Why It Matters
An estimated 44+ million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care and support for older adults or individuals with chronic disease or disability. Research has found that most caregivers are not only inadequately prepared, but receive little to no support for their role.
Family caregivers are at higher risk of physical, emotional, and mental health problems due to the ongoing stress of caregiving.
More than 1/3 carry on in an intense caregiving situation while their own health is compromised.
In addition, family caregivers face workplace difficulties, financial problems, and a significant loss of personal time.
Understanding why it matters is critical to help find solutions.
Ways Family Caregivers Can Help Themselves
“Start a journal to document how you feel and what this feels like. Even if you think you won’t like journaling, you will like going to a place (your journal) where you get to let it all out. When it comes out, it somehow sorts itself out.” ~ The Caregiving Years: Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey
Caregiving can be such an isolating experience. It’s important to connect with others, whether in person or online, who understand the difficult choices, circumstances, and emotions of caregiving. Check our Resources page for more information.
A Solutions Fund
An account to fund “solutions for boredom, breaks and back-up plans. Contribute a monthly amount; allow yourself flexibility in how you use the monthly budget. Use the fund for your caree, for the house, for you. Use the Solutions Fund for your caree to hire services…Ask family members to contribute to your Solutions Fund.” ~ The Caregiving Years: Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey
Ways Family and Friends Can Help a Family Caregiver
NOTE: The term “caree” refers to the care recipient.
1. Check in.
Caregiving is an isolating experience. A regular phone call to ask “How are you?” can be so helpful. We can’t “fix” how difficult it is to care for someone with critical care needs, but listening in a caring, non-judgmental way helps a family caregiver feel better.
2. Give a Break.
Offer to take care of a caree for a day or a weekend (or longer), when you can. Providing a regular morning or afternoon off, whether weekly or monthly, makes a difference in a caregiver’s quality of life.
Suggest a visit to keep a family caregiver and caree company (or sit with caree while the caregiver gets an overdue nap or errand done).
You may also consider contributing to a “Solutions Fund” [“The Caregiving Years: 6 Stages to a Meaningful Journey” by Denise M. Brown] to use for breaks and back-up plans.
3. Bring/Arrange Meals.
Whether occasionally or on a regular schedule, calling to let a family caregiver know you’ve got dinner handled (and by a time that works for them) is thoughtful help. Extra help with meals during times of crisis is a big relief.
4. Support Personal Interests.
By encouraging and helping a family caregiver make time for personal pursuits, goals, and hobbies, you can help the quality of a caregiver’s personal well-being.
5. Help with Errands.
Offer to make a grocery run, take your family member to an appointment (detailed notes for upkeep of records are much appreciated), walk the dog, or however else you can help.
6. Help with Household.
Maintaining a caregiving household takes more time, finances, and energy. Help with laundry, small home repairs, lawn care, installing adaptive equipment like grab bars, and other household chores is a great way to support a family caregiver. Whether you do it yourself or offer to fund a hired service, it’s a load off a family caregiver’s back.
7. Assistance with Administrative Work.
A close family member or friend’s help with paying bills, organizing medical records, taxes, research, and other organizational concerns can help a family caregiver manage an overwhelming amount of paperwork.
8. Help with Downsizing.
Moving from a residential home to service enriched housing such as assisted living is overwhelming without help. You can assist with organizing movers, packing and sorting, home cleanout, and other logistics. Moving is especially stressful when a lifetime of possessions and memories are involved. Consider offering to hire a senior move manager or other professional experienced in helping families navigate difficult life transitions.
9. Send a Caregiver Card.
An inspired way to let a family caregiver know you’re thinking of them. Check out original Caregiver Cards here.
Daily needs change throughout the journey of caregiving.
You can always ask: “What kind of help do you need today?”
THANK YOU for helping to care for the family caregivers in your life!
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Adapted and/or Sourced from:
Navaie-Waliser, M., Feldman, P.H., Gould, D.A., Levine, C.L., Kuerbis, A.N. & Donelan, K. (2002). When the caregiver needs care: The plight of vulnerable caregivers. American Journal of Public Health, 92(3), 409–413