Caregiver Support

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

Life changing events happen all the time. Some situations develop slowly and others happen without notice. Daily lives are filled with lots of responsibilities and “to do” lists. When you add the role of caregiver it is not unusual for a person to become overwhelmed.   Often friends and family members will offer help but many caregivers feel reluctant to accept help, not wanting to bother people who are already busy. Sometimes they may feel that there is not really anything that they can help with.

Some things to think about:
1. There are often little things that can be helpful. They may not take a lot of time and can allow the caregiver a break here and there.  It could be picking up a prescription, dropping off some clothes to be cleaned, getting a few basics at the grocery store, changing hard to reach light bulbs or setting up an email account on a new laptop.
If the caregiver makes a list of some of those types of tasks, it is possible to suggest a few of them when someone calls to help out in some way. One friend has some colleagues who offered to help out when her husband was seriously ill with cancer.  I was very impressed with how she handled these offers. Some of the things she had them do included returning some towels that were the wrong color while someone else took their car for an oil change. This allowed her to spend more time with her husband or take a little time for herself when needed. Checking the home while someone has been called out of town, watering plants and making sure there are some basic groceries in the house when the family returns is another way someone can be helpful.

2. Some people have special talents that can be offered when needed. Perhaps the family wants to Skype relatives out of town and needs someone to set that up. There may need to be a repair done and some calls to check out the best place to rent a needed piece of equipment.  One friend is now helping her neighbor organize her bills and writes checks with her supervision since her eyesight is failing.

3.  When a group of people decide to assist, there may be some projects that could be done such as moving furniture around to make it easier for the patient to get around safely. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with cleaning up the leaves in the fall and many hands can might make light work.

Several years ago Joanna Chernauskas and I created a book called Because You Care: What to do when you do not know what to do. Caregivers can look through the suggestions in a variety of areas and create a “to do”  list of needs for people to pick and choose from when they offer help. SAMPLE PAGE

Tips to Consider:
It is important to not add to the stress of the caregiver and here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Do not just drop by. Check first and make sure it is a convenient time. While it is nice to have visitors, there are often routines related to care and disruptions can make it harder to stay on schedule.
2. If you are bringing food, make sure there is room to store it. Also mark the item with the date that you made it or brought it.
3. Be sensitive to the busyness. Pay attention to what is going on and if there are nurses or therapists coming and going, you may need to shorten your visit. Perhaps while visiting there might be something to do to help out.
4. If you are gathering information for the caregiver or the person needing your assistance, put in writing the details since information overload is stressful.
5. Be mindful of the  length of your stay and look for signs that it is time to leave. In some cases you may bring over a meal and eat together if this is a person who would like to have some company.

TO DO THIS WEEK: Think about some of the people who have helped you. While you may not always be able to help the person who has been there for you, consider paying it forward.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”    Winston Churchill

Links to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show: Caregiver Support
Memory Fitness products by Kathryn Kilpatrick

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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