Most individuals will experience what it is like to be a caregiver at some point in their lives. For some, it will be providing care for a grandparent, parent, or partner. For others, a close friend, neighbor, or child. In 2020, nearly 53 million individuals in the United States served as a caregiver.
Caregiving can be an incredibly rewarding role to play in someone else’s life. Helping with daily activities, offering companionship, and being there for them when they really need the support is an enriching experience. It can also be incredibly challenging. The CDC (Centers for Disease Prevention) has found that nearly 53% of caregivers experience a negative impact on their health that impacts their ability to provide care. While caregivers are occupied providing support to those who need it, they often neglect their own health in the meantime.
It’s important to be able to recognize when a caregiver might need additional support. Signs of stress include feeling burdened, feeling overly tired, becoming easily angered, losing interest in normal activities, having frequent headaches, abusing alcohol or drugs, and missing medical appointments, to name a few.
If you know or love someone who serves as a caregiver, you may wonder what you can do to help support them. Here are four ideas to get you started:
Caregivers spend most of their time focused on the needs of the person they are responsible for providing care to. Offering to go grocery shopping, cook a meal, clean their home, handle a few loads of laundry, or run errands can provide caregivers with much-needed relief.
Giving a caregiver the opportunity to take a break fully away from the requirements of their caregiving is respite. This could mean watching the individual for a few hours, a whole day, or even a weekend while the caregiver has the opportunity to rest and recharge.
Caregivers may need emotional support, encouragement, and validation as they endure the day-to-day challenges of providing care. Consider sending a thoughtful note in the mail, making a phone call, or stopping by to spend some time with them.
It’s likely that caregivers may experience frustration, stress, and emotional exhaustion. Offering them a confidential space to share their feelings and concerns without judgment can make a big difference.
Keep in mind that every person’s needs are unique, so it is important to check in with them to see what would offer the most relief to them. For more resources for caregiving, check out the Elder Care Locator or your local Area on Aging.