With more than 65 million people in the U.S. providing care care for a family member or friend, chances are we all know someone who is currently a caregiver. The stress that comes with this role can take years off of their life and any support you can offer will help alleviate the burden they are under. No matter how much we love those we care for, self-care is just as vital. One way you can support the caregiver in your life is by encouraging them to take time for themselves on a regular basis and making sure that they continue to enjoy the activities they did before becoming a caregiver. Making themselves a priority will also help them live a balanced life and reduce the chances of losing themselves in the role of caregiver. Sometimes all they need is to be told that it's OK to take personal time, and often this can renew and recharge them, helping them to better care for their loved one.
The simple act of asking the caregiver how they're doing is another way to show support. By showing genuine concern for their well-being, they will see that you care about them and want to hear what they have to say. Often, just having a listening ear can lighten our load tremendously. Margaret J. Wheatley said, "Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don't have to do anything else. We don't have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen." This can mean a lot in the life of a caregiver and remind them that they're not alone.
A lot of us have a difficult time asking for help, but if it's offered sincerely it's easier to accept. Offering to spend time with the individual they are caring for can give them a much needed break. You can visit with the individual, read, play a game, or share a meal. Another option would be to run errands for the caregiver or ask what else you can assist with. Sometimes the desire to provide the best care possible overtakes the tasks in our personal lives, and when these to-do's start piling up so does the stress.
A gesture such as a gift card, a favorite treat, or a thoughtful note can lift their spirits and rejuvenate them, reminding them that although they spend much of their time thinking of others, someone is also thinking of them.
Although your life is full and likely hectic, imagine what it would look like if you added to that the role of caregiver. Even a few moments of your time can go a long way in helping the caregiver in your life feel supported and encouraged. Join us next week for a post about Stress Relief Tips for Caregivers!