If you've ever wanted to do something to encourage your friend as a caregiver but haven't known what to do, here are some ideas to consider:
- Respite Care
Arrange for someone to stay with the person with dementia for a half a day each week. If you're available and willing, you could do this for your friend. Otherwise, you can offer to hire an in-home helper through a local agency or a nursing student through your local college or university. The level of respite care required and the symptoms of the person with dementia will determine if the caregiver must be formally trained or if you may be able to use a volunteer from a local agency to stay with the person.
- Run Errands
Maybe you can offer one afternoon a week or maybe one a month to run errands for your caregiver friend. Chances are, he has a hard time getting out to get groceries or to pick up the dry-cleaning, so perhaps you could offer to help with these tasks. Be sure to let your friend know ahead of time when you're available so he can make the most of the time you have available.
- Books on Alzheimer's or Dementia
Sometimes people have been thrust unexpectedly into the role of caregiver and are still learning what to expect from Alzheimer's or another dementia. A book that clearly explains the symptoms and typical progression of the disease, as well as some ways to handle and treat dementia's effects, could help provide your friend with some of the tools to cope well with disease and his new role with his loved one.
- Therapeutic Massage
Perhaps your caregiver friend is providing a lot of physical care to someone in the later stages of Alzheimer's or is a bit stressed out due to some behavior challenges of dementia. Provide a gift certificate for a therapeutic massage, as well as the respite care for that time period. Therapeutic massage can relieve sore muscles as well as internal tension and stress.
- Golf Tee Time (Or Other Fun Outing)
Schedule a time to take your buddy golfing, and make sure you provide capable respite care for that time. People who are providing care for a loved one may feel forgotten or a bit isolated due to their role and time constraints, so be intentional in offering this kind of social recreation.
- Home-Cooked Meals
Do you have the gift of cooking or baking? Offer to bring by a meal for the caregiver and their family. Tip: Rather than ask if you can bring a meal, let them know you're planning on bringing a meal and ask what day would work well for their schedule. Call ahead of time and ask for food preferences and allergies.
You can also consider setting up a meal schedule, with their permission, on a website that allows different people to sign up to provide meals on certain days. One such website that I've used is Take Them A Meal. For example, if the person with dementia is in the last stages of Alzheimer's or the caregiver is sick, you can create a schedule online for needed meals and encourage others to sign up. You can include dietary preferences and each meal maker can indicate what meal their bringing so that the person does not receive a similar meal several days in a row.
- Help With Household / Outdoor Chores
Can you help with lawn-mowing, snow-shoveling or blowing, or leaf-raking? Maybe you could weed the garden for your friend. Make the offer. While some caregivers may love the outdoor work because it provides a break for them from the caregiver role, others feel that they just can't dedicate the time to these jobs anymore.
- Laundry / Housekeeping
Offer to help with the laundry every week, or vacuum regularly for your friend. If possible, make it part of your routine so that she can rely on that help and know that you are committed to walking this road with her.
- Listening Ear
Take your friend out for coffee or go for a walk with her. Ask how she's doing and let her know that you really would like an honest answer to that question. And then, just listen. Ssshhhhh… Keep all of your opinions and ideas and suggestions to yourself for awhile and let the caregiver talk about whatever she wants to- whether that's the joys and challenges of her caregiver role or something completely unrelated. Be there for her. Be with her.
Alzheimer's Association. Holiday Gift Guide. Accessed November 27, 2011. http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_holiday_gift_guide.asp