Never Say This to a Caregiver

Despite our best intentions, the things we say to friends or family members who have assumed a caregiving role can be hurtful—and occasionally even devastating. Here are some phrases to avoid—and what to say instead.

We all struggle with finding supportive things to say to caregivers, especially when we feel as if there’s nothing that will make things better. However, speaking from a place of compassion, love and concern does help. You can acknowledge the situation without offering advice. Ask how someone is doing. Let them know that you genuinely care.

Start here with caregiver support:

  • I can see how hard you are working.
  • I see you are doing your best.
  • I would love to drop off a meal for you. What do you like or not like?
  • How are you?
  • What can I do to help? (Suggest things like sitting with their loved one for an afternoon, bringing coffee or a meal, running an errand or getting groceries.)
  • It is really hard when our loved ones are ill.

Be careful with:

  • Offering advice.
  • Sharing your own stories that mirror what they are going through.
  • Saying, I know how you feel/what you are going through, etc., unless you really do know.
  • Should, as in, What you should do is…
  • Would, as in, What I would do is…
  • You need to take care of yourself.
  • You are a saint.
  • You will get your rewards for this.
  • I could never do what you do.
  • You are so brave.
  • They are so blessed to have you.
  • God never gives us more than we can handle.

Kimberly Fraser, Ph.D., is a retired nurse and former professor of nursing at the University of Alberta. She ran a home health-care business in Edmonton and was the past president of the non-profit Caregivers Alberta.

Excerpted from The Accidental Caregiver, by Dr. Kimberly Fraser. Copyright © 2022, Dr. Kimberly Fraser. Published by Sutherland House Books. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

Next, Kimberly shares the powerful story of her own mother’s caregiving journey.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada