The Best Gift for Dementia Caregivers is Time Off

Caregivers want the gift of time or respiteI read a beautifully written letter in Dear Abby recently that plainly states what it is that dementia¬†caregivers need most. “A Friend of Yours” writes the following from which we can all learn as we try to support those caring for loved ones afflicted with dementia:

DEAR ABBY: My wife has dementia. Our children don’t live close by, so I’m her only caregiver. One afternoon a week I hire someone to stay with her so I can grocery shop, do banking and run necessary errands. Neighbors and friends over the years have offered the standard, “If I can do anything to help, let me know,” but I’m not the type to call and ask, although it would be wonderful to have more hours to myself to do things in a leisurely manner rather than like running a marathon.

I know people are busy, but it would be great if some of those who offered help would call occasionally, tell me they have an afternoon or evening free (or even an hour or two) and give me a little breathing room.

I don’t begrudge one moment of the time I have spent caring for my wife. She has, for 50 years, been a marvelous wife, a wonderful mother and the center of our family. Whatever I do for her can never repay the comfort, strength and joy she has brought into my life. But I cried (privately) on Christmas Day after the family had finished our gift exchange, because I had no time to go and buy her a gift.

Please advise your readers that if the offer of help they extend is real, to please check their schedules, find some time they are willing ot give, CALL that friend, neighbor or relative and offer to sit with their loved one. That thoughtful gesture will be appreciated beyond what they could possibly ever imagine. – A FRIEND OF YOURS

I think most caregivers feel this way; they are unwilling to ask for the help and the time off they so desperately need. The next time you wonder how you can help a friend who is an Alzheimer’s caregiver, just pick up the phone and tell them you are coming to help and don’t take no for an answer. You will be supporting them more than you will ever know, and it could be the start of a beautiful relationship for all of you.

Along the same lines, I’ve just found a list of “Caregivers’ 8 Least Favorite ‘Helpful’ Comments” noting things you should never say to dementia caregivers. Avoid saying these things and instead offer your time for a gift that will be appreciated more than anything else.

Letter courtesy of Dear Abby

2 thoughts on “The Best Gift for Dementia Caregivers is Time Off

  1. Marty

    Also, having friends come over to spend time with the caregiver is huge. One of the things that makes me cry is that I no longer get to engage in conversation with people because I’m alone with my mother. No wonder so many caregivers end up with dementia themselves.
    A glass of lemonade on the porch with a friend would be a huge gift too.

    1. Kathleen H. Wheeler Post author

      Thank you, Marty, for your additional suggestion, another great idea to help caregivers. I think many people are afraid to see dementia up close and therefore just stay completely away, which makes caregivers so isolated. People need to understand that caregivers need interaction and human contact too, just like those afflicted with Alzheimer’s. We really need to get this word out to people to help caregivers with the difficult job they handle for such extended periods of time.


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