Guest post by Amanda Evans-Clark, Founder of Cocktails & Chemo
Caregiving is a thankless job. It’s lonely, stressful and yet most caregivers will tell you there is nowhere else they’d rather be. Caring for my husband was the greatest honor of my life. I became like a wolf at his side ready to attack anyone who came in our way. From managing medications, talking to doctors, emailing updates to family and all while trying to process chemotherapies and insurance claims- it was overwhelming.
I started The Cocktails & Chemo Foundation because I knew that caregivers needed a voice, also because friends want to help but don’t always know where to start.
Here are 10 simple things that helped me out and I know can help a friend you have too.
#1 Don’t Ask. Just Do.
This can be tricky. No one wants to overstep but honestly being asked “how can I help” can feel like a whole other job. Caregivers don’t have time to come up with creative ways for you to help. They would love it if you just took something off their plate.
#2 Help With the Kids.
When a family is facing a diagnosis they want to try and keep things as “normal” for the kids as possible. Offer to do drop off or pick-ups or invite the kids to your house on a chemo day. Welcome this child like one of your own. Knowing that the littles are having fun while mom and dad are dealing with the nonsense of cancer is a HUGE stress relief.
#3 Hallmark Has It Right.
A simple card can go a long way. Stay away from the “Get Well” or “God has a plan” messaging- I think we can all agree with a “This sucks” and “F U Cancer” messaging. If you’re nervous what to say- say that- “I have no idea what to say but I know I want you to know I’m here.” A little snail mail can be just the pick up a caregiver needs on a hard day.
#4 Rally the Troops.
Often co-workers, friends or family want to help a caregiver but don’t know how. Be the leader and “rally the troops”- ask that everyone give $10 to purchase a gift card to Amazon or a local grocery store. Many people make for a light load and pulling the team together can be a big help for a caregiver.
#5 Help with Chemo Days
Chemotherapy days are long and lonely for both the patient and the caregiver. Ask if they’d be willing to let you come along and give the caregiver a day off. You can drive and even hang out with the patient while they snooze. OR bring the caregiver a coffee or offer to bring lunch. The break in the day and a friendly face may be just what they need.
#6 Food They Want to Eat.
I have mixed reviews on meal trains. I think the intention is amazing but can often leave the caregiver with a fridge full of food no one will eat and a feeling that they must entertain the person dropping it off. There are a few ways to do this right. #1- Set up a cooler on the front porch and leave the goods so no one has to feel obligated to chit-chat. Also, ask a close friend or family what their fav take out out is or a food delivery service drop off could also save the day. Gift cards for meals are always a plus. I’m not against casseroles but this can get overwhelming for the family.
#7 Be a Friend.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. Try not to offer advice of jump in. Just listen. The truth is the caregiver needs to feel safe to vent and complain. They need a non-judgmental place to say, “This sucks!” Stay away from clichés about how “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “God has a plan”- though your intentions are pure, these statements don’t feel good. Join in and say, “This sucks!” “You don’t deserve this!” “I’m amazed by you!”
#8 Send a Text.
Sometimes just s simple acknowledgement can be all a caregiver needs that day. Try and remember dates like chemo days or anniversaries and let the caregiver know you SEE THEM. A simple text message can do the trick- “I wanted you to know I am thinking of you, you’re amazing and I wish I could make this easier for you!”
#9 Show Up.
Buy the t-shirt, do the walk, help with the fundraiser. Asking for help is embarrassing and cancer families get stuck doing this a lot. Can you help with a home repair that maybe the patient usually handled? Can you cut grass or let the family borrow your cleaning lady for the week? Cancer touches every aspect of a life and SHOWING UP is the greatest gift you can give!
#10 Stick It Out.
Cancer isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Often the longer someone fights the more they need help and the more people get “tired” of supporting. Stick it out. Check in and don’t forget about the caregiver. They need us and need to know how much we appreciate all they do. Showing your support and love is the BEST way to be there for a caregiver.
Guest post by Amanda Evans-Clark
Founder of Cocktails & Chemo: A non-profit foundation dedicated to helping cancer caregivers. Visit CocktailsandChemo.com to learn more.
STILL LOOKING FOR A GIFT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE BATTLING CANCER? SHOP