Every day approximately 40 million people in America (17% of the population) act as caregivers to adults with a disability or illness. This means if you are not a caregiver there is a high probability that you know someone who is.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care, with 25% of those individuals spending 41 or more hours per week in their caregiving role.
As such, it’s no surprise that caregivers often burnout due to exhaustion and suffer psychological impacts such as depression and anxiety.
How You Can Help
Caregivers often have a hard time asking for help, which only adds to the pressure they’re under. Self-care is put on the back burner, resulting in an undesirable situation for both the caregiver and the recipient. The help you are able to offer will be dependent on your personal responsibilities and your relationship with the individual acting as a caregiver. With that in mind here are five simple ways you can help the caregiver in your life:
Make a Specific Offer
How often do we feel compelled to say “let me know if there’s anything I can do”? While this offer is a lovely gesture, it is rarely taken up on by caregivers who are used to handling everything. Instead of a vague offer, be specific and forward. For example: “I’m making some freezer meals this weekend. Do you like tuna casserole?” This encourages the person to accept your offer. Furthermore, try to anticipate their needs in advance. Time-consuming seasonal tasks such as shoveling snow and raking leaves are obvious ways to help out.
Encourage Them to Take a Break
Invite the caregiver in your life out for a coffee, a yoga class, a movie – something to take their mind off their overwhelming responsibilities. Provide them with the opportunity to relax and forget about their worries, or to vent if they wish. Be sure to practice active listening and only offer suggestions if they ask for advice. If possible, offer to temporarily take over care duties so the caregiver can have some alone time.
Research Caregiving Support Options
Depending on the situation, a caregiver may not have the resources to seek out proper support. From support groups to counseling to respite providers, there are many local and online options available to caregivers. Take the time to research some of these resources and present them to the caregiver in question. The caregiver may not realize they need the resources until they have them in hand. Start with the Family Caregiver Alliance and see what options may be available in your area.
Make a Care Package
When someone becomes ill we often try to put together a physical offering to help offset their struggle. Why not offer that same level of consideration to their caregiver? Create or purchase a gift basket filled with items that will remind them to take some time to relax. The care package could include a book to read, bath supplies, lotions, a travel mug with coffee beans, a gift certificate, baked goods; something that tells this person that they are appreciated.
Set a Check-In Time
Set a weekly reminder on your calendar to check in and see how your friend is doing. The weekly check in will be something to look forward to and will give the person a regular chance to focus on something other than their current responsibilities. Never underestimate the restorative powers of a five-minute phone conversation with someone who cares.
Nikita Ross is a freelance writer and self-proclaimed bibliophile. When she’s not busy wrangling her children or plotting world domination, she can be found working away on her blog Strong in Body, Strong in Mind. An avid reader, runner, and weight lifter, Nikita believes that books and barbells have equal weight when setting goals for self-improvement.