Help? Absolutely

Help? Absolutely

People who have never been caregivers frequently make the mistake of grossly
underestimating how stressful the job can be. They have a tendency to roll in like
a bowling ball with advice and instruction, and the result can be that the
legitimate caregiver’s proverbial pins topple over with a deafening clatter. What
they don’t realize is that their unsolicited recommendations can actually
contribute to an overall breakdown in a caregiver’s ability to function effectively.

It’s important for people to realize that the job of providing care is filled with
stress and uncertainty which is only made worse by the faultfinding and nit-
picking of those who bear no responsibility, but believe they know how the
caregiver could “do it better.”

Consider the stress these caregivers undergo. If a patient has one of the
dementias, the caregiver is having to act for them without the benefit of being
able to discuss care options with them; I went through that with my
grandparents. It was agonizing to watch them steadily decline, she with
Alzheimer’s and he with an unspecified dementia, knowing all the while that I was
unable to stop the disease that had claimed them both. Experience taught me
that caregiving is not just an equation with a pre-determined set of steps to arrive
at a hard and fast solution.

So what can the person with no caregiving experience do? Start with a simple
offer to help out. Offer to let the caregiver have an afternoon off, or bring the
caregiver some coffee and muffins and spend a little time visiting with them. Let
the caregiver talk to you; most of the time the caregiver doesn’t want you to
“solve the problem” for them, but they would really love to have a listening and
supportive friend.

All caregivers start from a point of relative ignorance, and they make plenty of
mistakes along the way. But they are trying; they’re working with medical
professionals and they are gleaning wisdom from other caregivers with similar
experience. So, you who have never had to serve as a caregiver, hold on to that unsolicited advice you’re itching to give. Remember, it’s the assigned
caregiver—not you—who’s got the weight of the responsibility. Please don’t add
to their burden with the implication that they’re not doing it right.


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