AlzU Blog

5 Things NOT to Say to an Alzheimer's Caregiver

If you have a friend or family member who is an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you may be interested to find out which comments (with good intentions, of course) were the least helpful, according to other caregivers.

Whether you are talking to a paid or unpaid caregiver, part time or full time, a family member or professional acquaintance, here are the 5 most common statements caregivers have deemed better left unsaid:

“You really look like you need some rest.” Although many a person has uttered these words to a caregiver with nothing but good intentions, this is a statement many caregivers may not take very well in stride.  Many caregivers don’t have time to pay much attention to their own physical health or appearance.  After devoting endless hours (at times caregiving can be a 24/7 job), the last thing most want to have people comment on is their looks.  If you notice a caregiver who looks as though they need a rest, it may be better to just come right out and offer assistance.  Stepping up to the plate to help is an action step that may address the problem directly instead of side stepping the issue and unintentionally making what is perceived as a negative comment. 

“I know your mom would have been thankful for all your help, she was such a lovely person.”  Any statement made about a person with AD that is put in the past tense may automatically be taken as a huge negative.  If is disrespectful and sounds as if the person with AD is no longer around.  The last thing a caregiver wants to feel when putting in major effort is that his/her loved one with AD is not even able to receive the love and care given.

“On a spiritual level, just know that God will never give you more than you can deal with.” It’s not uncommon for caregivers of those in the later stages of AD to feel that they are taking on more than they can handle.  Try not to give a caregiver reason to doubt their spiritual source on top of everything else they may be going through.  Better to roll up your sleeves and simply offer to fill in for a few hours next week.

“How can I be of assistance?”  Believe it or not, this seemingly harmless question has gotten under the skin of many busy caregivers who don’t have time to keep a schedule and may not even realize what day of the week it is.  A more helpful approach would be to offer your schedule of available days (and tasks you are willing to do such as housekeeping, running errands or respite care).  Then let the caregiver know you can show up any of the days specified.  Don’t forget to include your phone number.

Making small talk to sidestep the issue altogether.  Many caregivers named this as their number one complaint when it came to people’s careless comments.  Even if you fumble and attempt to say the right thing, it shows you care.  Don’t avoid the topic of AD, here are some ideas for positive statements you could say:

  • “Can I help by driving to a medical appointment next week?”
  • “I can bring dinner over on Tuesdays if that would help.”
  • “How are you doing in the care of your loved one?”
  • “I’m available if you would like to talk about it.”
  • I can mow the lawn once a week, here are the days I’m available.
  • My family and church have you and your loved one on our prayer list.
  • I can help with house cleaning once a month on any Saturday
  • “Please tell me how you are really feeling.”

Better yet:

“I have a free spot in my schedule on Wednesdays from 12 noon on if you could use help with appointments, grocery shopping or any other type of errands I could run for you.”

Reaching out to offer specific times/days and tasks has been said to reach the heart of caregivers the most.  Many caregivers say they don’t want to inconvenience others by asking them to do specific tasks and they never know for sure just what the person offering help is comfortable with.  So, if you have a friend or a family member who is a caregiver, reach out to help, but remember to be specific.

To learn more about AD, check out our free courses on AD caregiving and AD prevention & treatment. 

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