Caring for a Caregiver

Family Health, Healthy Living
on September 20, 2011
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QUESTION: My friend Theresa is caring for her elderly mother and father, in addition to her husband and two young children. She is terribly overwhelmed and stressed. I have offered my help repeatedly, but she never accepts my offers. I know I’m not the only friend who has asked her if there is something I can do. Others have tried also. Do you have any thoughts on why she won’t accept my offers? I just want to lighten her load.  She has always been there for me.—Erika

DEAR ERIKA: Often, caregivers have a difficult time accepting help. Oddly enough, they are usually the ones who are the first to help others. They see accepting help as a weakness when, in fact, asking for help is a strength. I have known many caregivers like Theresa. The best way to get her to accept your kindness is to avoid putting her in a position of having to make a decision.  As the famous slogan says: Just Do It! Show up on her doorstep with a lovely dinner all prepared and ready to eat. Buy two tickets to a local movie theater, present them to Theresa and her husband, and be available to babysit that evening. Make her an appointment at a local salon for a manicure and pedicure. Send her a gift card and let her know you’ll be there to hold down the fort while she takes a couple of hours to re-energize. By forcing the issue, you will allow your friend to graciously accept your offers without leaving her feeling like she is imposing on you. Theresa is fortunate to have a friend like you.

Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (, the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor