Help for Family Caregivers
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Help for Family Caregivers

While we often ask and also hear the question “How are you doing?”, it’s most of the time just another way to greet someone. Detailed answers to the question, ones that really go into detail about how someone is actually doing, especially in regard to their health, work, or personal life, are rarely expected or given.

November is National Family Caregivers Month, which makes it a great time to take the opportunity to actually dig a little deeper for an honest answer when we ask that question. Family caregivers may be feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or feeling any number of other emotions or conditions that other people may not notice at all. Chances are that if you know a family caregiver, they’d appreciate someone listening to them earnestly, and offering help.

Nonprofessional caregivers provide invaluable service to others, which often necessitates subordinating their own careers and personal desires and hobbies in the process. And then on top of that, they are rarely, if ever, asked about how they’re doing. The American Psychological Association has observed that there is often little or no routine assessment of caregivers’ well being either by healthcare or psychosocial providers, and little attention to problems or concerns they experience or report in their role as care providers.

There are many ways you can make a meaningful difference for family caregivers. Many caregivers share common concerns and needs, and here are specific ways friends and family can help.

Most caregivers say there’s simply not enough time in a single day to complete all their caregiving tasks while also making sure to take care of their own needs, whether they be home, family, work, or other responsibilities. Asking what you can do, rather than assuming, is critical. Saying “Let me know if I can help” doesn’t invite them to enlist your aid the way “What can I do to help today?” does. Be prepared to follow through with anything they need, whether it’s visiting, housecleaning, or running errands. Their need for help will continue as long as they’re a caregiver, so offering your help on a continual basis rather than once will go a long way.

Many caregivers find themselves thrust into the position suddenly and rather unexpectedly, and as such many of them have had to reduce their working hours or even quit their job. You can help by offering to pay for in-home services or supplies that are not covered by insurance or Medicare. You can also offer to take over duties while they’re working, or bring them a home-cooked meal or favorite takeout. Set this up beforehand to arrange a good date and time for everyone involved.

Family caregivers also need time. Even if they have enough time to complete their tasks, they also need time to rest, recharge, and vacation. Work with the caregiver and other members of the family to create a schedule for caregiving while the primary caregiver takes some time off. Agency caregivers and in-home services can be enlisted to help fill out the schedule as well.