caregiver with her mother outdoors

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, there are 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S. offering care to someone who is ill, disabled, or aged. That means 29% of the U.S. adult population is working as a caregiver, and many of them provide care while also working full-time jobs or caring for other family members. Needless to say, their work can be overwhelming, and they can always use extra support from family, friends, and neighbors. Though you may find your own ways to help out, here are a few ideas for how you can better support the caregivers in your life:

1. Acknowledge their work

Caregiving is often a thankless job. It involves long hours that frequently go unnoticed or unappreciated. Sometimes the best form of support is simply acknowledging the work that a caregiver is doing. Take time to notice the small and large tasks the caregiver does each day, and thank them. Rather than simply saying a general thank you, be specific, and let them know how much you admire and appreciate their patience under pressure or their ability to run a tight schedule. Letting them know that you see and appreciate what they do can help motivate them to keep going.

2. Make sure they get the care they need

When you’re caring for someone full time, there isn’t always much time for self-care. That means that many caregivers go for months or even years without their own regular checkups with the doctor or dentist. Encourage them to set up an appointment, and follow through to ensure that they’re getting the care they need.

3. Recognize caregiver stress

Caregiver burnout is unfortunately quite common. To help, you should learn to recognize the symptoms of stress and know where to send caregivers for help if the time comes. When caregivers start to neglect their personal care or health, or they start becoming unusually temperamental or withdrawn these could be signs that they’re overwhelmed. If this happens, you can be ready to offer your help or connect them with a support group or counselor.

4. Find simple ways to help

Buy groceries. Fix the leaky sink. Mow the lawn. Taking care of these little household tasks can help take the stress off a busy caregiver. These small tasks can often fall through the cracks, so when you’re over for a visit, look for what needs to be done and do it.

5. Take over for a day

Everyone needs a day off every once in a while, and that goes double for caregivers. Give them a break by taking over for a day. Let them set an appointment for a massage or go see a movie. A little personal time can go a long way.

6. Write a heartfelt note

While a verbal ‘thank you’ is nice, a note is a physical and long-lasting reminder that someone appreciates what you do. Sending a handwritten letter or a kind card can brighten a caregiver’s day and give them something to look back on when things get tough.

 

If you have a friend or family member who has taken on the role of caregiver, try out these simple methods for showing your support. Caregiving isn’t easy, but having a support team helps to make it a little bit easier.