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Supporting Your Family Caregiver

When it comes to caregiving, intentions and resolutions are not the same.

The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP shows that family caregivers spend about 24 hours per week providing care. One in four caregivers spends 41 hours or more a week providing care.

Over the years, I’ve talked with many caregivers. Every one of them is different, every situation is

different, but many of the problems and concerns they face are the same. I hope everyone who

reads this will agree that caregiving is stressful. It can be overwhelming and is often exhausting.

If you’ve had an aging loved one in your family, you know there’s usually one family member who

steps up or steps into the caregiving role. Often, it starts out easily enough – your elder needs help grocery shopping or getting to appointments. Maybe it’s meal prep or helping set up weekly pill boxes. It’s not that much time, so no one thinks too much about it, even the caregiver. But, as time goes on, more and more can be needed. Now, the caregiver may be going to the house every morning to help the elder get up, get breakfast, and morning meds, and then they go off to their job.

When their workday ends, they are back with the elder to make sure they’re still okay and to be sure they have a good meal and clean clothes for the next day. Most do not begrudge the time they spend caring for their loved one, but it’s easy to see how it could take a bite out of the rest of their life even if they can’t see it themselves.

If you have a loved one who is a caregiver for an aging family member, it’s important they have your support, but it can be hard to know what support they need or when they need it because

caregivers are usually quiet about their caregiving frustrations. My best advice is to act on the

assumption that they need your support and encouragement every day. It doesn’t have to be

anything big; sometimes, just acknowledging that they did a good job is enough; other days, they

may need more. Try hard not to say things like, “you look tired,” or “I don’t know how you do it,” or

one of my favorites, “let me know if I can help.” That sounds helpful, but if you really want to help, all you have to do is look around - it’s easy to see how to help! Do the yard work. Offer to go grocery shopping. Sit with the elder so the caregiver has a little break. Fold laundry, make a meal, run the vacuum – you don’t always have to ask – just do!

Many families are spread across the country, and if that’s your situation, there are still things you

can do to support your family caregiver. I am the only local child, so I see about the day-to-day stuff for our dad. I’m lucky. My siblings are supportive and helpful. They call my father every day and whenever I need something – help with bill paying, finding a new specialist, following up on

insurance – whatever I ask, they do. Most importantly, when they come to visit, they don’t

criticize how I do things or what I’ve done. They make my job as a caregiver easier just by knowing they are there and that I can count on them.

So please, let your family caregiver know you appreciate them and support them every day as best you can. Understand there will be some days of frustration, but your ongoing support makes those days a little more bearable.



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