I have been a caregiver, and have watched my husband up close while he was a primary caregiver for many months, and I've observed a few things. It is all well and good to realize that you need a break — lots of breaks! — but being able to get one can be another thing entirely.
Do you know someone who is taking care of their elderly parent, a disabled child, or a chronically ill partner? If you have ever wondered if she could use a hand, I can tell you that the answer is going to be yes.
1) Make escape possible.
Sometimes what a caregiver needs most is a chance to get away, and back into her own life. Knowing the person she's caring for is with someone dependable will make the brief escape more enjoyable, and can cut down on the sense of guilt.
If you can bring over some groceries or do some laundry, or clean the house a bit while she is gone, this will make a lovely difference as well.
2) Make your offer specific, and nail things down.
If you'd like to help out, be specific about what you can do. Let her know if you can make dinner. Can you do some yard work? Say so. Then make sure you settle on a date when she can expect you. The more information you volunteer, the less she has to ask, and the less she will have to wonder about.
3) Divide and conquer.
Divvying up the work can include all kinds of things. Can you shoulder some of the shopping, driving and doctor's appointment trips? Can you pick up clutter, cook, or wash dishes? Making and taking phone calls on interminable legal and medical matters will lessen her headaches.
Helping the person to eat a meal can ease things for the caregiver. Making a cup of tea or coffee, refilling the glass of water, helping with any meds — These are small things, but they all must be done so often every day.
4) Don't take no for an answer.
What if you call with offers and the caregiver says no? Check in again at a later date. Not too much later. Some people find it difficult to admit they could use some help and it can be harder still for them to actually take the assistance.