How to Be a Friend to an Isolated Caregiver
Carol Bradley Bursack, Minding Our Elders | May 4th 2017 May 9th 2017
Caregivers are often isolated by the nature of their responsibilities. Some can’t leave home without arranging for someone to come and care for their loved one. Others are simply taxed to expend energy on friends no matter how lonely they may feel. So, how can you be a friend to an isolated caregiver?
Adapt to your friend’s situation
Your friend may have turned down your invitations, but don’t drop her from your list. She still needs to know that people care. It may be that her situation is so emotionally and physically overwhelming that she has no more to give. So pay it forward. Your reward will be that you helped someone you care for.
Ask your friend what she needs
Well-meaning people often don’t know what to offer, so they say and do nothing. Instead, simply ask your friend if she’d like company. If she wants you to drop by, ask her whether she’d like to go out or have you stay for a visit. Whatever you do, though, don’t make her play hostess. That will just add to her stress.
Listening deeply will make her feel cared for
Your friend is likely aware that people are tired of hearing how exhausted she is from caring for her spouse or parent, or how painful it is to watch their decline. Let her know that you care by listening as she talks about her situation. Ask questions, so that she knows someone cares about how she is.
Don’t judge or second guess
Most caregivers live with unearned guilt. Some choose to keep a loved one in their home. Others feel that it’s better to place them in a facility. Even if you’ve been a caregiver, you aren’t in her unique shoes, so don’t second-guess or judge a friend who is struggling to do the right thing. Let it go and support her.
Ask specifically what you can do to help
It’s so easy to say, “If there’s anything that I can do, just let me know!” The fact is, it’s better to mention something specific. Does she need you to pick up groceries on the way over? Or mail a package when you leave? Also, be alert to other ways you can help that only become apparent from visiting.
Respect your friend’s personality
Alone doesn’t always mean lonely. If your friend thanks you for your call but just wants to have some alone time, don’t make her feel guilty. Tell her you’ll support her however you can. If she’s social, however, be especially diligent about visiting. If a social person isolates, it could be a call for help.
Don’t let fear of failure keep you away
Fear of doing the wrong thing is a very human failing. Let it go. Don’t let this fear keep from being a good friend. So long as you’re sensitive and caring, you’ll do just fine. Try to be the friend your friend needs — she’ll appreciate knowing that someone cares about her.