Nearly forty-eight million family caregivers provided unpaid care to someone close to them in 2020—a 21% increase over the previous five years. Nearly one in five of them is caring for an adult with health or functional needs. And more caregivers are reporting that their own health is suffering.
Sometimes, a helping hand is all that’s necessary to give caregivers a chance to rest and take care of themselves. Self-care is important for caregivers to avoid burnout and other issues that can make it difficult for them to help those they love. Here are five ways to show a caregiver you care—and help them at the same time.
Help them get the help they need
There are myriad programs available to help family caregivers and the people they assist. AARP’s family caregiving website shares a number of caregiving resources ranging from how to provide care at home to fighting fraud and managing finances to finding local resources and solutions and more.
Simply navigating the medical and insurance issues that come with caregiving can be overwhelming. Another way to help is to lend a hand with the paperwork involved with caregiving. With their permission, look into online service locators through which they may access assistance and services. Compile a list of the most helpful sources, along with their contact numbers and email addresses. Include the next steps to get the most out of each resource so it’s clear what needs to happen next.
If you have a close relationship with the caregiver, you may want to dive even deeper. Help determine their assistance eligibility and coverage options by contacting insurance companies, doctor’s offices, or local government offices. You can even help them access benefits programs, including SNAP.
Give them a break
Talk to your caregiving friend or family member about their needs, and schedule a time to provide respite, if that’s possible. By staying with their loved one for a few hours, you can give them the time they need to rest or take care of their own appointments and errands. If handling care isn’t an option, help the caregiver find respite options in your community. The National Family Caregiver Program provides services through local Area Agencies on Aging. You can also find other caregiver respite programs through local, state, and national nonprofit organizations.
Lend an ear
Sometimes, caregiving can be lonely. Spending some time with the caregiver, such as stopping by for a cup of coffee or simply calling to check in and chat, can give your friend or family member an opportunity to share their feelings. If you fear your caregiver is suffering from social isolation, there are a number of ways you can help them feel more connected and less lonely. Simply listening and being present can be an important form of support.
Take on some tasks
If you can’t substitute as a backup caregiver, take some other tasks off their plate. Or put some food on their plate. Offer to run errands, do some yardwork, or help with other chores that need to be done. Or plan to deliver a delicious dinner one night to give them a break from cooking. Sometimes, caregivers won’t want to accept the help, but a gentle reminder that you want to help can help break down those barriers.
Home safety and upkeep are other areas where caregivers often need help. Discuss safety measures and improvements that may help the caregiver and his or her loved one in the home or help organize community members to repair parts of the house in need of attention. You may help organize medicine, help compile grocery lists, or find other ways to lend a hand.
Remind them about self-care
Caregivers often put others’ needs before their own. Help them remember to take some time for themselves. Maybe they have an appointment of their own—or maybe there’s a new movie out they really want to see. And when it’s time to head out, offer to help with transportation to the doctor’s office, other appointments, or the grocery store. Drive the caregiver and his or her loved one yourself or track down free services specifically for those in need.
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