Caregivers love in another language

Tips on what to say or do for caregivers

By: Dr. Monica Hardy

My dad, my life’s hero, had Alzheimer’s.

My dad was always a bit tempered, but growing up I never saw much because my mom hid his flaws. Unfortunately, this disease caused his attitude and all his imperfections to come into the light in a “not-so-positive” fashion. Dad was very independent, prideful, ornery, and quite stubborn. During this season of his life, he was grieving, angry, mean, hurtful, and, at times, downright vicious. Deciding to move back home with dad was not an easy decision, but I needed him, and he needed me. When mom died, a part of dad also died; he had stopped living and was just existing. The memory loss, imbalance, and the frustration he displayed with losing his independence, did not help. Every time he did something, the immediate reactions and comments from others were for me to consider how he felt. I was often told about all the scary things that were happening to him and all that this disease was doing. In no way was I disagreeing. As a matter of fact – I totally agreed. My dad and the disease continuously got sympathy and rationalization. 

However, what I never seemed to get was why people did not pause and think about me as a caregiver. Sometimes I was up and down all day and night with no sleep. What about how I was doing or feeling? What about what this disease was doing to me and my children? Could this be how other caregivers felt? Becoming a caregiver consumed my life. It was more overwhelming than I could have ever imagined. Now I am sure every caregiver reading this will agree that we are “supposed” to have some level of understanding as to why our loved ones will say or do whatever comes to mind–especially when they cannot get what they want–but it does not remove the sting or pain we feel as receivers. The name of the illness alone suggests that caregivers are to excuse the words, outbursts, and behaviors, but that is not the language of love for a caregiver. I believe it is vitally important for caregivers to release and voice their feelings. Regrettably, our loved ones can hurl off awful words and minutes later not remember saying any of it. Yet, we are left piecing our hearts back together like a puzzle. There is no apology, no admittance to errors, or anything. Sadly, caregivers often must find a way to suck it up and live to fight another day. Caregivers need love, support, and consideration. It is my hope that upon review of these lists, family and friends will know how they can help, and caregivers can better communicate what they need.


  • Ask them how they are doing.
  • Ask them how you can help.
  • Ask them if you can pay a bill.
  • Offer prayer or inspiration.
  • Offer to clean up or do laundry.
  • Offer to take or pick-up their kids.


  • Don’t ask how their loved ones are doing and forget to ask how they are doing.
  • Don’t ask to help, then do what you want; follow the rules the caregiver gives.
  • Don’t ask if you don’t have time to listen.
  • Don’t talk about or justify the disease.
  • Don’t immediately sympathize with their loved ones.
  • Don’t try to justify their loved one’s actions or behaviors.

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