Caring for the Caregiver

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These days it seems like everyone I know is dealing with an aging parent. Whether it is a short-term need—lots of hands-on help while recuperating from a hip replacement—or the sort of change that heralds a whole new stage of life, it’s tough. Even depressing. And as a friend it’s hard to know how to help.

Here are five mood boosters that can help your friend through this rocky patch.

  • Listen up. This is particularly hard if your natural tendency is to swoop in and solve a problem—but the truth is, sometimes the best solution is just being there, listening non-judgmentally.
  • Take a walk. Scientific fact: The more sun in a person’s life, the less depressed they are.  Combine that with exercise, one of the most powerful and fast-acting mood boosters known to man, and you’ve really got something.
  • Spark a smile. Crank the tunes. Tell a joke. Send a funny card. Go see a comedy. Reminisce about a happy memory. Of course, you have to be sensitive to timing and be sure your laughter is appropriate.
  • Take a task. Don’t just offer to help; do something concrete. Bring dinner. Give their kids a ride. Mow the lawn.
  • Be there. Never underestimate the power of presence. Sometimes the biggest help you can offer is letting your friend know they are not alone.