“Caregiving is not a role you train for,” Paventi said. “It's one that is thrust upon spouses, children, and grandchildren. It can be overwhelming.”
The hardest part? There’s rarely any relief.
“At hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, the professional caregiving staff works in shifts,” Pfohl said. “If you are taking care of a seriously ill parent, spouse, sibling or child there are no second shifts coming in to relieve you. You’re it.”
It’s important, therefore, for friends and neighbors to make sure that the caregiver is cared for, as well.
“A little time for themselves can go a long way to rejuvenate a person’s spirit,” Pfohl said. If you are a family member or friend, offer to watch or sit with the patient while the caregiver gets some down time at a coffee shop or the library. If the caregiver can take an hour or two away from the patient, take them out to lunch. The distraction will be appreciated. Don’t be afraid to visit, call first and tell them you would like to stop by for a visit. Tell them you’ll bring the treat, baked goods, a cake, even a couple of cups of coffee or tea will be appreciated.”
Weeks said that, too often, people are reluctant to butt in for fear of doing something wrong.
“People tend to be afraid and not know what to say or do. They are afraid of doing the wrong thing, so they do nothing,” she said. “It's better to show up and say, ‘I don't know how to help, but I'm here,’ than to stay away.”
In addition to providing the caregiver with company, both Pfohl and Weeks suggested helping with day-to-day tasks like shoveling snow, making dinner or picking up groceries.
“Sometimes help comes in the way of the mundane,” Pfohl said. “It’s the little tasks in life that can overwhelm people and stress them out.”