Don’t say, “What can I do to help?” - I need a lot of help; the list is unbearable. But my pride gets in the way of asking. I don’t want you to feel put out. If you really want to help, be specific. Ask if you could do the grocery shopping, or if you can do the yard work. Better yet, just tell me you’re going to do it.
Remember me before I was a caregiver – Do you remember me before my mom was dying? Ask me about something other than how my mom is doing. I may not have seen that movie, but you asking makes me feel like there is still a world happening outside of caregiving. Remember that I love long runs, great shoes, and terrible jokes. Help me I remember I love them, too.
Understand I may decline an invitation (but still invite me) – I know I seem to have dropped off the earth since my Dad moved in with us. I know I have declined several invitations to get-togethers, happy hours, birthday parties, and even weddings. I want to be there, but sometimes Dad is having a bad day. Sometimes I’m just too tired. Please don’t stop including me. I need to know I am wanted.
Don’t try to fix my situation – When I need something done, I ask my husband. He’s a good fixer. When I need someone to listen, well, that’s not my husband. That’s why I have you, friend. You’ve always been that for me. Don’t stop now. I need a listener as much as I need a fixer.
Let me know you think of me – Many days I feel forgotten by the world. Please don’t you forget me, too. Send me a text, shoot me an email, have flowers sent just because. Drop by with a sandwich or coffee (or even wine).
Follow my lead – There are times I need to talk about my mom and how she’s doing. There are times I need to forget about my parents’ numerous doctor appointments, mountain of prescription bottles, new incontinence, bursts of rage, or never-ending crying. Sometimes I just need to be quiet and know that you’re there with me.
Don’t judge me – The house is often a mess. I’m often a mess. While you’re trying to find someone to housesit while you’re on vacation, I’m trying to figure out when I last left the house. It’s been 9,000 miles since my car had an oil change and I don’t go anywhere. I’m not sure the last time I was in the shower longer than 5 minutes. I know it’s all a mess, but pretend you don’t see it so I can pretend it’s not that bad.
Make me laugh – I spend so much time crying I forget how it feels to laugh. I long for those times when my cheeks and belly hurt from laughing. Can we have one of those times? Please.
Surprise me now and again – I don’t get many surprises, at least not the good kind. See # 5 for ideas.
Don’t pity me – This is a difficult time in my life, but it is also what I have chosen. There are moments of joy and delight (no matter how bleak a picture I describe). Don’t feel sorry for me. If you’re lucky, you’ll care for your parents someday, too.
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