Supporting the caregiver in your life
Sometimes it can be tough to know the right thing to say to someone who you know is a family (unpaid) caregiver or is even your caregiver and support system. Here we share some helpful guidance, tips and advice on how best to approach certain topics.
Ask them questions
Below are a few examples of questions you can ask the caregiver(s) you know in order to support them. Sometimes even showing that you can understand how they are feeling and what they are going through can be enough.
What can i do to make your day/week easier?
Caregivers often do not ask for help, even when needed. Offering the help that they most need can help alleviate some of the stress of managing multiple responsibilities.
How are you feeling?
While caregivers are focused on the well-being of the person they are caring for, their own well being is frequently overlooked. Check in with the caregiver in your life and listen, sometimes they won’t share, but it is worth asking as it is ok for them to not feel ok and need some support too.
Do you want to talk?
Even if you are not a caregiver yourself you can still be a support in their life. Make sure they know that you are available and want to listen to them, and don’t wait for them to initiate the conversation. While ‘call me any time’ may sound good, it puts the burden on the caregiver to make the first step.
Do you have any other caregivers you feel you can talk to?
While 76% of caregivers feel that talking to someone in a similar situation would help them feel better, only 17% do it. Many caregivers feel that non-caregivers don’t understand their situations but don’t know who to turn to. If the answer is no, see if you can help connect them with a local caregivers group or perhaps an online forum set up by one of the local caregiver organizations.
Would it be helpful if i cooked you a meal/come over for a few hours so you can do something for yourself?
Similar to question one but offering a specific service can help take away some of the hesitance for those who might have difficulty asking for help. However, make sure to ask rather than insist. Sometimes acts that may seem helpful to you may not actually be helpful to a caregiver. They also may think a few hours here and there won’t help longer-term, but sometimes even a short break and small act of kindness can give them a bit of head space and respite.
Do you want to go somewhere/do something together?
While the answer may be no, it can be easy for caregivers to find themselves left out of social situations when all others assume they cannot join due to their caregiving responsibilities. Despite the intentions behind it, this sort of action can be further isolating on the caregiver. Making sure they feel included and seen as more than a caregiver – and making an effort to make any engagements accessible to their needs and schedules – helps to show you are thinking of them and trying to find activities that suit their schedules.
Do you have the
resources you need?
This question can be tailored to fit a more specific scenario, but at its core it is important to make sure caregivers have the resources – practical, financial, and personal – that they need. If the answer is no, you can possibly see how you can help do research or reach out to connect them with those resources. You may not be able to provide them yourself, but you can provide your time.
Have you been sleeping well/eating well/gone to the doctor recently?
This can be a sensitive question that might be better asked if you are particularly close to the caregivers, such as a family member or close friend, but it is important to watch out for signs that a caregiver might be neglecting their own health. Offer assistance where you can to help them prioritize their own health.
Spotting the signs of a caregiver in need
Now that you know the stress and struggles caregivers can face, you might be wondering how the caregiver in your life is faring, and how to tell when they might need a little help. Beyond some of the questions and conversation starters we’ve provided, here are some of the warning signs that a caregiver might be in need of assistance.
Giving support comes in many forms
Just as no two caregiver situations are the same, no two caregivers are identical when it comes to the support they need. Here are the types of support you can provide, and how you can provide it:
Caregivers are juggling so many responsibilities that sometimes they just need someone to take a task (or two) off their plate. Running errands, cooking meals, making appointments, providing back-up care, and other such practical supports can be a huge help in making each day a little less overwhelming. But always make sure to have a conversation with a caregiver first to determine what they need before acting. If you need help starting that conversation, start with our questions to ask caregivers.
Sometimes caregivers just need someone to be there for them through the good and the bad. Checking in on them on a regular basis, making time for them one-on-one, keeping them connected with their social circles, and even just being available to listen when they need to talk are all important parts of supporting their emotional health. Of course, you are not a mental health professional, nor should you be expected to be one. If you note that the caregiver in your life needs more support than the people in their life can give, have a discussion with them about seeking additional outside support.
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