How to Support a Caregiver

There are things you can do to support friends or family members who are responsible for the care for someone with a terminal illness or condition.

  • Make Specific Offers
    People who are in crisis have enough difficulty making decisions and thinking things through clearly without presenting them with the additional problem of deciding how you can help them.
    Avoid saying:
    • What can I do to help?
    • Call me if you need me.
    Instead say:
    • May I bring you dinner on Thursday night?
    • May I take you to your appointment of Friday?
    • Let me know if you think of another way I can help
  • Be Reflective
    Allow your friends or loved ones to "be where they are." Reflect their feelings back to them through "active listening" rather than trying to change their feelings through minimizing what the problem is or diminishing their concern. Don't try to move them out of their feelings.
  • Let Them "Tell the Story"
    It is very therapeutic for some people to tell their story again and again. It can be tedious to listen to the same thing over and over, but when you know it is helpful, it makes it easier to listen.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions
    Rather than asking questions that can be answered by yes or no or a short answer, ask questions that are more likely to be answered in a "paragraph." Use "how" or "what" to begin questions. Examples of open-ended questions:
    • How are you feeling?
    • What is this like for you?
    • How do you feel about....?
    • What does....mean to you?
  • Respect Areas Designated "Off Limits"
    Avoid those subjects that the person does not feel comfortable talking about. Be open-minded and nonjudgmental. Don't open up topics that you feel uncomfortable with or aren't equipped to deal with. Don't bring up a subject that will take time to talk over if you don't have the time to listen right then.
  • Don't Do Anything—Just Be
    You aren't responsible for the situation, and you can't "fix" it. Just your presence and concern is comforting. Be sensitive to their need to "not talk" and their wish to be alone at times.

    The nonverbal part of our communication is very important. Eye contact and body language communicate a great deal.
  • Don't Worry If You Aren't Perfect
    You are communicating your love and concern, and that is the most important thing.

Transitions is a community program from Benton Hospice Service designed to help individuals and families live well with a serious, life-limiting illness. Transitions is for those who are either not ready for, or not appropriate for, hospice care.

- See more at: /for-caregivers/transitions/#sthash.ZGVtdRzT.dpuf
How to Support a Caregiver

Contact Us About Caregiver Support

If you need to speak to someone immediately, please call 541.757.9616.