Supporting caregivers

Caregivers may not have time to complete outside chores, or get the car in for an oil change. These suggestions will give you an idea how to show support for a caregiver.

November has been designated, through the Caregiver Action Network, as National Caregivers Month. This means, now is a great time to acknowledge, support and celebrate the millions of family caregivers across the United States. Many of us aren’t sure how to support a caregiver and end up not doing anything.

While every situation is different keep some of the ideas below in mind when thinking of how to best show your support for a caregiver:

Call or stop by to ask how the caregiver  is doing. Caregivers may be tired, overwhelmed, grieving and ignoring their own health issues. Ask if there is something you can do for them. You may be turned down at first; don’t make a pest of yourself, but also continue to offer periodically.

Offer practical hands-on help as everyday chores may not be getting done. Does the lawn need to be mowed or the car dropped off for an oil-change? Can you make a grocery run or visit with the care receiver while the caregiver takes a break or a nap? The kitchen floor being mopped can take a nagging chore off the list and off the caregivers mind. Could you sit with the care receiver while the caregiver and spouse have time away from the house together?

Listen to the caregiver, they may need to talk about frustrations, concerns, and disappointments. Your role is to give support by listening, you are not there to solve a problem.

Don’t judge. Caregivers are making very difficult decisions and may be wondering if it’s the right decision. While you may not agree, don’t assume to know what’s best for someone else, each situation is different.

Time constraints on a caregiver may lead to turning down invitations. Don’t drop them off the list; if possible work around their schedule so they can be included in an event periodically. You may need to make more effort to maintain a friendship at this point.

Send a card or a bouquet of flowers. Ask if you could provide a meal and what to provide. The caregiver may be hungry for a pizza from the local restaurant. These simple gestures can be a day changer. Many caregivers feel isolated and forgotten, especially if caregiving has been a long-term responsibility.

Caregiving is stressful and can present new challenges on a regular basis. Many times caregivers set their own needs aside. Friends and family can support caregivers in many ways that take minimum effort. Reach out to a caregiver today!

Michigan State University Extension offers Powerful Tools for Caregivers, a 6 week series of classes focusing specifically on caregivers. Topics covered include reducing stress, communicating effectively with challenging situations, taking time for yourself, problem solving, making an action plan and much more.

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