Do you know someone who is caring for an ill family member or beloved friend? Someone who is alone in caring for their loved one everyday? If you do, know that they need your loving support. Sometimes their loved one is too sick to be left alone long enough for them to go to the grocery store, let alone have a few minutes just for them selves to spend whatever way they wish. We who are not in this situation take for granted our ability to go out and shop at will, to visit friends, go to a movie or to church. Caring for a sick person is extremely stressful; a caregiver needs to have a break for their own health.
Think about how you can help. If the person is truly too sick to be left alone, volunteer to sit with them for an hour or two. If you are uncomfortable in your ability to be of any assistance if something occurs just sit with the sick person while the caregiver is another part of the home would be of help. I’ve heard of caregivers who would love to be able to take a leisurely bath; something they can’t do when they are in the home alone because they have to hurry in case they are needed. Perhaps cooking a meal or offering to run an errand is something you could do to help. Sometimes the caregiver will need someone listen to them vent. If you volunteer for this, please just listen. Don’t give them advice to take certain medications (unless you are a licensed medical doctor and they ask for your help in this area); please don’t tell them what they could be doing different or tell them another doctor is the answer. The caregiver just needs to release those vent up emotions and frustrations. Most likely they need someone who can give them a hug and tell them that it’s normal to be stressed no matter how much they love the ill person.

I’ve been both a caregiver and the person needing a caregiver. It isn’t easy from either side to cope with the stress. I was lucky when I was the caregiver of my younger sister who is mentally challenged; I had friends who would occasionally take her with them on outings. To protect my sister’s identity I will call her Sweetie Pie, the nickname I gave her because she loves Tweety Pie so much. One friend had a young nephew who played baseball; she would take Sweetie Pie with her to watch these kids play. It made her day to have all that attention from somebody besides me and it was her outing, not our outing, which made it even better. She also loved going out to eat with the whole family after the ball game was over. Sweetie Pie would come home with her face bright with enthusiasm bragging about where they went and what she ate. Her smiling face was a joy to see. Another friend used to come over and watch a movie they picked out together while I made myself scarce. It was her time to have company and my time to have a breather. A co-worker, who became a friend through his generosity toward my sister, would come over each week and teach Sweetie Pie to play a dulcimer. It turns out that Sweet Pie has a natural talent, she can not read music but she could sit across from him and mirror what he did. He recorded the lesson so she could play on her own during the week.

I do want to caution you it isn’t a job to take on lightly. My step-father had cancer and my mother was his sole caregiver. She once let a friend of my step dad’s take over his care long enough to make a quick trick to the store and back. When she got back she found his friend on her telephone talking to his girlfriend while my serious ill step dad was in the back bathroom throwing up and too weak to help himself. When you take on the responsibility to help a caregiver, you need to give it your up most diligence. My mother was afraid to trust anyone after that experience. My step dad could not be left alone so when she went to the store she had to take him with her, making it hard on the both of them.

So think about it, what seems like such a small thing to do can make a huge difference in another’s life. Do you know someone who needs a break from their care giving duties? Or perhaps you can be the one who listens while they vent for a while. Keep in mind your own strengths and weaknesses, but do volunteer to help someone. I have found that when I am helping others it gives me just a rush of goodwill I can’t help, but to smile at the world.