Ways to Help & Support the Caregiver in Your Life
If your loved one has a caregiver, or if your friend or family member is a caregiver, you’ve probably gotten a glimpse into a day in the life of their job. To say caregivers are busy is an understatement – they do countless tasks to ensure someone’s well-being and independence. The duties of a caregiver are difficult and often physically and mentally demanding – so much so that caregivers can regularly face burnout and fatigue.
So, how do we be there to help and support the caregivers in our lives? We’re not talking about dropping off a casserole, or sending flowers. How do we show up for our care giving friends and family in a way that actually lightens their load and lets them know we’re there? We curated a list below of the meaningful ways you can be a true friend to the caregiver in your life to make the most out of the relationship.
Are you managing a caregiver for your aging parent? Try putting these tips into practice to support your caregiver in a genuine and useful way:
Ensure Personality Fit
When choosing a caregiver alongside your loved one, make sure you properly evaluate the overall dynamic, not just the caregiver’s skills. Does your loved one feel comfortable around them or is the caregiver getting on their nerves? After the caregiver interview, ask your loved one for their input as well. While one interaction between your loved one and the caregiver is only a glance into the relationship, it can give you an idea if the personality fit is right.
Face Problems Professionally
In care giving, problems are inevitable, especially at the start while your loved one and caregiver settle into a routine. When challenges arise, address the issue with professionalism and understanding. At the end of the day, the goal is to give your loved one the care they need. Keep this in mind when problems do come to head and discuss them openly with your caregiver. Valuing communication throughout the process will only strengthen the relationship with your caregiver. Of course, if the problem persists, then it may be time to consider other options. However, understand that problems will emerge in the care giving process and it’s completely normal.
Foster a Safe & Inclusive Environment
As much as your caregiver may be a stranger to you and your loved one, you are also a stranger to them. They’re coming into someone’s home whom they do not know, and it may seem unsettling at first. Maybe you also know that your loved one is going to be troublesome before the caregiver even arrives, only adding to the caregiver’s feeling of uneasiness.
With this in mind, your caregiver is going to feel equipped to do the best job they can when their environment feels safe. What does that mean? A clean and healthy space, emergency plans in place, and all the information they need to prepare themselves properly. If the senior they’re working with is challenging or demanding, let the caregiver know candidly so that they’re fully aware. Finally, respect their boundaries. If they need time by themselves or prefer to not discuss personal matters, honor their wishes to build more trust and to help your caregiver feel secure.
Value Their Well-Being
Put yourself in your caregiver’s shoes and ask yourself, what would make them feel appreciated? Psychology says humans do better when they have positive reinforcements, so don’t be afraid to get to know them better, affirm their hard work, and cheer them on when times feel difficult. Check in with them regularly – asking, “What do you need right now?” or “How can I help?” These questions go a long way in showing your caregiver that they matter. With a relationship built on trust, they’ll feel even more motivated to provide great care and feel more comfortable voicing their concerns if problems arise.
In other situations, maybe your friend or family member is a caregiver. Here are some ways where you can be there for the caregiver in your life in a way that truly supports them:
Remember the Little Things
Thoughtfulness goes a long way. Has your friend mentioned their favorite snack or movie in passing? Next time you see them, make it a point to bring their favorite things. In a role that requires so much selflessness, having someone remember the little things about them means a lot. Maybe they mention something that makes their job difficult these days, like not having the proper cooking tools to prepare meals for their loved one. Pick up a few cooking utensils for them at the store! The point is to be deliberate in how you show you care. Anyone can send a friend a gift card, or make lasagna, but to go the extra step and give in a way that is useful to them shows you’re listening to them and taking their words to heart.
The Power of Listening
A simple way to genuinely support the caregiver in your life is through active listening. Oftentimes, people get caught up in planning what they’re going to say next to keep conversation flowing, instead of listening attentively to what the other person is saying. When your friend or family member turns to you, take time to process what they’re communicating. If you’re not sure what to say, just be honest: “I don’t have anything to say because I was taking in your words.”
Lastly, be there for them, even if you don’t understand what they’re going through. You can still show that you’re on their side by acknowledging your support through it all. Appropriate words to tell them in this situation may be something like “I won’t always say or do the right thing, but I want to support you as best I can.” This lets them know that you may not understand the situation fully, but you’re there for them in whatever way they need you to be there.
Give Them a Break, Literally
Caregivers are on their feet, moving around, lifting objects and even those they’re caring for. Relieving them of their duties even just for a bit can give them space to recharge. Offer to sit with care recipients while your friend or family member takes time for themselves. When someone is a caregiver, their needs may feel like they go out the window. The best gift you can give them when it feels this way is time back to re-calibrate and get the rest they need.
Supporting Your Caregiver Supports Your Relationship
Care giving is no easy task – the role requires patience, physical skills, care knowledge, and mental strength. By putting the above tips into practice, you can be your caregiver’s best advocate and a trusted partner. Continue to show up in practical ways for the caregiver in your life – you never know if one day you’ll be in their shoes.