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10 Things you should never say to an Alzheimer’s caregiver

alzheimer's careYour best friend is taking care of her mom who has Alzheimer’s. You call your friend to make lunch plans, but she is always busy. You try to be supportive and tell her to call you if she needs anything, but your friend seems almost angry at the offer. Why? There are many things that caregivers hear, which are meant in a kind and supportive way but come across in the opposite way from the original intention. Here are some common comments which you should not say to your friend, who provide Alzheimer’s care.

🛑Call me if you need anything.

The caregiver already has her to-do list full, and often does not even know where to begin. Adding another item to that list will not relieve the stress, but rather add to it. If you want to help, bring something specific, like a cooked meal or a bag of groceries, or offer to do something specific, like a couple of loads of laundry, or shovel (or sweep) the sidewalk

🛑You look tired.

This is never a compliment. When a caregiver is up in the middle of the night taking care of her loved one with Alzheimer’s and is up early in the morning to cook and clean and complete the many tasks she has to complete that day, she is definitely tired. The last thing she may have time to do is primp and put on some makeup to hide the under eye circles and droopy eyes. And she does not need you to tell her she has seen better days. What you can offer instead, is to take over the caregiver duties for a few hours, and give her time to rest or relax – or even get a manicure.

🛑I don’t know how you do it.

This implies that the situation is so out of hand that the caregiver has lost control and is barely hanging on. Instead, praise him for the way he is handling specific responsibilities.

🛑Things can always be worse.

This is bad for two reasons – one, you are belittling the effort that the caregiver is putting forth right now, and two – yes, it is true that things can be worse – and that’s exactly what the caregiver may worry about.

🛑God doesn’t give you more than you can handle/It’s God’s plan/she or he’s in a better place.

These things are appropriate to say when the person you are speaking to is a believer also. Otherwise, people get annoyed because what they are going through does feel like it is more than they can handle.

🛑I know exactly how you feel – I went through the same thing.

Maybe you had a similar experience, but each person’s feelings are unique.

🛑Nothing.

You may not want to say anything at all because you don’t know what to say, and you don’t want to say something that will annoy or hurt the caregiver. A warm handshake or hug, along with a flower or a casserole, will go a long way.

🛑Your mom was a great person

if said while mom is still alive, is insensitive and cruel, and sounds like you already gave up on her. She still is a great person.

🛑It takes a special person to do what you do.

The implication here too is that what they have to do is so terrible that it’s a wonder they are still standing. Not very motivating. 

🛑You will get your reward in heaven.

This is a nice thing to say to a believer. However, to a lot of people, it is better to offer a reward right here on earth – a gift card for a manicure, a movie, any distraction or relaxation will be appreciated.

Even though many of these things would be considered hurtful or offensive to some people, don’t be shy to express your sympathy to the з caregiver, and to offer a practical gift, or at least give the caregiver the chance to vent. Most caregivers will appreciate the sentiment in the spirit in which it’s given.

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