Not everyone is a family caregiver but, with approximately 8 million family caregivers in Canada, chances are you know at least one in your family, group of friends, or through work.
You can best help by uplifting the caregiver and validating their efforts.
You may already know from observing a caregiver that their role isn’t easy. If you are not the primary caregiver but would like to help with the caregiving responsibilities, here are some ways to show your support for the caregiver.
Be supportive of the caregiver’s decision making
Being a family caregiver can be all encompassing and can sometimes involve having to make sacrifices for the sake of the person in need of care. (“Can the doctor see dad after I get off work? No? Then I’ll have to grab the first availability and book time off work to take him – again.”)
Being accountable for another person’s well-being is a huge responsibility and can be a weight on anyone’s shoulders. No matter how self-assured a family caregiver may seem there will be times when even they will doubt their own decisions. Unsolicited advice (which usually starts off with the words “If I were you…”) will only heighten that sense of insecurity and feeling of inadequacy for the caregiver.
As part of the caregiver’s support network, you can best help by uplifting the caregiver and validating their efforts.
If the caregiver you know is having doubts about their own caregiving abilities, remind them that no one is perfect and that you know they are trying their best to juggle multiple roles at the same time. Often being a sounding board and shoulder to lean on is exactly what a caregiver needs when they need to get a few things off their chest.
Offer the caregiver financial assistance
Examine your relationship with the family caregiver before you make any offers of financial assistance. Are you close enough to the person that they will gladly accept the offer, or will they perceive it as an act of charity and be offended?
If you think that a monetary gift will cause a rift between you and the caregiver, perhaps you can direct your gift towards the person in need of care. For example, you can purchase a week’s worth of groceries for the person, or any medical supplies that they need.
Remember to reassure the caregiver that taking care of some of the expenses is the least you could do because they are already taking on much more than their fair share of the caregiving load.
Provide the caregiver with hands-on help
Sometimes the care person will need services beyond what a family caregiver can provide or feels comfortable doing.
In these situations, you can offer your assistance with the task at hand or suggest (and perhaps help to pay for) in-home caregiving services such as those offered by Elizz Caregiving. This is a great idea if you don’t live in the area but would still like to contribute and offer your support for the caregiver.
Provide opportunities for caregiver respite care
Everyone needs time off work or we would all burn out. The same can be said for caregiving.
For many family caregivers, the reality is that caregiving can be so all-encompassing that their other responsibilities related to their work, family, and personal life end up falling by the wayside.
Help a caregiver find balance or get some respite by volunteering to drive the care person to their next appointment, or providing the care person with some companionship while the caregiver takes care of their personal needs. You could also arrange regular walks with the caregiver, a coffee meet-up, or a weekly dinner at a local restaurant.
Any opportunity for the caregiver to get out of the house and away from the caregiving role for even just half an hour can do wonders for their stress levels and overall well-being.
Keep in touch
It can be lonely being a family caregiver. Not everyone can relate to the responsibilities that come with caregiving, and some family caregivers can become socially isolated because of their caregiving duties.
If you know a caregiver, keep the lines of communication open. With email, cell phones, and social media, sending a quick note of encouragement or greeting has never been easier.
Show the caregiver that they are appreciated
You may not be able to always help out with the caregiving responsibilities or provide respite care for the caregiver, but there are lots of ways you can show your support.
A handwritten thank you card, flowers, or helping them around the house are all little things you can do for a family caregiver to show your appreciation. If you make dinner for your own family, consider making a little bit extra for them.
Thanks to the Internet, you don’t even have to live in the same part of the country to find a local restaurant that can deliver a meal to their home.
Still have questions about caregiver support?
If you still have questions about how to support family caregivers or if you would like more information about Elizz and any of our care services, please call us at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).
Elizz is a Canadian not-for-profit organization and the place in Canada for all things caregiving, providing support for caregivers as well as for the people in your care. Elizz is powered by Saint Elizabeth Health Care.
You might also like our Elizz article entitled 10 Caregiver Stress Relievers.