5 Best Ways to Be a Caregiver’s Cheerleader


In 1998, my mother Bonnie was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and in 2001 she was stricken with liver cancer. As a nurse, my mother was the one providing care for others. She was even a caregiver for her mother, my Grandma Bessie, before she passed away in 1997 at the age of 94.

But with her own cancer diagnosis, my mom was the one who needed a caregiver. She came to live with my family while she underwent surgery and treatment for both cancer battles. It was fantastic and a joy to have her right there with me – something I would never change – but it was also incredibly stressful, emotionally and physically draining, and unnerving.

Caregivers need their own unique support from family and friends. Here is what I consider to be five of the best ways to be a caregiver’s cheerleader.

1. Stronger Together; Help Build a Support Team.

Caregiving can be relentless, exhausting and overwhelming. Every caregiver needs a short list of close friends and family they can lean on for help. Take the first step of helping them build a short list of “cheerleaders” and make sure your name is at the top of that list.

Use the list of names and divvy up daily tasks and errands by creating a schedule. My loved ones consistently delivered meals, purchased groceries, spent time with my kids, walked the dog, helped with yard and house work, and had specific “visit mom” times. Once it’s on a schedule, it’s less overwhelming.

A resource like the Carry Crew can equip you with the tools to build a crew of “cheerleaders” who can provide this practical help.

2. Navigate the Unknown.

There is never one ‘right’ answer to anything. For most, the act of caregiving is uncharted territory, which for me was very unnerving – I like to have answers. Being a supportive sounding board can help any caregiver navigate important decisions and issues.

For most, the act of caregiving is uncharted territory.

There is a wealth of information and resources online. However, sifting through all that information and researching the best resources can be daunting for a caregiver who most likely has a job and family of their own. Do the research for them and provide a list of the best information and tools that can help with their situation.

The Caregiver Action Network is a great place to start.

3. Take the Focus Off Physical Care.

Help the caregiver focus on more than just physical care. Some of my favorite moments caring for my mother were when my friends got to know her. The shared stories, laughter and camaraderie between my friends and mother were so special. Those times were not about the physical care, it was about loving relationships.

The connection between my friends and my mother made asking for help that much easier. It also became a wonderful shared experience between my mother and our “cheerleaders.” Today we often reminisce, with a smile, about the shared moments we had with my mother.

4. Help the Caregiver Step Away and Find Humor.

Provide caregivers with some respite and help them step away to find the humor in life’s struggles. Regardless of how strong and positive caregivers try to be, daily life can involve sadness and suffering.

Laughter truly is the best medicine.

By taking time with friends doing the things I enjoyed, I found myself laughing more, which in turn brought more laughter into caring for my mother. Laughter has also been found to reduce pain and stress, as well as release endorphins which can bring positive changes to one’s mindset.

There is even an Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor that provides resources on how to practice and promote healthy humor and laughter.

5. Ignite the Cheering Section.

Give caregivers the confidence to openly share their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, and everything in between. Putting words around experiences and feelings is not always easy, but it is cathartic.

Opening up to those who care ignites a cheering section, creating a caring and supportive community.

I’m not a writer. I’m a software engineer. But that didn’t stop me from starting my mother’s CaringBridge website when she was first diagnosed in 1998 and re-activated it again in 2001. Taking a little time to record my feelings and connect with my friends and family gave me strength and hope.

Now, I have a permanent record of my time with my mother that also captured the love people had for her.

Here For Caregivers When You Need It

The millions of people providing care for a child, spouse, parent or friend need love and support. Are you or a loved one caring for someone on a health journey? If so, start a CaringBridge website, where you can share health updates and receive encouragement and support from your community.

Sona Mehring is the founder of CaringBridge, the nonprofit organization created in 1997 so people experiencing a health journey can rally their community during a time of need. People invite close family and friends to read about their journey through their own personal CaringBridge website. In return, family and friends can show their love and support by posting encouraging messages. Follow Sona on Twitter – <a href=””>@gogosona</a>.

Comments (6)

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Grace I Bennett Mar 05, 2017 3:39am
As a cancer patient number 3 is the one that means the most to me. Taking my focus off the physical care. I want, crave and desire that emotional closeness with people...which gives me the ability to lean in and let go of my own fears and doubts... Hard when that need is not being fulfilled by the ones you love the most...
Mb Dec 01, 2016 3:49pm
As always, helpful, caring informative help.Thank you, CaringBridge!
Pause and Refresh: New Year's Resolutions for Caregivers Jan 11, 2016 3:37pm
[…] don’t have to do everything yourself. Every caregiver needs a community of support that can step in and help ease the burden of your to-do […]
Malcolm Butler -I'm Alive Dec 04, 2015 5:28pm
I really enjoy your stories about the five steps in care giving the phrase you use uncharted territory really move me because when I first was inform to my condition I cross over into so much uncharted territory it made my head spin I didn't want to be around any one I couldn't find any thing to be happy about the camaraderie of friendship was gone know laughter was in my life any more , oh I had many friends to call on but I shut the door on every one who care for me it was hard to let someone in .it wasn't until I let my best friend my wife to be my care giver not just some one on the side line looking in but to let her show me how much it meant to her to be my care giver that I was able to enjoy life again I guess what I'm trying to say is don't shut the door on those who are just trying to show you that they love you and understand
Aunt Berla Nov 06, 2015 6:05pm
My beautiful niece, inside and out, I still miss your loving Mom, my loving sister, like she was here only yesterday. She is beaming with pride at you dear Sona! So am I!! I love you...
The eldest Nov 03, 2015 5:39pm
This is awesome!