We recently ran an interview with Amy Goyer for the AARP Rewards Newsletter, here is some of that great conversation:
When it comes to caregiving, Amy Goyer has the credentials. She authored Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving and cared for her grandparents, parents and sister. So we thought she’d have some tips on how to thank and support the caregivers in your life. She did not disappoint.
Q1. As a caregiver, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions about caregiving?
People think caregiving is all gloom and doom, but there's actually quite a bit of joy in it! Caregiving comes with a sense of reward—that you're helping someone you care about. Even those who care for someone they really don't have that great of a relationship with can say they feel good about doing "the right thing." No matter where you're coming from, there’s a lot of joy in it.
Q2. How can someone close to a caregiver help...without being intrusive?
If you have a caregiver in your life, the easiest thing you can do is reach out and offer lots of positive reinforcement. So often when we're caregiving, we don't feel appreciated or the sense that anybody sees us or understands everything we're going through. Any little thing you can do to help lighten the load is also useful, whether you offer to bring a meal, run an errand or make plans to take them out to dinner or a movie.
Q3. You’ve recommended that caregivers build a team that can help in big and small ways. If someone in the community wants join a caregiver’s team, even in a small way, what’s the right way to offer?
When you say, "Let me know if I can help some time," it’ll often go unanswered because as a caregiver, when you really, really need the help is when you're least apt to reach out and ask for it. You're just so low. So offer something like making dinner for them on a specific night, and be sure to ask about their dietary needs. What you're offering should be something they can use and won’t create more work for them.
You might simply ask, "What are your biggest challenges right now?” With that approach, you can help in a way that’s practical for both the caregiver and the person they’re caring for.
Q4: We’ve talked about many things people should do for caregivers. What are some things people shouldn’t do, say or offer?
Don’t say, "You should be doing XYZ," or "You shouldn't do that." That’s not helpful at all. You’ll have to do some research and a little homework first, then really listen to them. Don't come in and offer criticism—it’s just not helpful. Don't tell a caregiver what you would do. Tell them what they’re doing well, and then build on that.
I wrote an article for AARP.org called “Taboo to Caregivers” which offers more details about what to avoid when talking with a caregiver.
What do you think about this interview? Can you relate? How?
All of these kinds of tips are incredibly helpful. I think the biggest struggle is the sense of isolation so i like the idea of a "dream team" for each of us -- a group of people we can call on for various things. thanks Amy.
Hello Amy I was just wondering how to get involved with in volunteering. I was a CNA about 20 some years ago and I miss it so much. I currently work at Walmart has a cashier and once in a while I get to help a customer with their shopping which I love so much. I have some extra time and would love to help others that need it. If you could emaime back that would be super
You can contact one of the Volunteer Caregiving programs in your area - the National Volunteer Caregiving Network has a listing on their website. Volunteers do a wide variety of things from driving people to appointments to shopping, friendly visiting etc. They have a directory of local programs here: https://nvcnetwork.org/wp/index.php/program-map-2/
You could go to an assisted living or nursing facility, senior center or adult day services center and ask about their volunteer programs and sign up. You might help with activities, for example, friendly visiting etc.
Another idea is to contact your local area agency on aging and ask about volunteer opportunities in your area so you can work with older adults. You can find your area agency on aging by searching in the Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.acl.gov. (They can also help you connect with the senior centers and adult day services centers in your area).
@AARPTeri thanks for posting this! There is so much other people can do to help a caregiver - often it's help for the caregiver's life so they can be freed up to do the caregiving tasks or self-care they need/want to do. I had a concierge, Debbie, who was a lifesaver for me. She sorted my mail (which I was receiving for myself and 3 other family members I was caring for at one time - it was overwhelmimg and I was always worrying about what I was missing when I didn't have time to go through it!), she helped me clean out closets, put up holiday decorations, run errands, check in on my parents etc. These are all things friends and family can do too!
Loved Amy's interview! Great tips and I can relate to all of them. It means so much to me when people make a gesture of support without needing to be asked or instructed. Something as little as doing a load of laundry or walking the dog make a big difference. And having friends who would listen without giving advice was a lifesaver. Advice can be helpful too, but sometimes we don't want that kind of support. We just want to talk it out. Thanks for posting this, Teri!
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