Caring Conversations: How to Help a Caregiver


Caring Conversations: How to Help a Caregiver


Perhaps you’re not a caregiver yourself, but you know someone who is. You know your friend or family member is feeling tired, overwhelmed, stressed out, or sad, and you want to extend your hand – but you’re not sure what to say.

Often, when we aren’t sure how to help a caregiver, we say, “Let me know if you need anything!”

Although that’s well intentioned, it puts the burden on the other person to reach out to you. They may not take advantage of your offer, whether it’s because they feel guilty or aren’t sure exactly how you’re willing or able to help.

Instead of making general offers, try naming specific ways and times you’re prepared to lighten your friend’s load. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Ask your friend which night this week works best for you to drop off dinner. Make enough so there will be leftovers. And if you can, provide disposable plates, napkins, and utensils to make cleanup a breeze.
  • The next time you’re getting ready to go grocery shopping or run other errands, tell your friend to send you a list of anything that’s needed, and you’ll drop it all off later that day.
  • If your friend has a dog, offer to take the dog for a walk or to the dog park for the afternoon.
  • Or, offer to take your friend’s pet(s) to and from the vet or groomer when you know they have an appointment.
  • Stop by your friend’s house to water plants or take care of other small chores, especially if they’ve been away caring for their loved one in a hospital or other facility.
  • Your friend might have a mountain of insurance or other paperwork. Offer to help with filling out forms or filing records.
  • Offer to pick up or fill a prescription for your friend or the person they’re caring for.
  • Give your friend the chance to take a nap, run an errand, or just take time for themselves by offering to sit with their loved one for a few hours.
  • Take your friend to lunch or coffee, and just listen. Maybe they want to talk about their caregiving challenges -- or maybe not! Let them guide the conversation.
  • If your friend has children, pick a date to take them out for part or all of the day – or even just for a meal.
  • Or, offer to take the children to and from their extracurricular activities one day.
  • Leave flowers, candy, or your friend’s favorite magazines on their doorstep.
  • Get together with others and purchase a gift certificate for something your friend would enjoy. Maybe that’s a massage, or maybe it’s for movie tickets and dinner. (If you live far away from your friend, this is a great way to show them you care)
  • Gently remind your friend that it’s okay to take time for themselves. Self-care is a critical part of being a good caregiver.

Remember that when you offer help to your friend, they may have trouble accepting it. They might feel guilty, or they might simply be too overwhelmed to consider it at the moment. If your friend turns you down, don’t give up – try again another time. Being persistent (without being overbearing) lets your friend know your offers of help are sincere.

Caregiving can also be difficult for seniors. Learn more about how you can help senior caregivers at the Lilly for Better Health website.

This is the eighth of a ten-part Caring Conversation blog series that provides caregivers with inspiration, resources, and useful tips. Caring Conversation blogs are produced through a partnership with Lilly for Better Health.

Other posts in the series:

Lilly for Better Health is also having Caring Conversations with Joy’s House. You can listen to the first and second installments online.

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Lillie Fuller

The list is really just endless of what others can do to help a family caregiver. Somedays I would take just 5 minutes to do NOTHING if someone would spend 5 minutes doing something for me. I'd love for someone to wash my dishes just one day a week. It seems that is usually what gets put off until tomorrow. \r\n\r\nThank you for sharing.