Family caregivers, without a doubt, have so much to do and while there is no shortage for people offering to help, there is often little that is concretely offered. Below are some specific suggestions family and friends can offer so as to make a family caregiver's life a little easier.
Offer to take the caregiver out - lunch, tea, coffee, etc., - basically anything that allows the caregiver to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities. Going out and doing something different from their normal routine can be a reprieve and can also help reduce feelings of isolation. If possible, friends and family can express their desire to go out, while also being accommodating and flexible to a caregiver's schedule.
Offer to care for their loved one while they attend a support group. Being able to participate in a support group, whether in-person or virtually, can normalize a caregiver's situation as well as their feelings of doubt, resentment, etc. It can also increase the likelihood of forming connections by allowing them to see that other caregivers are experiencing similar issues.
Offer to run errands - grocery shopping, medication pickup, taking their loved one to medical appointments, etc., are just a few of the errands family caregivers often manage. Helping with such tasks can not only help the caregiver feel validated but also reduce their stress.
Offer to spend the week or weekend with their loved one. If the caregiver is living with the person they are caring, this can be a particular reprieve. Having a weekend, for example, can offer the caregiver a sufficient block of time to tend to their own errands or interests without having to worry about rushing back home to their loved one. Of course, offering this as an option, greatly depends on the severity of the loved one's care needs. So, offer this only if you know how to handle the intricacies of caring for their loved one.
Acknowledging a caregiver’s responsibilities through words is helpful but actions generally hold more weight. Often times, caregivers don’t have the time to think about what other’s can do. Being direct and offering something concrete can be a great first step in alleviating some of the tasks caregivers are responsible for.
Do you have any other recommendations for family members and friends of family caregivers? What else can someone do to help alleviate caregiver stress?
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.