What DO Caregivers Crave?

The Answer Might Surprise You!

caregiver-craveWhat DO Caregivers Crave?

I locked the bathroom door behind me and hurried through my morning routine, keeping a wary eye on my watch. I had just five minutes until the room outside would fill with doctors and interns on their morning ‘rounds’ of the cancer ward. They didn’t actually go anywhere—they met in the repurposed patient room that doubled as a family hangout and place to grab a quick shower.

With three minutes left, I gazed longingly at the bathtub and the clean towel I had grabbed from the laundry cart. Not enough time. Pedro had had a rough night and I had cat napped much later than usual. A fresh layer of deodorant would have to do.

I grabbed my toiletries bag and swung the door open…20 pairs of dignified eyes swiveled in my direction. Mumbling mortified apologies, I scurried through the door into the hallway.

More than anything else, I craved a long soak in a hot bath without the guilt of knowing some other patient’s family member might need the bathroom, too. I craved a night of sleep without the beeps and blips, alarms and nurses checking on Pedro.

Of course, I wanted Pedro healthy and whole again. But nothing in my life up to that point had prepared me for the life of a caregiver. If you know a family caregiver, this list might help you understand what they may crave the most.

Five Things Caregivers Crave

1. Affirmation. Take time to speak words of appreciation for the job that they do—even if they don’t take care of YOUR family member. A simple, “Caregiving is difficult. Your ________ (fill in the blank) is so lucky to have you on their side during this difficult time.”

2. Acts of kindness. Caregivers may not have time in the moment to properly thank you for your deed, but believe me, each act of kindness helps fill the hole of loneliness and isolation. Buy a gift card. Send a note. Reach out on social media. Let the caregiver know that you care.

caregiver-crave3. An hour of worry-free time. At one point in Pedro’s illness, a family friend flew from Montana to California just to spend 18 hours with Pedro. He encouraged me to find a hotel room and to relax. It wasn’t easy for me to step away, but after a long soak in a hot tub and an uninterrupted night’s sleep, I felt ready to take on caregiving again.

4. Activity. The mind-numbing boredom and fear of sitting in a hospital room with a critically ill person can threaten to drown out reason. I entertained myself by bidding for things on eBay with money I didn’t have. Anything to stimulate the mind or the body. Gift a membership to Audible (the patient and caregiver could even listen to books together). Offer to go for a walk with the caregiver.

5. A hug. A virtual hug works, too, if the caregiver lives a long ways away. I went for weeks at a time without receiving a hug from anyone. Pedro’s life hung in the balance and we were a thousand miles from friends and family.

Other Ideas?

Q4U: What can you add to the list if you are or have been a caregiver? Do you know a caregiver that you can reach out to?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Anita!

    One thing that caregivers who spend a lot of time at the hospital appreciate is having their house cleaned in their absence. It’s not that expensive if a group of friends pulls together and chips in for a professional cleaning, and that removes any potential embarrassment the caregiver might have about having the friends actually come in and do the job.

    Yardwork, too. It’s so nice to come back from a tiring shift and find the lawn already mown, and the verge weeded!

    #1 at FMF this week.


    • Great suggestions, Andrew! I completely agree about hiring a professional service to take away the embarassment of the situation :).

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Anita, thank you for sharing from your experience. It’s given me greater insight into how and what a caregiver is thinking and feeling.

    I have not walked this road iwth a loved one yet, but I’ve had a little experience as the friend of one. When my friend’s first son was born with severe issues, she and her husband asked for some time to grapple with the life-changing issues his condition brought. For a time, I stepped back. But after a month or two, I began writing her letters (before the age of email), and sending her books to read. Then, I called her (she lives in another state). As her son’s condition didn’t improve,

    I had the privilege of going to her house, cleaning, shopping and doing things so they could stay at the NICU with their baby. We had opportunities to talk, and the thing that was hard for her was the sense of isolation. When she and her hubs were ready to connect with their community again, a lot of people withdrew because they didn’t know what to say or do. I try to remember that people in health crises need connection with other people. Even if it’s a little stilted at first.

    • How wise of them to ask for time, and how wise of you to reach back out. The isolation can be overpowering–the world seems to carry on whilst lives hang in balance or stand still and it’s difficult ot make that transition in and out of the stream.

  • Bethany Boring

    I love this – especially the worry-free time element. As a mom (still a caregiver) I can’t even imagine that gift right now! Love reading your words my friend!

    • YES! Mom’s are definintely caregivers! We pay our daughter and her husband to babysit our grandson ;). That gives them money to go on a date and some worry-free time away from their infant.

  • I’ll forever remember the needs I had during my caregiving years. Times were tough then. And I would do it all over in a heartbeat!!

    • Isn’t it a privlege to serve someone?

  • This is such a caring and thoughtful list and sometimes it’s the tangible things that are helpful to hear when we don’t know what to do or how to help. It also helps take the focus off ME ME ME MEEE!
    Patricia (FMF#37)

    • Thanks for stopping by, Patricia! I agree, thinking about someone else sure makes MY life richer!

  • Tara Ulrich

    Yep these are great suggestions.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tara!

  • Amanda Farmer

    Excellent list!

  • Bettie G

    These are wonderful thoughts! It’s been several years now, but I remember the comfort of friends and neighbors back home caring for my family who had to stay behind while I was many miles away being a caregiver. Those thoughtful simple acts, even just uttering a prayer for us, meant so much! I am blessed to be your neighbor over at #TellHisStory this week.

  • Anita,
    Thank you for bravely sharing your heart and experiences as a caregiver, giving us insight into the journey of accompanying someone who is ill on their walk back into a healing life. Not only does it change the one who is ill but it changes all of us who walk with them. I so appreciate your words!

  • Angela Howard

    I related to many of these “cravings” Thank you for highlighting the needs of those who are caregivers. It can be exhausting whether it’s caring for a loved one with a chronic illness or a life threatening crisis. I appreciate you! Visiting from #coffeeforyourheart today 🙂