Caring for the Carers

I was speaking to a friend the other day whose husband is going through chemotherapy.

“How are you?”  I asked her.

“Well it’s been hard, his medication is still not right, he is in a lot of pain and so tired……”

“ Thank you for sharing that with me, but I actually asked how YOU are, not him?”.

“Oh……….” her eyes filled up with tears, “ I don’t really know…”

When you have a family member going through physical or mental illness a lot of time and energy goes into focusing on their needs and rightly so.

But we mustn’t forget about the other people that are also worried, stressed and exhausted during this difficult time.

Working full time with people with all kinds of illness, and having nursed dying family members, I fully appreciate the toll on the person in the caring role. We can feel helpless and powerless at times watching the people we love suffer, and how alone it can feel to hold this responsibility.

It can be hard to know what to do to help, so here are a few suggestions that you can do to help the patient and the carer:

  1. Bake a healthy casserole/lasagna dinner and just drop it over. The patient may have little or no appetite, but the rest of the family still need to eat as normal.
  2. Offer to drive to hospital appointments. Close family often want to be present for hospital trips but due to other commitments may not be able to make all of them.
  3. Take the patient’s children to a fun park or a museum for the day to let the parents have a rest. Or even better still, have the kids for a sleepover!
  4. The patient’s partner may love a night at the movies or an evening in the pub to remind themselves of life outside the house. An “illness-free” evening will give them more energy to return to caring.
  5. Gift some beautiful smelling pure essential oils or Emergency essence (a combination of flower essences to relieve stress and worries).
  6. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Send funny memes or comedy suggestions. For me the greatest relief came from friends making me laugh when the situation was very serious.
  7. If you are cash-rich but time-poor offer to pay for some gardening services, car valeting, cleaning or babysitting help.
  8. Don’t forget about the pets! Dog walking or mucking out horses are big responsibilities that may be too much for a family caring for an ill member. Set up a rota with other friends if you can’t commit to a dog walk a day.

Some people find it hard to ask for help so rather than say “Call me if you need anything”, suggest a definite plan that you are prepared to do. For example “I would love to take the kids to the movies on Saturday”. Or “I can cook for you all on Tuesday”.

With so much mental health and physical illnesses being diagnosed right now, I am sure you have a friend who needs some help.

Lets spread some love today.