“Looking back, many people gave me supportive words about how
great Nana was and how sad it was that she was losing her mind, but I
already knew that. It might’ve been more helpful if people said things
like, ‘This sucks. I’m here for you.’ It would’ve been nice to hear
those words to not feel alone, to have people acknowledge the crappiness
of the situation rather than trying to be so bubbly and positive.
(That’s okay, too, but being real and authentic about that reality,
however crappy, means more.)” –Emily O.
- It’s hard work being a caretaker. It can be both emotionally and
physically draining, and that doesn’t need to be ignored. Even if you
don’t totally understand what they’re going through, you can commiserate
and say “I know this is hard, and I’m sorry.”
“The best and most helpful conversations that I had during this
time were with a couple of friends who also had parents going through
serious elder-care experiences at the same time. We could vent, share
tips and, yes, even laugh. Then the next time I’d see my mom I was more
likely to have extra reserves of patience. The shared experience was
important.” –Matt G.
- If you do understand the care-giving experience, others may benefit
from your perspective. Don’t dole out unsolicited advice, but be open to
sharing stories of your journey that may resonate with other caregivers
to alleviate the common feeling of being alone in this challenging
“During those times just hanging out with her in her hospice
room, we had a lot of wonderful conversations about our childhoods, her
grandchildren, often while my daughter and I would be sorting her mail
or going through her old letters from the bottom of her desk drawers to
read them to her.” –Matt G.
- Many caregivers will find comfort in cherished memories of life
with their loved one before he or she became ill. So it’s OK to ask
questions about their loved one. Not everyone will be comfortable
talking about them—and they’ll let you know—but many want to share their
stories and perhaps remember better days.