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Tips for Supporting the Caregiver in Your Life

Do you know someone who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's? Do you want to help and support that person, but you don't always know the best way to do it? Alzheimer's caregiver support makes a difference no matter where in the journey.

Sometimes, we are acutely aware that a person is struggling and we desperately want to help lighten their load, but we don't always know how to go about it. This is often the case when it comes to supporting Alzheimer's family caregivers. Most people want to help. They simply don't know how.

My experience as a Alzheimer's caregiver

I was a part-time caregiver for my mom at various points during the ten years she lived with Alzheimer's. My dad was my mom's full-time caregiver and my mom lived at home with him. I have insight as to how to support a caregiver from both my own experience of being a caregiver, as well as my experience of supporting my dad in his caregiving role. Here are a few tips I learned over the years.

Tips for supporting Alzheimer's caregivers

Be specific when offering to support

Many times, people will say things like, "Let me know if you need anything," or "I'm always here to help." While these statements are well-meaning, it puts the burden on the caregiver to decide how and when you can help. Caregivers have enough on their plates, and they are often uncomfortable asking for help because they don't want to pass off the burden onto anyone. Instead, say things like, "I'm going to the grocery store on Monday. What can I pick up for you?" Or, "I'm available on Tuesdays to come over and sit with (loved one). What time works best for you?" Being specific alleviates the stress on the caregiver and they will be more likely to accept your help if they know what to expect from you.

Follow up on your offer to help

If you offer to help an Alzheimer's or dementia caregiver and you don't hear back, reach out and offer again. Many times, caregivers aren't sure if someone actually wants to help or if they just feel obligated to offer. By following up on your offer, it will show the caregiver that you genuinely want to help. Also, Alzheimer's caregivers are so busy that they often forget to respond to a text or call someone back. By following up, you will remind them of your offer to help out.

Check in frequently

Caregivers rarely have hours to chat on the phone or meet for lunch, but a simple text goes a long way. You don’t have to ask about their loved one or how they are doing. Just a quick text to let them know you are thinking about them is enough. Caregivers often feel isolated from the outside world, so letting them know they are not alone can be very helpful.

Don’t listen to respond – just listen

Caregivers don't need someone to listen to them in order to offer advice or try to fix things. No one can fix what they are going through. Caregivers need someone to listen so they can be heard and their feelings can be validated. Simply saying, "That sucks," or "I’m so sorry you are going through this," is more helpful than offering platitudes or advice.

If you know someone who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, it can be difficult to know how to help them. Being specific and following up when offering to help alleviates the burden on the caregiver. If you are unable to physically help, don't underestimate the power of checking in and offering a listening ear. These simple things help more than you know.

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