Well-Being//

How to Show Up for a Friend Who Is a Caregiver

You may not be able to relieve their stress entirely, but you can be there for them in ways that are small, but incredibly meaningful.

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Shutterstock

While caring for a loved one can be an incredibly meaningful experience, it certainly comes with its challenges — from finding time to prioritize your own well-being, to finding a support system who is there for you when your days are difficult. Research shows that the number of young caregivers is rising, and regardless of how old you are, the stress of dedicating your time and energy to someone else’s well-being can be taxing. “Caregiving can be an isolating experience no matter the age,” The New York Times recently reported in a piece on the rise of millennial caregivers. “But younger caregivers report higher levels of loneliness than older ones.”

We asked our Thrive community for their own caregiving stories and solutions, and we were so inspired by their different ideas on how to help support the caregivers in our own lives. Here are some of the most meaningful, small ways to show up for a caregiver you know.

Send a “no response needed” text

When I was a caregiver for my 43-year-old husband, one of the most meaningful texts I got read, ‘Thinking of you today. No need to respond.’ This is almost always appropriate and appreciated. It lets the person know you’re thinking about them, and it does so in a way that doesn’t obligate them to talk about the latest updates, or how they are feeling, or anything else in particular. People sometimes hesitate to reach out because they are not sure how to help, so this simple text can be thoughtful and non-intrusive.”

—Jenny Lisk, founder and podcast host, Redmond, WA

Be extra sensitive and understanding

For about six years, I was a caregiver for my mom, who had Alzheimer’s. One of the things I realized is that it’s important for the people around the caregiver to be understanding. If you are a friend of a caregiver, realize that certain things are more difficult than usual right now, and be conscious not to make unnecessary demands of them or put extra expectations on them.

—Christine Arata, writer, San Francisco, CA

Urge them to take a self-care hour

When I was caregiving for my son after he suffered a severe brain injury, I was living out of a hotel near the hospital, and I felt guilty leaving to take care of my own well-being. I was gaining weight and barely moving, so I decided I needed to prioritize my own health if I wanted to be there for my son. I started taking one hour each day to go to the gym while he was in the rehabilitation center. It’s so important to encourage caregivers to take that hour to prioritize their own health.”

—Francine Tone, business strategist, Truckee, CA

Ask for their grocery list

“In the midst of a flurry of medical activity, I received this text from my friend Erin: ‘I’m going to the grocery store in the morning. Text me your list.’ She knew that my husband had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. To say that life was all of a sudden spiraling out of control was an understatement. Getting to the grocery store was nowhere on my priority list. A text like this is a life-saver. It’s immediate, it’s practical, and it lets the person know you’re thinking about them.”

—Jenny Lisk, founder and podcast host, Redmond, WA

Invite them for a weekend away

I am a caregiver for my husband, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2014. Every month, I take a night to sleep over at a friend’s apartment, or take a train with my friend to her second home in the country. I also travel with my daughter once a year, and it’s a respite I need and love. These small trips help me recharge as a caretaker.

—Hazel Weiser, consulting advisor, New York, NY

Encourage them to seek out additional support

When I was helping to care for my mother during her ten years with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, friends and family members encouraged me to get support for myself. And I needed it! As my mother descended deeper into the disease, my stress level rose, and I felt helpless. My mood plummeted, and talking to someone one-on-one made a huge impact.

—Tzivia Gover, author and educator, Springfield, MA

Offer to walk the dog

“When I was busy with hospital visits, phone calls, and endless paperwork, one of the most helpful offers I got from a friend was, ‘I walk my dog every morning around 9. Can I walk yours then, too?’ Between all of my caregiving responsibilities, the dog wasn’t getting walked, and I was grateful to anyone who could remedy that.”

—Jenny Lisk, founder and podcast host, Redmond, WA

Send them a treat to show you care

“Never underestimate the power of a little chocolate. Through years of caregiving and assisting, I’ve learned that small joyful things help you find a moment of zen, so you can dive back into the situation and move forward. Sending someone a little bit of sweetness, that little reward… well, it can just make everything a little bit better.” 

—Junie Rutkevich, writer, Philadelphia, PA

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