Earlier this year, my father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. As the disease progresses, my mother struggles more and more to care for him. Dad, who used to be fiercely independent, now relies upon her for nearly everything. Everyday, mom helps dad get out of bed, bathe, and dress. She prepares all of his meals, takes him to doctor visits, and administers his medication—all while balancing work demands and other everyday responsibilities. As dad’s intellectual and physical abilities continue to deteriorate, his caregiving promises to become even more exhausting and frustrating.
Every year, over 50 million unpaid family caregivers across the country provide care for chronically ill, aged, or disabled spouses, parents, other family members or friends. Chances are you have a friend or family member like my mom, struggling to care for a family member in need. To honor and recognize those selfless caregivers as well as educate the public about caregiving, November has been declared National Family Caregivers Month. Please take this time to recognize the hard work and sacrifice of those family caregivers in your life.
Here are a few easy ways to show appreciation and support:
During the course of caregiving, there are times when the caregiver experiences feelings of isolation and loneliness. Letting the caregiver know you are thinking of them can make a significant difference in their overall well-being. Simply asking the caregiver how they are doing will let them know you care about them. A friendly visit or a phone call can lighten the caregiver’s spirits. Sending a card, flowers, or a gift basket will improve the caregiver’s day.
Caregivers need time off from their caregiving responsibilities to relieve stress and prevent burnout. Offering a few hours of your time to stay with the caregiver’s loved one will provide respite and give the caregiver time to re-energize. If the caregiver has children, offer to be backup childcare or provide carpooling when needed. Bringing dinner, running errands or providing transportation to an appointment will give the caregiver a break from the daily run around. Helping with household chores the caregiver may find difficult or time consuming will give them more time to relax.
Acts of kindness can have a positive impact on the caregiver and provide great assistance. Sending a gift certificate for their favorite take-out restaurant, the grocery store, or drug store can help ease the caregiver’s financial strains. Soothing music or an interesting novel can help the caregiver reduce their stress levels and sleep better at night. If you’re creative or crafty, consider giving something personal like a hand written poem, painting, or knitting an afghan.
If you have a friend or family member who is currently a caregiver, take this opportunity to recognize their efforts and give them a break from the stress and strains that come with providing care.