My dad suffered from dementia for three years. During that time, I watched my mom slowly transform from just a wife to a wife and a caregiver. In case you’re wondering, that’s a crappy position to be in.
As my dad worsened, my mom, who was still working as an elementary school teacher at the time, had to hire someone to stay with my dad during the day while she worked. The caregiver had to arrive at 6:30 a.m. so my mom could make it to school in time, and then she would rush home for the caregiver to leave at 4 p.m. She had to carefully schedule all of her errands, such as medicine pick up, getting gas, and getting groceries, because, toward the end, Dad had to have 24/7 care.
I’ve had friends and other family members who have dealt with similar issues, whether it be caring for an ailing parent or other family member or dealing with personal longsuffering. And, while I personally haven’t been a caregiver, I have seen basic needs that we all could meet.
Just show up. There’s an insightful book by the same name that documents two friends as one of them suffered and eventually died from cancer. And the point of that book was simply just to show up. Just go for a visit. Call. Text. Especially for someone who is dealing with long-term suffering, it is a blessing to realize you haven’t been forgotten. That your loved one hasn’t been forgotten. And when you show up…
Mind your manners. Read this article. No, seriously, go right now and read it. Because I can’t sum it up better.
Bring food. Maybe it’s because I really like to eat, but some of the sweetest moments in dealing with Dad’s dementia was when I would have really hard, long days and friends would bring over dinner to me and my family. They wouldn’t even give me an option other than, “What time do you want dinner?” That was such a blessing during days when I had driven two hours or three hours to spend all day at the hospital with him.
Offer something specific. “Just Show Up” mentions this, but don’t be vague with your offers to help. Yes, it’s nice to say, “Whatever you need, let me know,” but it’s a lot easier if you are specific with what you can help with. “I’ll babysit your kids tomorrow so you can go to the grocery store.” OR “I’ll pick up your groceries for you.” Sometimes the caregiver can’t think of what he or she needs or feels awkward asking for things such as childcare or groceries. So spell it out yourself. And always…
Pray. I can’t make a list of needs without including this, because we all need to pray. Continually. Throughout our day. In the shower. In the car. As our kids are running around the house with popsicles (or is that just mine?). Pray daily for those who are suffering, who you may not see regularly because they can’t come to church or go shopping or work anymore. Keep praying.
If you have any suggestions, too, please share!