Who's caring for the caregiver in your family?

Caregiver caring for the elderly

Who’s caring for the caregiver in your family?

There are a number of reasons why the daily caregiver duties for an aging parent or another family member may fall on one person. This can be rewarding in many ways, but it may also be exhausting.

It’s important for the other members of the family to help the main caregiver avoid burnout.Caregivers are more likely to get sick and have signs of depression than people who aren’t caregivers. Consider these ways you might support the caregivers in your family to have healthy, active lives.

First, ask how you can help. You might have a lot of ideas on what would help your family member out, but the caregiver may need something else entirely. Listen to what he or she needs and be prepared to say “yes.” If the caregiver in your family feels like others aren’t able to help, he or she might not feel like it’s worth asking for help when it’s really needed. 

Offer help in the moment. It may seem to be too overwhelming for the caregiver to come up with ideas of what they need from you. You may try a different approach. If you are going to the grocery or running other errands, call and ask if you can pick something up for them. This is more casual and may give the caregiver a chance to have you do something for them that he or she might not have thought worth your time otherwise.  

Be sure to ask the caregiver how he or she is doing. It is natural for the focus of conversations to be around the family member in need of care. Do your best to remember to ask the caregiver if he or she is eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking care of his or her own health as well. Ask if an adult day care option could give your family member some time away from caregiving. Explore these and other ideas with healthcare providers to help your family member get the rest, nutrition, and mental breaks he or she needs.

Helping from a long distance. The caregiver and the family member being looked after may be in another city, state, or country. In these caregiving instances, you might text, email, or call with words of encouragement. If you do call, respect that your family member may not have time to talk right at that moment. Every so often, take the time to send a card in the mail to show that you’re thinking of him or her and are thankful for the work he or she is doing for the family.

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