How Can You Support a Family Caregiver?

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Chances are you know someone who is providing full or part time care to an older relative. Many times these caregivers are also juggling full-time jobs, children, and other daily chores and errands. The never-ending daily responsibilities mean that caregiver burnout is a real threat. As a friend or family member of the caregiver, it is important to find ways to support them. Many people feel that this is an impossible task that can only be done by a trained professional or that the only way to provide support is through emotional care and concern. However, many caregivers need friends and family to help perform “doing acts,” since, simply put, it is hard to juggle tasks and get everything done in a twenty-four hour day. There are many tasks and functions that friends can assume to aid their friends or family who are caregivers.

Ways to provide support

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How can you help the family caregivers in your life? Here are some ideas.

  • Make meals. Caregivers have no extra time in their lives for any extra chores or responsibilities. It would be very helpful to offer to cook meals and even volunteer to do food shopping. If you are able, join the caregiver to share the meal if that fits in their schedule. The caregiver may enjoy updating you about her life, or at the same time, need a distraction. Talking about current events or hearing updates about the lives of friends and family can serve as a helpful break.
  • Help schedule doctor visits. This task takes up a great deal of time for the caregiver. By offering to help with scheduling you can ease up time on the caregiver’s overcrowded schedule.
  • Help with transportation to doctor visits. This is also a very helpful “doing act” that is appreciated by caregivers. Driving their loved one to a doctor’s appointment or procedure permits the caregiver to spend time on chores or to have some free time.
  • Attend doctor appointments. Go with the caregiver to their loved one’s doctor’s appointments to be another ear and ask questions and take notes. When someone is already overwhelmed, it can be hard to remember details that one wants to discuss during a physician appointment.  
  • Visit the caregiver. Many caregivers start to feel isolated and alone in their role. Help break up the monotony by visiting, getting involved and lending a hand.
  • Invite the caregiver out. Planning social functions, which may include lunch, dinner, a movie, or spending time with friends, can help give the caregiver something to look forward to. Often family caregivers feel neglected by their friends and family members, so extending the invitation to social events is often greatly appreciated it. Even if the caregiver is unable to attend, the gesture lets them know that you are still thinking of them. 
  • Provide respite. Caregivers rarely have time to take care of themselves. By stepping in and providing care, you will then permit the family caregiver to run errands, go to a doctor’s appointment, go to a hairdresser appointment, or simply take a walk. Caregivers usually don’t have extra time in their lives. By asking them how you can help relieve their busy schedules or reduce their stress is a wonderful gift.
  • Stay involved. Call often. Send emails and visit when your schedule permits.
  • Contact family members. If you truly aren’t sure how to help and are friendly with the caregiver’s other family members, reach out. They may have some unique insights on what their loved one needs.
  • Listen. Sometimes a caregiver may just need someone to whom they can vent. Encourage your friend to talk so she can simply express her emotions or overwhelming feelings.

 

If you feel that your loved one needs additional support, Abramson Care Advisors can help. A senior care expert is available to talk, for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 215.371.3400.