How to Help a Family Caregiver
How to Help a Family Caregiver
It can be difficult to imagine a day in the life of a family caregiver unless you have been one. And not all caregiving duties and responsibilities are the same. Someone caring for their loved one with dementia won’t have the same experience as someone caring for their child with autism. Whatever the circumstances, family caregivers are united by the selfless work they do and come together in communities like Caregiving.com. While peer support is helpful, friends and family can also offer support that makes a meaningful difference in a caregiver’s life.
As a non-caregiver, you don’t have to know every detail of a caregiver’s life to understand that their needs often go unmet. Stress and burnout can go unnoticed as caregivers experience the pressure to stay strong for a loved one, and it can be hard for them to admit when they need a break or help. Here are some simple actions you can take to provide comfort and peace of mind to a caregiver.
Read more: Start helping a friend or family member in need today by taking the non-caregiver pledge.
Offer to be an emergency contact. Caregivers may not have someone to rely on when there’s an emergency. Before a crisis occurs, offer to be someone’s emergency contact. You can support a caregiver in time of need by reaching out to their family and friends--not to mention potentially saving a life just by being available.
- What the conversation could look like: Don’t wait for them to come to you for help because it may not happen. Knock on their door and start a conversation. “Jared, I notice you’re the only one here with your mom. If you’re ever experiencing an emergency, I’d like it if you called me or came to my door to get me.” Don’t forget to give them your information if they don’t already have it.
Run errands. Offering to grab groceries for your caregiver friend or family member can make a big difference. An errand-free day relieves the stress of planning a trip with their loved one or finding someone to watch them while they’re gone. Something that a non-caregiver considers easy may be a struggle for a caregiver. Your support with this task adds time to a caregivers day and may allow them to spend quality time with their loved one.
- What the conversation could look like: Arrange a lunch date with the caregiver. Start the conversation by catching-up with each other. If they bring up their caregiving duties and stressors, gently express, with sincerity, what they mean to you and how much you value their wellbeing. “Mary, you work so hard. You’re my best friend, and I’m worried about you. I have some free time this month, and I want to help out. Do you have any errands I can do? I assure you this is not an inconvenience to me.”
Help around the house. On top of caregiving responsibilities, which may include medical care and bathing, caregivers must also keep up with the same daily chores the rest of us have. Because a caregiver is prioritizing their loved one’s care, sometimes things around the house just don’t get done. You can help them maintain the health of their living environment and boost joy by keeping their home cozy and comfortable.
- What the conversation could look like: Contact the caregiver and express your interest in coming over to visit at their home. Before your visit, consider making food the caregiver and their loved one can enjoy for the days to come days which will save them time on prepping and cooking a meal. Complement their home and transition into your offer. “Juanita, the love you put into your home is so important and, understandably, your mother’s needs come first. I don’t want you to have to compromise. Do you mind if I come over three times a month to help keep your beautiful home clean and comfortable?”
- What the conversation could look like: When it’s appropriate, check in with your friend’s feelings about their spouse or partner. After they respond, introduce the idea of a date night. “Zeke, you and Azad deserve some time alone together. Why don’t you take a day date together and do anything you want? I’d be happy to watch Corey for the day. Take your time and enjoy yourselves.”
If you know a caregiver, odds are they could use your help but they may not know how to ask. Take a moment to reflect on which of these suggestions you are most comfortable with then put thought into action. And check out even more tips on how to help a caregiver.
Read more: Understand the reasons why caregivers may not take you up on offers of help
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