Caring For the Caregiver

No one knows how hard it is to care for someone until they do it. As a hospice nurse I often saw family members giving more than their all. To be able to care for someone they loved so much, it made it all worth it. It is important that those who care for others to also take care of themselves and be supported. I want to share with you some tips on “Caring for the Caregiver.”

If you know someone who is caring for a loved one, how can you best help them? This is a good question. Obviously, these are people who sacrifice their own needs to care for others and put them first. How can we help them get what they need to put the oxygen mask on themselves first? (what you always hear in the airplane instructions; put yours on before you do others) What types of things can we do to help them.

  1. Remind them of the good job they are doing. It is a hard job and often thankless job. It is easy to get caught up in the way you felt you should have handled things better or differently. Often caregivers really question themselves and if they are doing it “right”. Let them know they are doing a good job. Give them specific examples of how. This is important feedback these angels need.
  2. Offer them help where you can. Maybe it is just hanging out for a couple hours so they can get away. Maybe it is running to the store, doing another errand or perhaps just washing dishes. It will be different for everyone and maybe different from time to time. Sometimes even small things (like taking out the garbage) can be a huge help!
  3. Do not tell them what they “need” to do. We sometime can be overly zealous in our desire to help these sainted people who put others before themselves. We can be busy telling them they “need” to take a bubble bath and have a glass of wine. That they “need” to get out and go for a walk. By using the word “need” we are putting one more thing on their “To Do” list. Even something fun, can become a stressor, if it is one more thing you “have to do”.
  4. Accept that how they unwind maybe different from your method of relaxing and decompressing. My husband loves social interaction. When he gets really stressed, getting together for fun with friends, is the perfect way to let off some steam. For me, I want alone time. Sometimes maybe one on one time with someone close to me. A walk in the woods (Forest Bathing) is perfect for me, where my husband loves the hustle and bustle and color of a walk in a busy mall. We all have different things that help us cope. Accept that what they desire might be different that what you desire.
  5. Give them unexpected treats. Home baked goodies, a gift card to a coffee shop or a nice notecard sent in the mail. Just something to give them a little smile and let them know they are appreciated. Maybe even a handpicked bouquet of dandelions. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just a little something to make them smile and let them know they are appreciated.

If you know one of these angel caregivers, I hope this gives you some ideas about how you can provide them support. If you do not, please feel free to pass this on to others it may help. The Alzheimer’s Association used to have posters that showed caregivers as angels or super heroes. I always loved that imagery because that is what these people really and truly are!

Thank you for reading my blog today. May you make the difference in the life of a caregiver, as if by magic. I love you!

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