November is Family Caregiver Month, a time to honor and support caregivers – particularly those caring for loved ones with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. Many of these individuals are juggling the demands of caregiving with employment, parenting, and very little sleep.  It is sadly no surprise that stress and burn out are common.

When we see friends or colleagues in this predicament, we want to offer help, but often don’t know where to begin. Many caregivers are hesitant to ask for support, feeling they will be a burden to others.

Below are six things you can do to help someone caring for a spouse, parent or other loved one with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia to give them necessary relief:

1.        Offer your time - many caregivers need only a couple hours of respite to breathe and recharge.  Offering to sit with their loved one is one of the greatest gifts you can offer.

2.       While one friend is sitting with the loved one, another could bring the family caregiver somewhere special – maybe dinner out or a movie – allowing a welcome change of pace.

3.       Drop off a meal - prepare a meal that can be frozen for a time or day they may need it the most, giving the caregiver flexibility for when to enjoy it.

4.       Offer to pick up groceries – if the caregiver is overwhelmed with having to think about what they need, pick out some staples that are sure to be appreciated.

5.       Pick up laundry or dry cleaning and bring it back the next day.  Housework often falls by the wayside for the family caregiver.  Having clean clothes, sheets and towels prepared are much appreciated tasks.

6.       Listen.  Sometimes caregivers simply need to vent and unload to a compassionate non-judgmental ear. Be an active listener -  do not respond with your own personal horror stories. And sometimes simply sitting quietly by someone’s side is just what is needed too.

If a caregiver shows resistance to help, offer gentle reassurance and persistence. Making the offer consistently and continuously will be welcomed over time.