Sometimes it is hard to ask for help, or even to know what to ask for when you are in the midst of dealing with a serious illness. There are several things you can do to help a caregiver focus on taking care of the patient while you assist with the every day things that can fall by the wayside. There might be something specific that the caregiver asks for, or maybe you can just call and say “Hey, I am heading to the drugstore today, is there anything I can pick up for you?” Here are some suggestions for helping ease the load of a caregiver with a few simple tasks:
Offer to pick up groceries. There are several grocery stores that now offer delivery. Help set up an account, or offer to run to the market once a week yourself.AmazonFresh is a great service, check it out here >
Organize meal planning. You can use a vendor like Meal Train to help organize friends and loved ones, or drop off pre-made meals that can be frozen or arrange to bring Sunday dinner each week. Whatever you bring will be appreciated, because that is one less worry for the caregiver. During my own illness, my friend Michelle would drop off huge bags of frozen meals, green salads, beverages and even desserts. It was a godsend for my husband, whose entire focus was on what he could make me that I could keep down. After working all day and taking care of my needs, by the time he got to feeding himself, he was exhausted. Having a whole meal ready to go in the refrigerator was incredibly helpful and so appreciated.
Take on an errand. You could pick up prescriptions or dry cleaning, take care of errands that have long lines, like the bank or the returns at department stores, take their car for service or put gas in it, take pets for grooming or walks (huge!), help with children’s appointments, daycare pickup or dropoff, school runs, activities or help with homework, take the kids to their baseball games, dance class or even social events like birthday parties, do the Target or Costco runs. Just think about the things in your everyday life that are stressful to you to get done, and magnify that by a thousand.
Arrange for housekeeping or spend a day cleaning yourself. There is nothing that bugged my mom more than sitting in her bed looking at dust on the shelves. But she was too sick to get up and clean it, so I tried to keep up on the housework when I would come in for the weekends. It made her feel better just having a clean house. We ended up getting a housecleaning service to help with the bigger things. Simple, but helpful.
Help do laundry. When I was helping to care for my mom, I would fly in and start doing laundry. I usually did about eight or nine loads and dropped off or picked up dry cleaning. These were just things my dad was not able to get to, as he was focused on getting my mom to treatments, trying to find something she would eat, and managing her medications. Laundry can be overwhelming, especially when it is left up to someone who doesn’t normally take care of it or if it has been left for some time. It is such an easy thing to do and helps so much!
Yard care. Nothing made my mom more crazy than her plants not being watered or the shrubbery needing trimmed. If hiring a temporary gardener is not an option, organize a day with a few friends to pitch in and take care of untended yard issues like mowing, weeding, watering and planting. It will be a huge relief to both the caregiver and the patient!
Financial/medical bills. This is a hugely stressful part of any traumatic illness. There are always mistakes on medical bills, insurance payments and little time to sit on the phone on hold to try and straighten it out.
- If the patient’s insurance offers a case manager, help set that up and monitor issues
- Offer to pay bills
- Follow up on insurance payments/errors
“Babysit.” Offer to stay with the patient so the caregiver can take a break for a few hours, a night or weekend. When my dad had to travel and I was not able to get home for the weekend, I would arrange for one of my mom’s lovely friends to stay with her. This relieved a lot of worry because we knew she was in capable, caring hands.
Appointments/Treatments. Offer to drive and stay with the patient at appointments or treatments so caregiver does not have to miss work. The caregiver will be relieved that there is someone trustworthy and familiar with the patient when they can’t be there and it will minimize both the patient and caregiver’s stress and anxiety
Organize! Organization can be overwhelming, so having someone capable to assist makes things a lot easier for the caregiver. Review what needs to happen for the week and find people to assist or offer to help yourself.
Get a pill planner container. Sounds simplistic but there are often several medications that need to be distributed at different times. There are pill containers now that have timers or days/hours to help manage this sometimes monumental yet crucial task.
Be nimble. You may have to do something on the fly, but whatever it is that is needed, it will be appreciated more than you know 😆
For additional resources, check these links from one of our favorite organizations, the Cancer Support Community. The former Wellness Foundation and Gilda’s Club have combined to become the Cancer Support Community, with over 170 locations worldwide.
Here are two of CSC’s radio shows, Long Distance Caregiving, and Improving Mental Wellness for Caregivers, that give great insights and helpful information in the ongoing journey of being a caregiver to someone you love.