Helping Caregivers

Anyone who has watched a caregiver deal with a terminally ill loved one knows how difficult those days can be. When the helper’s world seems out of control, friends can offer assistance and assurance of God’s love. Here are some ways to help the close friends and family members of those losing a loved one.

Be normal. Part of dealing with oncoming death is the realization that life goes on. Be yourself. Tell the caregiver about your day. Ask about other parts of his life. Listen intently. Don’t discourage him from talking about the obvious situation, but give him a hand in seeing other parts of his world.

Provide mini getaways. Your friend will benefit from a break. Treat her to dinner, an ice cream cone, or a short walk. Tell funny stories and share smiles about the one who is slipping away. A good laugh will refresh your friend before she reenters the care zone.

Phone. Brief, “just-checking-in” phone calls will remind a caregiver that you’re praying.

Look for the little things. Don’t tell a caregiver to call you with a need. Look for needs, and just do it. Fix a meal. Clean. Run errands. Walk the dog. Feed the cat. Pay bills. Take the sick person to the doctor. Sit with the patient so your friend can take a nap.

Encourage the caregiver to “spot-jot.” Give the caretaker a journal and a pen. Then encourage him to record his thoughts, feelings, and prayers. As time goes by, the written record of God’s doings during difficult days will build his faith.

Carry on with the kids. If the caregiver has children, these kids probably feel stressed. Spend some quality time with them. Help them with daily needs and activities. When parents are preoccupied, a bit of attention from you can go a long way.

Encourage honesty. Assure caregivers that it’s normal for them to have flare-ups of anger, loneli­ness, and despair. Be attentive enough to recognize when a friend gets stuck or starts to stumble.

Lift spirits. Get together and release some he­lium-filled balloons. Pray that God will keep your friend’s spirits lifted toward Him.

Make a treasure chest. Challenge the caregiver to write down one thing each day that she can thank God for. Instruct her to toss these “treasures” into a special box. My friend often wrote down her dad’s silly sayings. Each of these words is now a permanent treasure.

Interview others who’ve been through similar situations. Try every good idea they give you. Ask them to encourage your caregiver friend.

No matter how quickly or slowly a loved one dies, one thing is certain. Our hope is found and grounded in Christ. Daily refocusing on this fact can im­prove one’s vision and make the process easier for everyone.

Rhonda Reese
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists