A Guest Post by Vee Cecil
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is an incredible challenge, both physically and emotionally. Often, primary caregivers are spouses who are also aging and sometimes have health issues of their own. It’s not uncommon for Alzheimer’s caregivers to neglect their own health and well-being out of fear that leaving their loved one even for a short time would cause distress.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alzheimer’s caregivers are also reluctant to ask family and friends for help with their caregiving duties. Often, they don’t want others to view them as incapable of managing their loved one’s care, or they don’t wish to place unnecessary burdens on friends and loved ones.
What they don’t often realize is that many of their family members and friends would be honored to help, but they may not know how they can help. If you know someone who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many ways you can offer help and support.
Be Specific with Your Offer to Help
Many people who want to help another person in some way take a broad approach, with questions such as, “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
To this question, the response is almost always, “Thank you, but no, I’m fine.”
Whether caregivers realize it or not, they do need help. But because they’re not likely to ask for it or even accept it, it’s up to those of you who want to alleviate some of their burden to be specific. Instead of asking if you can help, frame your questions to offer a specific service, such as picking items up from the grocery store, offering to help with laundry or other household tasks, or bringing dinner.
Offer a Shoulder to Lean On
The emotional challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease are often the most impactful. When a care recipient has difficult symptoms such as agitation, wandering, or aggression, the toll of being constantly “on” can wreak havoc on even the strongest individual’s emotional health.
Every caregiving situation is unique. Every family has its own differences, and every Alzheimer’s patient has a unique disease progression. Even the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease affect patients in very different ways at varying levels of severity, at times differing from one day to the next.
One thing everyone can do who wants to help an Alzheimer’s caregiver is quite simple: Offer a shoulder to lean on or an ear for listening. In the process of offering this type of support, you’ll learn about the specific challenges the caregiver is facing. Through these conversations, you’ll uncover specific ways you can help that will be most meaningful.
A Few Things That May Help Alzheimer’s Caregivers
Because each situation is unique and every caregiver’s needs are different, it may take some investigating to figure out the best way to help someone who is reluctant to admit that they could use assistance. Here are a few ideas for specific ways you can offer help to someone who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
- · Offer to mow the lawn, and mention a specific day you’re available to do so.
- · Bring a basket full of cleaning supplies and offer to clean the house. Don’t be pushy; if it’s not a good time, schedule another day to come back, and stick to it.
- · Mention that you’re going to the store and ask what supplies you can pick up for her. Don’t ask “if” there is anything you can pick up, but “what” she needs.
- · Volunteer to run errands, such as picking up medication from the pharmacy.
- · Offer to take the person with Alzheimer’s disease to an appointment.
- · Give a thoughtful gift, such as a gift certificate for a massage and a coupon for your services to provide respite care while she’s being pampered. A card with a sincere, personal note letting her know you’re thinking of her and are there for support is often meaningful, too.
- · Offer to provide respite care or handle a few day-to-day tasks to allow the caregiver to get some rest or time away. For example, you might offer to wash the Alzheimer’s patient’s hair, trim their nails, or wash their clothes. These are tasks that are helpful to the caregiver and will make the person with Alzheimer’s feel refreshed and clean.
- · Simply be a friend. A simple phone call to ask a caregiver how they’re doing gives them a connection to the outside world and helps them feel less isolated. Stop by to visit and just let her talk.
While these ideas may not be useful for every caregiver or every situation, they may inspire you to think of ways that the caregiver you know could most benefit from help. No matter how you reach out, you’re offering support and socialization that can go a long way in reducing feelings of depression and anxiety that caregivers often face.
Vee Cecil is a wellness coach and bootcamp instructor who is passionate about helping people of all ages lead healthy, happy lives. She also shares her favorite tips and recipes on her new blog.
**Photo Credit: Image via Pixabay by skeeze**