How to Support a Family Caregiver – 12 Helpful Tips
Are you, a family member or close friend providing care to a loved one(s) with activities of daily living? These heroes allow us or our loved one(s) to remain at home by providing essential care services and the emotional support needed to maintain a good quality of life. Without their care our loved one(s) would struggle with basic daily tasks, maybe even to the extent of injury, or perhaps be relegated to a care facility instead of the warmth and familiarity of their home!
There are more than 44 million men and women who provide family caregiver services each year. Unfortunately, this special group of amazing, compassionate individuals are also notorious for not taking good care of themselves. There are steps all caregivers can follow to manage their health while providing care. However, there are things we, our family member and close friends can do to help show our appreciation and support for the heroes that provide this vital service.
Many of the caregivers are family members, most of them unpaid, that selflessly give their time, energy and often personal finances to provide that necessary care. Let’s look at How to Support a Family Caregiver – 12 Helpful Tips we can follow to show our gratitude and help those who provide these essential services.
#1 – Say “Thank You”
This may seem obvious, but how often do you say “thank you” for specific things your caregiver does for you? A generic “thank you” is always appreciated, but how often do you thank your caregiver for for doing the extra special things for you the way you like it. Is there are a specific task or the way they perform the task that shows your caregiver really knows and understands what’s important to you? Take time to recognize the little and special things caregivers do with a heartfelt “thank you” from time to time.
#2 – Write a Personal Note or Card
This is a forgotten practice given the advent of computers, email and texting today. However, a personally penned heartfelt letter, note or card will go a long way in demonstrating your gratitude for their personal attention and care. Your personal expression of appreciation will affirm your recognition of all their hard work.
#3 – Offer respite Care Options
If your current caregiver is showing signs of fatigue or burnout, this could indicate they may need to take a short respite from caregiving. Perhaps another family member or close friend could step in to provide that care. There are also options to engage professional caregivers or home health aides, attend programs from local adult daycare facilities or even short-term stays at an assisted living center. Some senior living communities may also offer special daytime care programs that cater to providing respite services to in-home caregivers.
Medicare has a special respite care benefit that allows hospice patients receiving care to stay in a facility for up to five days, thus providing the caregiver a break from their responsibilities.
#4 – Ask Them How You Can Help
If you notice your caregiver appears to be struggling to juggle an exhaustive list of daily tasks for you or your loved one(s), simply ask how you can help. Perhaps they need a small break from providing respite care to attend to their own personal needs. Maybe they could benefit from taking a class at a local senior center, or in a traditional classroom or online setting, to improve their skills or abilities. You could even offer to take the class with to learn those new skills too.
You could also offer to arrange for home delivery of groceries and other deliverable items. Another family member or close friend could run select errands or pay bills or perhaps examine if online options might work equally well, too. Your caregiver and you or loved one could make a list of all tasks to be accomplished. Then you could work to prioritize the ones that only the caregiver can fulfill, finding other options for lower level tasks.
The key to effectively managing the care for you or a loved one is keeping an open dialogue with your caregiver. Periodically ask how you can help manage the care. Be open to creative thoughts and opportunities as long as they are safe and do not put any additional strain or stress on providing quality care.
#5 – Give A Gift Certificate For A Special Product or Service
Find a small, but personal way, to say “thank you” for the essential services your caregiver(s) provide to you or your loved one(s). A small bunch of flowers or flowering potted plant might brighten your caregiver’s day. However, a gift certificate to a local merchant for a product or service they like might be a good alternative to flowers. Attach a note or enclose a card with the gift certificate expressing your gratitude for all they do for you or your loved one(s).
#6 – Remind Your Caregiver to Take Time to Care For Themselves
Caregivers are notorious for sacrificing their own care in order to provide quality care services for their charges. It is vital they take proper care of themselves to avoid fatigue, burnout, financial problems, health issues and other common problems caregivers can experience when foregoing proper self-care. Please share our care tips for the caregiver to help them recognize signs of symptoms of caregiver burnout. We want them to be their optimal selves when caring for us or our loved one(s), but this can only happen if they take proper care of themselves first.
#7 – Recommend or Purchase Helpful Books
Caregivers may benefit from reading material that can help educate or expound on their caregiving skills or special topic that may be new to them, such as caring for someone with Alzeheimer’s, dementia or cancer. Caregivers may also benefit from inspirational reading material where they can relate to others experiencing the same situation or receive encouragement to keep providing a quality level of care. It can provide a sense of relief to know others are feeling and working in the same settings as them and how they managed to keep a balanced approach to life.
#8 – Give a Small Gift of Gratitude
It doesn’t have to be a special holiday, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, to show your caregiver(s) you appreciate their services and special care. A small token of appreciation at any time will brighten their day and affirm your gratitude for the quality care provided. In fact, a non-holiday surprise might be a better idea instead of an implied holiday gift.
If you have a talent for crafts or needlework, you can make a small personalized gift for them. A specially crafted piece of pottery, a painting, a crocheted or knitted item, a framed needlepoint artwork, a wind-chime, etc. are excellent ideas for a personalized gift. Choose an item using their favorite patterns or colors to make the gift extra special.
There are many small gift ideas specifically designed to show appreciation for your caregiver that are caregiver oriented available for purchase. Choose a gift that reflects the personality and likes of the caregiver. Here are some purchase options you can consider if you choose a small gift route of appreciation.
#9 – Take Caregiver Out for Coffee or Dessert
You don’t have to purchase something expensive or do something grand to show your appreciation for your caregiver’s services. You can ask them out for a cup of coffee, tea, lunch or dessert at their favorite shop. They may resist at first, but keep asking so they know you are serious about thanking them for their services. Caregivers really want to know they are appreciated and taking them somewhere special can say a lot about how much you care for them.
#10 – Be There to Listen
Be observant. Look for signs of distraction, a change in attitude or look in personal appearance. Does something seem to be bothering the caregiver? Do they seem to withdrawing from normal activities? Perhaps there is something happening in their life they need to address or sort out. Perhaps they just need someone in which to share their concerns or issues. Be willing to listen if they are willing to talk. Sometimes that’s all someone needs, is for someone to listen while they sort things out.
#11 – Research And Organize
Caregivers are usually very busy performing activities of daily living they rarely have time for the mound of paperwork that needs attention. Family members can volunteer to gather necessary paperwork, such as medical directives, legal documents, utility bills, and other documents necessary to support the one(s) receiving care. They can also volunteer time to research medical issues, financial assistance and support programs online that caregivers may find invaluable but lack adequate time to locate themselves.
Family members and close friends may also be able to network with others in the community to connect with those who have legal or accounting expertise for assistance with Powers of Attorney, Wills, taxes, real estate or other professional services necessary to support the caregiver. Family members and close friends could also offer their services to help the caregiver organize and maintain their paperwork and service schedules to free the caregiver to perform their essential care duties.
#12 – Stay Connected
Let the caregivers know you are there for them. Clearly define how you will be available for them so they know who to call for the type of support they may need. Are you only available by phone if they need someone to talk to? Are you available to fill in for them in case of emergencies? Does your help extend only to researching and organizing paperwork and potential services? It is vital for the caregiver to know who and when they can call upon another family member or friend should they need assistance. If you are honest and defining about your boundaries the caregiver will know where you fit in their extended “support puzzle” and will only call on you when those conditions are needed. Knowing you are willing to be available and in what capacity can relieve a huge weight from the caregiver’s shoulders so they can provide the best care possible for their loved one(s).
Do you have a favorite way to say “Thank You” or show support for family caregivers? We would like to hear your thoughts on how best to support the caregiver. Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts.
To your improved health…