Do you have a friend or a loved one who’s an unpaid caregiver for someone with a chronic health condition or disability? From assisting with medical care and preparing food to bathing, dressing, providing transportation, paying bills, and shopping, a caregiver’s task list can go on and on. This leaves many caregivers feeling exhausted and like there’s nothing left in the tank.
You may feel like you’re watching from the sidelines and there’s nothing you can do, but opportunities exist for you to provide support. Even if the caregiver hasn’t asked for your help, your thoughtfulness will be appreciated. Check out these five simple ways you can care for a caregiver.
Step in for a while.
If you’re able, give the caregiver some time off so they can enjoy some much-needed me time. Whether it’s for a couple hours, or an entire day, even a small break will help fill the caregiver’s cup.
Take the reins with tasks.
Have you told the caregiver to, “Let me know how I can help,” only to receive a vague, noncommittal response? That’s because for a caregiver, sometimes asking for help and delegating tasks seems more exhausting than just taking care of things themselves.
Instead, take the reins from the caregiver and tell them what you’re going to do to help. For example, you might call them and say, “I’m stopping by Monday morning with some prepared meals, and while I’m there, I’m going to do the dishes and weed the flower beds.” Or perhaps, “I’m going shopping on Wednesday. Send me a list of items you need, and I’ll drop them on your porch.”
Share a thoughtful gesture.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but let the caregiver know you’re thinking of them with a handwritten card or a thoughtful email. Even texting a funny meme that makes you think of them could brighten their day.
Simply listening is a wonderful way to provide a caregiver with emotional support. Let them talk, complain, cry and get angry—without interruption or judgment.
Raise money for them if needed.
Caregiving can have negative financial effects. Two in 10 caregivers have to stop working, while four in 10 have to reduce their working hours. And almost 80% of caregivers report paying out-of-pocket for routine expenses for care recipients, with the average annual out-of-pocket cost for caregivers adding up to $7,200.1 If the caregiver in your life is struggling financially, you could help ease their burden by arranging a fundraiser.
Caregiving + you. Have you thought about your own future?
Have you watched the caregiver you know and considered the possibility of one day needing a caregiver yourself? It may not be fun to think about, yet the truth is 70% of people will need care at some point in their lives.2 That’s why it’s important to plan ahead for the care you might need someday.
1CDC, Supporting Caregivers, https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/supporting-caregivers.htm, 2021.
2A Place for Mom, Long-Term Care Statistics: A Portrait of Americans in Assisted Living, Nursing Homes, and Skilled Nursing Facilities, https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/long-term-care-statistics, 2023.