Anyone who has been a short- or long-term caregiver will recognize AARP’s suggestions about what not to say (“Taboo to Caregivers. 11 things you should never say”) to friends and family who are taking care of an ill person.
Some comments, regardless of how well-meaning they’re intended to be, are at the least unhelpful. At worst, they can be isolating, cutting, and painful to a caregiver.
Pay particular attention to number 8, concerning the comment, “Just let me know if you need anything.”
Caregivers do need things, but so often say, “No, no. I’m fine.” People tend to not want to trouble others. And sometimes the help they need seems like too grand a request.
Though it’s thoughtful to drop off food and flowers, take your helpfulness to a higher level by asking about the less obvious challenges someone faces.
If you’re great with spreadsheets, offer to track the onslaught of paperwork – insurance and disability forms and confusing bills, for example — that accompanies a health crisis.
Or ask about important one-time errands like taking the car for an oil change or going to the DMV to renew license plates.
Drop by to clean the kitchen, do a couple loads of laundry, and take care of deferred maintenance – a clogged sink or a tune-up to their HVAC. They’re all ways to relieve caregivers’ burdens.