Someone you know has recently taken on caregiving responsibilities. You want to show your support, but you aren’t sure what to say? Here are some tips on what not to say and suggestions on how to be supportive.

I hear a lot of these comments from people who probably should know better; I attribute it to them wanting to help, but not having the correct vocabulary, similar to when someone passes away. They want to commiserate, show empathy and affection, but don’t understand what to say or do. It’s okay. I’m far from perfect, too, and have said dumber things in my life. We live and learn and do the best we can. – Dean P.

What not to say

“The worst things I heard while care giving were, ‘Everything happens for a reason and God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’…also, ‘It won’t last forever’, no, it won’t but, that means my mom will have died and that’s not really a comfort.” – Odilia S.

I hate it when people say “I don’t know how you do it.” I suppose that’s meant to be some kind of compliment, but what I hear is “I sure wouldn’t want to deal with what you have to.” – DeDee M.

Don’t tell a caregiver with a sibling that will not lift a finger to help, visit or call his mother that the sibling should be let off the hook because “he had a difficult upbringing.” Don’t these people realize you grew up in the same house with the same screwed up parents? – Debra H.S.

Any comment the begins with “just be glad…” – Tammy H.H.

“You’re just a caregiver, you don’t have a real job?” – Debra R.

I hate it when people ask me what I do all day. I am a caregiver and it isn’t easy! – Kim P.

People ask some very personal questions. I don’t know when it became okay to talk about my husband’s hygiene and sex life, just because you’re curious. I just roll my eyes when people inquire. – Mandy L.

Don’t tell them not to worry because their loved one won’t be around forever. – Elizabeth M.F.

My pet peeve is when people comment, “I know just how you feel!” Reality is you can’t possibly know how I feel unless you live the EXACT same life I have. Even if you are an only child caring for your mom with TBI/Dementia and you pulled up stakes to take care of things…you really don’t know just how I feel. – Cameron G.

“You’re not working outside the home, so you have PLENTY of time! I’m just too busy ’cause I’m single and have to do everything for myself.” – Jeannette B.L.

“[People said] my mom was selfish for continuing to live on so I can continue to take care of her. That was the most hurtful thing I had ever heard. I cry and my heart breaks every day. My mom passed from breast cancer this past Feb. I took care of her until her last breath. I would do it over and over.” – Helene B.

So, what should you say?

Words are cheap…go over and help…drop by with a treat…vacuum the living room…or sit with loved caregiver can get out…the thing I prefer to hear…is from someone in same position..saying…I know it’s hard…because…it validates it somehow…the most helpful thing said to me at the beginning of this journey came from my best friend..who also cares for her mom with dementia…I was bawling from the range of emotions I was feeling…and feeling lost…she said…so you don’t recognize yourself…eh?…I was so relieved…that she had those feelings as well…I so needed that emotional support…no I didn’t recognize myself…and neither did she…and it was okay… – Beth S.

There’s a saying in Spanish (Quieres se murió. Toma lo mató.) that, translated, basically says: ‘Don’t ask, just do.’ Don’t ask me to call you if I need a break. Ask me which day this week you can relieve me. – Maya S.

Tembi has other suggestions for how to make a caregiver’s day over at The Kitchen Widow.

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