends and their quiet support of me when my father was nearing the end of his life. Traditionally I had been their supporter. One night I arrived late to our usual faith meeting, already in progress. Those two friends looked up and then quietly moved their chairs to then sit on either side of me. We simply sat there together throughout the meeting and I was book-ended by friendship and love. Nothing else needed to happen, nothing needed to be said. They were just there, and I shall never forget their kindness.
My hunch is that you have a story like mine. Informal support is a key factor in helping caregivers to navigate challenges, and doing a few simple things can make all the difference.
As Professional Advocates we are available to listen, guide or support in decision-making. Our initial conversations are always complementary. Call 919.628.4428 to schedule a time to speak or CONNECT WITH US at www.navigate.com. We speak support.
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