How make a caregiver smile
By Rick Lauber
Smiling maybe one of the most unlikely thing a busy caregiver finds themselves doing but it can also be one of the most beneficial for their health and well-being.
Considering their unusually steep learning curves and increasingly unexpected challenges, a simple smile may not be on the face of the average caregiver. But a bit of cheer and support may just brighten their day, and yours.
So, if you know a caregiver who is struggling, here are a few simple ideas that lead him/her to flash a smile more often…
Take on a task
Run an errand, pick up a senior’s prescribed medication from the pharmacy, offer to drive a loved one to an appointment, or go grocery shopping for the caregiver. These jobs (along with many others …) all take plenty of time and energy to complete. By lending an extra set of hands you’ll be helping them reduce their daily to-do list and grab a few minutes to recharge. Even the smallest offer will, I’m sure, be welcomed and, if not, see if you can surprise them with a dinner delivery, a box full of basics or a bunch of fresh flowers.
Buy a gift card
Available for department and specialty stores, restaurants, coffee shops, movie theatres, spas, and more, they offer a bit more choice for the caregiver. (I recently found a gift card for a botanical garden tour located near my home which I gifted as an appreciated birthday present).
• For a special treat, choose a favourite spot that is still possible for them to get to or use a gift card at and give him/her a special treat.
• For extra meaning, tuck your gift card into a hand-written card sharing your support.
• Taking the gift card idea one step further, you could also give a gift basket chock full of wonderful and pampering items (e.g. chocolate, bath soaps, perfume, a bottle of wine, etc.).
Caregivers can often feel isolated, forgotten or misunderstood as all the attention is generally focused on the one who needs care. When you’re stopping by, calling or emailing start with them first.
Ask how are You doing, then “how is Mom/Dad doing?”, I like taking this approach and have found the reactions to be not only somewhat pleasantly surprising but also greatly appreciated.
With caregivers outside your immediate circle, you could also ask questions to try to get to know them better and find out a little more about their interests, backgrounds etc. With all the attention on the “patient” so to speak they may enjoy a little personal attention and interesting conversation.
Of note. Regular phone calls (or even an e-mail or text message or a card) can be a good way to check in, but doing so personally and face-to-face can be ideal at the right time, of course.
When speaking with a caregiver, try not to monopolize the conversation or offer lengthy amounts of well-meant advice.
• Asking questions to get the discussion started or to better pinpoint problems is fine, but allow the caregiver time and opportunity to answer, share or even vent.
• Be patient as the caregiver may be uneasy with disclosing personal details, health information about a loved one, and/or private feelings as to what’s really going on. They may not want to bother you… be afraid of losing their job of the parent is moved or simply be respecting the person in their care’s dignity and privacy.
I well remember being hesitant to talk about Dad’s Alzheimer’s disease as I felt this, and his subsequent mental and physical decline, were confidential matters. On a related note, remember also that for the patient or person being cared for being only spoken at rather than being spoken with can be greatly frustrating, especially
when their nearby.
Offering some genuine praise can also be an easy thing to do and can certainly brighten a caregiver’s day, even for a few fleeting seconds. For a family member providing care, remember the extra work they are doing and recognize what they might be sacrificing.
If you don’t know what to say to a paid caregiver, a few welcomed comments could be “Thank you for helping ____ and our family”, “We appreciate everything you do”, and/or “I honestly don’t know how I could do everything without your help.”
Granted, making a person smile may not completely overcome all of their day-to-day struggles, but along with words of encouragement and kind gestures, it will not only boost their mood and energy but, ideally make them feel recognized and appreciated.
Rick Lauber is a freelance writer. He has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide.