Monday, 3 September 2018

TWENTY-ONE WAYS FRIENDS AND FAMILY CAN HELP CAREGIVERS


I shared this image on the Caregivers' Living Room Facebook Page this morning and it got me thinking of all the ways that friends and family members can help caregiving families. Here's my list (I originally had 20 ideas, but then I remembered Pet Care, so I had to make it 21!) Do you have other ideas? Please share! And share this post with your networks to give others some ideas of how to help your family.

1) Bring a Meal. And if friends and family members want to coordinate their help, suggest the website TAKE THEM A MEAL. It makes coordinating meal contributions quick and easy. This is a godsend anytime, but especially during crisis periods.

2) Do Some Laundry. Caregiving families have TONS of laundry. Our loved ones frequently need sheets and clothing changed and we often use bibs, cloths and any number of cleaning linens. For most caregivers, it's a minimum of 2-3 laundry loads every day.

3) Visit Just to Hang Out. Sometimes what we need most is an adult conversation with an old friend, or another caregiver who understands. Caregiving is an isolating experience and having company for conversation is an energizing break.

4) Sit With Your Loved One. This is one of the greatest gifts that friends and family can offer to caregivers. Whether we take an opportunity for a much-needed nap, or we go grocery shopping, someone to sit with a loved one is a break. And it's potent, because it gives our loved ones a break from US.

5) Help With Grocery Shopping. Everyone shops for food. It's not difficult for a friend to add your family's list and deliver the order as a kind gesture, especially if you are homebound. "Would you mind picking a few things up for me when you do your own shopping?" is the question to ask if no one offers on their own.

6) Bring a Loved One to An Appointment. Most people with chronic conditions have many, many medical appointments. Whether it's a routine trip to the dentist or a check-in with a specialist, appointments are exhausting for both patient and caregiver. Bringing a loved one to an appointment is a real gift to caregivers, especially when a friend or family member takes detailed notes so the caregiver has a record.

7) Offer a Real Break. Someone who is a close friend or family member and who is a partner in care can offer a real break. This might be an offer of moving in with a loved for a weekend or a week. It could mean taking a loved one on holiday. Or, it could mean offering a whole day of care from morning till night.

8) Help With Financial Matters. Bill paying, banking, and taxes are all time consuming and often left on the back burner by caregivers who are on the front lines of urgent care 24/7 at home. Someone very close and trusted can offer to lift that worry and responsibility from a caregiver's shoulders.

9) Research. Some friends or family members may not feel confident about offering hands on care. But they may have a talent for research. If so, they can gather information about medications and their side effects, new research in a particular disease or diagnosis, opportunities for respite and adapted recreation in the community or funding for equipment and home health care.

10) Lawn Care. Younger friends and family members might wonder how they can help. Children and teens can cut the grass, trim the hedge and weed the garden. A whole family can arrive to plant flowers in the spring and do a fall yard cleanup.

11) Snow Removal. Snow is the enemy of caregiving families. If it's not cleared, cars and wheelchairs cannot leave the house. Caregivers' backs are already sore from lifting, so shovelling snow is frequently not an option. Often caregivers cannot not leave their loved one alone indoors anyway. If friends and family cannot shovel themselves, they could pitch in to pay for a snow clearing contract or they could create a GoFundMe campaign to pay for one.

12) Helping With Medical Records. Being organized with medical records, creating a handy one page medical history (for the ER and professionals new to the case) and keeping a diary of symptoms are all tools that make caregiving less stressful. A friend or family member who is skilled in information gathering and organization can help with these tasks.

13) Helping With Computer Literacy. Whether it's a caregiver or a loved one who is not used to communicating online, help with navigating the internet is a gift that younger friends or family members can offer.

14) House Cleaning. Caring for someone at home creates dirt and mess. In the case of a medically fragile loved one, a very clean environment is required and that's hard to achieve when just one person is also performing all the care. Light cleaning once a week and a deep clean monthly is a great gift for caregivers. Friends and family members can pitch in for a paid contract with a cleaning company, or they can offer to help themselves.

15) Fix-It Help. Maybe there is a friend or family member who loves browsing hardware stores and takes pride in completing odd jobs around the house. If so, that fix-it angel could offer a day to review everything that's broken in the caregiver home and offer to repair it.

16) Massage. If someone who has offered to help (or even if they haven't offered...yet) is skilled at massage, ask them to come for a spa day with you and and your loved one. Massage has been shown to have beneficial, calming effects on everyone, even people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

17) Help With Adaptive Equipment. Fall prevention and mobility safety at home is a huge concern for caregiving families. Whether it's arranging for an occupational therapist to make a home visit or it's making your own DIY grab bars, friends and family members can help out.

18) Help When Your Loved One is Hospitalised. Things really fall apart when a loved one is acutely ill. Visiting in the hospital to bring cups of tea, share lunch or do errands are all welcome gifts from friends and family members during a crisis.

19) Moving Out of Home Due to Placement. If a loved one moves from home into a placement in a higher level of care, there is much work to be done. A loved one will need lots of company and reassurance, but often physical moving needs to happen too. A lifetime of personal possessions might need boxing up. Perhaps a house must be sold. All hands must be on deck for those big transitions.

20) Pet Care. Being a caregiver doesn't mean you don't have pets. Dogs need walking. Cats need feeding. Pets need veterinary care. An animal lover in your network could offer to coordinate pet care. This is especially crucial in times of medical crises with your loved one.

21) Anything Help. If someone in your life says, "I can't commit to anything regular and I don't really have any particular skills", they ask that person to be your 'anything helper'. An on-call, responsible friend could offer to deal with the odd and unpredictable tasks that pop up unexpectedly. This person doesn't have to solve problems him/herself, they just have to find someone who can.
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