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275 East 4th Street, Suite 345, Saint Paul, MN 55101
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How to Support a Friend Caring for Family

Comfort Keepers In-Home Care in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

How to Support a Friend Caring for Family

Family caregivers who are asked how they're doing tend to give an automatic "I'm fine" response. But they aren't always fine. Taking care of an aging parent or other loved one can be a stressful and exhausting experience, and it can put a strain on your relationships with friends who don't have that kind of responsibility. It's essential for family caregivers to find ways to get the support they need from their friends and others in their lives. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to support someone who is a family caregiver.

Really Listen to Them.

The most basic form of support is listening. "Really listen to them” People often think that if you're the friend or family member of someone going through a difficult time, then the best thing you can do is give advice and tell them what you think they should do. But often, what people want more than anything else is validation for how they feel, and that doesn't necessarily involve advice about how to fix things right away. It could mean acknowledging that this person's situation is challenging and that it deserves your attention and concern as well as theirs. 

Caregivers need time and space to talk about what they're feeling. Find someone else who will listen if they don't feel they can open up with you.

Accept that they can't do everything you might expect of a friend. 

You should know that your friend may not be able to give you what they would if they weren't a caregiver. They might feel drained and unable to spend time with you or go out to dinner or the movies, or be spontaneous. Don't take it personally; it has nothing to do with the friendship but is a result of the demands associated with caregiving.

Be Prepared for Mood Swings

It's important to remember that the person you care about may be experiencing a lot of stress, and it can take its toll on their moods. They might get angry or upset at minor things, which is understandable when you think about how much they are dealing with.

Be prepared for mood swings by taking a deep breath and reminding yourself this isn't about you. Don't get defensive; if your friend gets frustrated or angry, let them know that it's okay to feel that way, and then try not to take it personally. Give your friend space when they need it, and don't try to fix things if they aren't ready for help. Lastly, ask if they're okay!

Be Flexible 

Be flexible about plans and keep things simple and low-key when together. Don't be offended if they can't do what you want. Expect them to be different from before or even act like they used to act with other people. Don't try to fix their problems, but listen if they need someone to discuss things. Keep it simple. You don't want them getting stressed out because of your time together!

Remember that there is no right way or wrong way for family caregivers to cope with caring for a loved one; everyone has different ways of handling it. This person needs your support as much as anyone does!

For example, invite them to the movies or dinner. If they are able and want to go, great! Let them decide if they can do this again after each time. Don't pressure them into going if it makes them uncomfortable; it's their choice, and you need to respect that.

Encourage them to have some "Me Time."

Empower your friend to do something they enjoy that may feel like a respite from their caregiving duties. 

You might suggest they go for a walk or get a massage. But don't pressure them into doing something they're not interested in, for example, making dinner plans with friends when they want to veg out and watch Netflix. Likewise, as tempting as it may be to suggest that your friend take time away from their responsibilities by booking some time off work and going on vacation, if the idea of leaving home makes them anxious or worried about leaving their loved ones behind, it's best not to push this issue too much.

Instead of pressuring your family caregiver friend into doing things they don't want to do, focus on what makes them happiest: spending time with family members; engaging in hobbies and/or creative outlets; self-care by eating well and exercising regularly; etc., and gently nudge in the right direction.

Don't try to be an Expert on their Situation.

It's important to remember that you are not an expert on your friend's situation. Your friend knows their family members better than anyone, so you don't need to try and talk about issues like they do. Instead, learn as much about their situation as possible by asking questions and reading whatever information you can find online or in books. Once you have a better understanding of what's going on with their family member's illness or disability, then ask them if there's anything else they'd like for you to know about what's happening. If your friend needs help making decisions regarding medical care or home care options (such as hiring a home health aide), offer support in those areas too!

Consider Taking over some of their Caregiving Tasks.

Take some of the burdens off your friend by helping with tasks they need to get done. If they have kids, offer to babysit so they can have a break. If they care for an elderly parent or relative, offer to pick up groceries, take out the trash and clean the house, anything that will make their lives a little less stressful.

If you know of any resources in your area that might help caregivers with stress management techniques or respite care options for seniors and loved ones with disabilities mention them as possible ways for your friend's family member and him or herself to get away from everything for an afternoon or weekend once in a while.

Enlist the Help of Others 

You can talk to your friends, coworkers, or community groups about the possible ways they could help too. Perhaps, you can rely on them to provide advice, emotional support, and practical assistance.

You may also enlist their help with activities that give your friend a break from caring for their loved one but also involve some socialization and fun together, like going out for dinner or doing something outdoorsy (e.g., gardening). This will ensure that they feel supported while doing this important caregiving job.


It's hard to know where to begin when trying to support a friend who is a family caregiver. The best thing you can do is listen, accept and be flexible. If they need help, offer it (but don't push). Remember! If they don't want your help, that's okay too! 

Do you have a family member or friend in the Twin Cities area that could use respite? Comfort Keepers Twin Cities is a leading provider of in-home senior care in the area and is here to help. 

Refer a loved one to Comfort Keepers

How to Support a Friend Caring for Family