10 Ways to be a True Friend to a Family Caregiver

10 Ways to be a True Friend to a Family Caregiver

A few years back my dad’s health declined rapidly, along with my mom battling Alzheimer’s disease.Stepping in to manage their care in Ohio, while living 1,300 miles away in Florida, was challenging to say the least.

After numerous trips and phone calls with hospitals, physicians, and caregivers, we moved Dad home to recover. Unfortunately, he died a few weeks later. With my father’s passing, we made the decision to move Mom in with us.

Although my husband is a Hospice Chaplain who ministers weekly to hundreds of caregivers, living it out on a personal, daily basis was new to us.

As we sought to live out Romans 12:10 by being devoted to my Mom in love and honoring her above ourselves, we felt the weight of responsibility.

Do you have a friend who is currently a caregiver? Are you not sure what you can do to help? Drawing from my own experience, as well as from my husband’s outreach, below are 10 things your caregiving friend needs from you.

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  • 1. Continuing Prayer

    1. Continuing Prayer

    Let your friend know you are keeping her in prayer. Ask her for specific prayer requests. Offer to pray with her over the phone or in person.

    James 5:16 encourages us to pray for each other, knowing that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

    We deeply appreciated prayers for God’s leading in my Mom’s care, confessing our need for day-by-day guidance in deciding what worked best for her.

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  • 2. A Listening Ear

    2. A Listening Ear

    Offer your friend a listening ear where she can safely express her feelings and emotions without judgment. Make sure to listen much and say little, like Proverbs 10:19 suggests.

    She may be going through a range of emotions and feeling guilty over some of those feelings. Weariness, exhaustion, and discouragement may be at work. Having a friend who she can share her struggles with can make all the difference in her coping with it.

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  • 3. Freedom to Laugh

    3. Freedom to Laugh

    One day, as my daughters and I were trying on wigs for fun, my Mom looked at us and started laughing saying, “I didn’t recognize you!” Of course her statement caused us to laugh, since with the Alzheimer’s, she already didn’t recognize us.

    Although there wasn’t anything funny about her declining memory, we could still find joy in shared moments with her.

    Proverbs 17:22 states a cheerful heart is good medicine, so reassure your friend it’s okay to find the humor in a situation and laugh as a caregiver.

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  • 4. Kind Encouraging Words

    4. Kind Encouraging Words

    Colossians 4:6 encourages our words to always be full of grace, as if seasoned with salt. Through a timely phone call, text, email, or thoughtful card, look for ways to speak kind and encouraging words to your friend.

    For me, these words came one day while helping my Mom button her blouse. Smiling and looking up at me she said, “You really care about me, don’t you? I can tell.”

    Her sweet words so moved my heart as I realized how the Lord was ministering to me through her, despite her deteriorating condition. Like Isaiah 50:4 reveals, the Lord can give us words to sustain the weary.

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  • 5. No Horror Stories

    5. No Horror Stories

    Well-meaning friends and co-workers warned us not to move Mom in with us, saying she would drain our energy and ruin our marriage. Although we did appreciate their concern and desire to spare us from a horrible experience, we still wanted to try caring for Mom.

    Ephesians 4:29 bids us to speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. So even if you know of caregiving horror stories, try to resist telling your friend about it and adding to fears she may already be having about her situation.

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  • 6. Enduring Friendship

    6. Enduring Friendship

    Keep your friend updated on what’s going on in your life. Invite her to outings even if you know she might not be able to attend. Caregiving can feel like a really lonely place. Let her know she hasn’t been forgotten.

    Take 1 Thessalonians 5:15 to heart, to always strive to pursue what is good for each other. 

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  • 7. Parental Support

    7. Parental Support

    Consider helping your friend out with her kids. Scripture encourages us to look to the interest of others (Philippians 2:4).

    Offer to pick-up her kids from school, or take them to their extracurricular class or activity. Invite them to an outing with your family or a play date at your house. Be available to sit with her loved one for a few hours so she can spend time with her children. 

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  • 8. A Little TLC

    8. A Little TLC

    Many caregivers give up their jobs and incomes to care for a loved one. If in a long-term care giving situations, your friend’s finances may have dwindled.

    Seek ways to love your friend as you love yourself (Galatians 5:14) through meeting a need for personal daily necessities.Gift cards for practical needs or a basket full of goodies, may help to provide essentials she’s been doing without for a while.

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  • 9. Everyday Help

    9. Everyday Help

    Moving Mom into our home was extremely challenging for our entire family. We found ourselves providing round-the-clock care, including managing her medication and finances, taking her to the doctor and dentist, planning her meals, providing personal care, and so on. Thankfully my husband, daughters, and I all worked together. Yet even with our in-house support, 24/7 care giving was exhausting!

    Scripture encourages us to carry each other's burdens, to help lighten one another’s load (Galatians 6:2). Drop your friend a meal off or gift card for local meal delivery. Offer to run errands for her such as to the post office, bank, grocery store, or pharmacy. Consider organizing volunteers to help with house cleaning, or other household chores like raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or shoveling snow. 

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  • 10. Respite Care

    10. Respite Care

    Offer to sit with your friend’s loved one for a few hours so she has a break. If you’re not able to do so, or if specialized care is needed, offer to research respite care for your friend. Various organizations offer hourly care, adult day care, and overnight stays.

    Ephesians 5:1-2 directs us to follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, like Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    With my Mom’s care, a friend told me about an adult day care at her local church. It seemed like a good fit since my Mom had been a pastor’s wife and the setting was in a church. It helped to fill her days with activity and relieved us of some of the seemingly endless hours of care.

    Scripture urges us to be like-minded, sympathetic, and to love one another by being compassionate and humble (1 Peter 3:8). Although each caregiving situation is unique, we can reach out to a friend through prayer, listening, laughter, kind words, no horror stories, enduring friendship, parental support, a little TLC, everyday help, and facilitating respite care.

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    Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters. She enjoys writing about faith, marriage, parenting, relationships, and life. Her writing has been published by Focus on the Family, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, kirkcameron.com, Ungrind.org, and more. She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University and serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.