Each year, over 43 million Americans provide unpaid care to adults age 50 and older. That’s about one in every seven people — which means the likelihood is high that you, or someone you know, is a caregiver.
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, why not show the caregivers in your life some TLC? Here are some ways you can help make their job a little easier.
Know the Signs of Caregiver Stress
While caregiving can be a rewarding job, it can also take a toll on a caregiver’s mind, body, and spirit. Some of the warning signs that a caregiver is stressed include:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Chronic conditions
Know Ways to Help Caregivers
Perhaps even more important than knowing the signs of caregiver stress is knowing ways to help reduce or prevent it. Whether you’re the caregiver or know someone who is, consider these approaches:
Friends: Listen. Caregivers don’t expect you to solve their problems, but they do need to vent.
Caregivers: Talk. Whether it’s with family members or a support group, sharing your feelings can help prevent burnout, anger, and depression.
Friends: Reach out to help. Instead of saying, “Let me know if I can do anything,” ask directly “What can I do?” Caregivers don’t often ask for help on their own.
Caregivers: Let others help. Don’t be shy about asking for help and accept help when it’s offered. You can’t do it alone.
Friends: Offer your time. Run errands, cook a meal, or be with the person they’re caring for, so they can have some time to themselves.
Caregivers: Take a break. Take time to take care of yourself. It is as important as taking care of someone else. Eat healthy, exercise when you can, get enough sleep, and keep up with your preventive care appointments.
Friends: Keep caregivers in the loop. Isolation is a common side effect of caregiving. Even though they may decline many invitations, invite them anyway.
Caregivers: Stay connected. Try not to let caregiving distance you from others. Reach out to family members, join a support group, and engage in activities, retreats, and/or educational classes.
Friends: Don’t forget the little things. Plan events you and the caregiver can look forward to. It can be as simple as bringing over a pizza and watching a movie once a week.
Caregivers: Stay positive. Mindfulness exercises, self-help books, and therapy can help you direct your thoughts and feelings in a positive direction rather than negative.
Without a doubt, caregivers play an invaluable role in the lives of the people they care for and in their communities, but they can’t do it alone. Taking care of the caregivers in our lives — even in small ways can have a positive effect.
Resources for Caregivers
Family Caregiver Alliance offers support, tailored information, and tools to manage the complex demands of caregiving.
Nancy’s House provides community, self-care tools, and support for family caregivers.