Supporting Caregivers

There are vast numbers of people providing care for friends, family and neighbors. There are approximately 40 million Americans who provide help to keep elderly or disabled individuals at home or with family instead of in a specialized facility. Family caregivers are both men and women and are across all ages. Over half of these caregivers are also working full or part time jobs. Almost half report feeling stressed and burned out. Many caregivers also report poor financial and physical health. Managing work and family in addition to caring for a loved one is a big load.

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The needs of caregivers are being recognized. More employers are offering caregivers flexible leave and paid time off. The CARE Act supports the caregiver and has been a good resource for them. The Elder Locator is a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging which provides resources for seniors and has a section geared specifically for caregivers.

Most of us have or will come across a situation where a family member will need care. If someone in the family, a friend, or neighbor is providing that care, there is so much that can and should be done to support them. You can provide help whether you are local or live far away.

There are many ways in which you can provide practical help to the care giver. The need for practical help applies to both the family member being cared for and the caregiver. The help is of direct assistance and makes clear that the caregiver isn’t being taken for granted. Think of all the responsibilities the caregiver now has. What can you either help with directly or hire someone else to do?

  • Provide company and visiting time to the person being cared for. Companion programs are also available and increase the number of visitors for the care receiver.
  • Provide home cooked meals. Remember, both the caregiver and care receiver need them.
  • When you go grocery shopping for yourself, also shop for the family member being cared for. You can also order groceries and have them delivered.
  • Laundry is a job that needs to be done in both households. Offer to take that on.
  • Clean at least part of the home (bathrooms and kitchens) on a regular basis. Hiring a cleaning service is a wonderful option.
  • Yardwork and home maintenance work can be done by another family member or by a service.

When offering help to the caregiver, offer assistance with specific tasks and let the caregiver tell you what would be most helpful.
Take care of the caregiver directly. They have a hard and often physically demanding job.

  • Give a series of massages, yoga or tai chi to the caregiver.
  • Haircuts, manicures and spa sessions make it clear that the caregiver counts!
  • Arrange for fun, be it movie tickets, golf, or a concert.

Giving the gift of pampering or a fun activity is great, but only if you have time to use it. Make sure the gift is accompanied by your or someone else’s time with the family member being cared for, so the caregiver has time to get out and enjoy.
There are so many ways to show the caregiver they are appreciated and to give them an outlet for stress they may be feeling.

  • Send them a note telling them how you appreciate them.
  • Call regularly to check in on them.
  • Invite them to go out with you.
  • Have a social gathering or movie night including the caregiver and the family member being cared for at his or her home. It could be fun and a change of pace for all.
  • Cook and serve dinner for both. It is another change of pace and a way to be pampered.
  • Arrange for the caregiver to have some time away. This is a very big and very valuable gift. Put excellent care in place while the caregiver is away. This is obviously important for your family member and important to the caregiver so he or she can enjoy the time worry free. Short term care can be arranged in home or out of the home.

Our caregivers are invaluable. They have taken on the very hard job of caring for friends, neighbors and family members. Show your appreciation and help them out. It is the right thing to do and can help mitigate the stress and strain they are likely under. It is a gift to everyone.