The definition of a caregiver is:
a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.
That’s the basic definition.
I would add:
Also someone who cares for a neighbor, a friend, or even a fellow caregiver!
There are so many types because being a caregiver comes in all shapes and sizes.
For this post I’m talking about my son’s Grandmother. When it comes to caring for others, she’s a total Rockstar. Whether it’s care for her daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was two (Sarah is quite the miracle, really), her son who also has a history of meningioma brain tumors and numerous craniotomies, her church community, her grandson and even me, she is always there for us. She definitely gets a gold star.
But how can we support those caregivers that support us so well?
‘Let me know if I can help’ is a lovely thing to say to someone but in reality, when people find themselves in need of support, sometimes they have a hard time asking for it. I’ve found that if you take it upon yourself to just do the favor or perform the act of kindness, more times than not, it is well received and very much appreciated. And it’s a great feeling to help and be helped so you can’t really go wrong.
You know that saying “It’s the little things that count”? Well, I feel very sure that it’s “the little things” that help to keep people going in this life.
I decided to write this blog post because I wanted to hone in on a few ways to offer respite and lighten the load. These caregiving wonders, like my son’s Grandma, are like well-oiled machines and can get SO much done and help SO many people in need that it’s not uncommon for them to put self-care at the bottom of their list. And these amazing humans sometimes don’t know how to say no when it’s just too much. That’s where we all come in!
Take a look below for a few simple, affordable ways to lend a hand or make someone smile. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to support them. The best things in life are often free. And in the spirit of human connection, free is often more valuable.
Drop off a meal: You don’t have to be a professional chef! You can make a gourmet meal OR bring them soup and bread from a local restaurant. Either way, it’s one less task for them in a given day and we all know that food makes people happy.
Invite them for a walk in nature: Ahhhh Nature. It feeds the soul more than we know! Just 20 minutes of sun, fresh air, and moving the body can recharge a person a great deal. Even a chat outdoors on a bench can offer a much-needed break.
Offer a little yard work: How nice would it be to arrive home to a raked yard, a shoveled sidewalk, or a swept front porch? …It would be SO nice!! Enough said.
Find a time to give them a break: Set a time for a visit and stay! Arrive for your scheduled visit and offer to stay for an hour or two and help with whatever they need. (” oh, don’t clean my kitchen ”, said no one ever). Encourage them to leave for a couple hours or they may choose to stay and let you take over for a bit.
Send a handwritten note: We all can shoot a quick text or send an email, but a handwritten note or card speaks volumes. It is so much more personal and getting fun mail is so exciting!
Drop off a treat: Everyone loves treats! Leave a little something they probably wouldn’t pick up for themselves. A plant or flowers, a fresh baked something, a holiday decoration for their door, or a festive beverage you know they love.
Include them: Invite them to fun activities and gatherings or a movie night with popcorn and ice cream on the couch. Simply getting an invite can help a person to feel good and give them a reason to take a break. All they need to do is show up.
Make a donation: Make a small book or clothing donation in their name to a place you know they support. Maybe it’s a school, or church, or community center. It’s pretty easy to find places that need donations these days.
Run an errand: Whether it’s offering to pick something up for them or offering to make the drive somewhere to give them a break, taking that “to do” off their list is a thoughtful gesture.
LISTEN: These lovely souls generally don’t complain about anything! But when they do, listen. Unloading a worry or frustration, talking through a challenge, or giving them space to vent is priceless. If helpful, find a few caregiver support groups in their area and provide them with contact info.
I am always amazed by my mother-in-law. The selflessness, flexibility, enjoyable presence, grace, and brains for days is admirable. So, this goes out to each and every caregiver: We are here for you and we won’t always ask what you need but will contribute to your success by creatively supporting you (aaaand probably still ask what you need sometimes).
Add more to this list and keep it handy and share it! See which one makes sense for you and personalize it. And remember, you may have to gently hip check your way into their life to offer the help. But that’s how kindness is spread sometimes!