A family caregiver is someone who helps care for a loved one who is often sick, has a disability, or simply needs extra support throughout the day as they age. This may be a son or daughter caring for a parent or a spouse caring for their partner. Oftentimes the person needing care is an older adult who requires assistance with activities of daily living.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, about 1 in 4 Americans are caregivers. Most caregivers also have other jobs and spend an average of 24 hours a week on care. The work of a family caregiver can be equal parts challenging and rewarding. There’s no doubt it’s difficult. That’s why it’s important to support and show appreciation for caregivers.
National Family Caregivers Month
The Caregiver Action Network (CAN), also known as the National Family Caregivers Association, began promoting the national recognition of caregivers in 1994. This led to President Bill Clinton signing the first National Family Caregiver Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997.
The proclamation established November as National Family Caregivers Month. Every year in November, the Caregiver Action Network makes materials available to help celebrate the work of family caregivers. The website also offers year-round resources for them. While this month is special for many, it’s important to not forget about family caregivers the rest of the year.
Many caregivers eventually end up experiencing something called caregiver burnout at some point in their life. One way to show your appreciation? Help a caregiver avoid burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
When a caregiver fails to address their own needs and the stress piles up, this can lead to something called caregiver burnout. According to the Cleveland Clinic, caregiver burnout is defined as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.
Common symptoms include fatigue, anxiety and depression. Caregiver burnout is common among family caregivers because they have such a close personal relationship to the person they are taking care of. This makes it even easier for the caregiver to feel the need to always be doing more, which can add another layer of stress.
In order to manage caregiver burnout, it’s important to be able to spot the signs of it.
4 Ways You Can Show Appreciation for a Caregiver
One way to help a family caregiver avoid burnout — and ultimately provide better care — is to show your appreciation for them in a meaningful way. Not just one month out of the year, but as the need arises. There are several ways you can accomplish this, and here are a few of them.
1. Tell Them You Are Available to Help
Family caregivers tend to be busy people, and they may not want to burden others with their troubles. They may even feel guilty discussing the challenges of caring for a loved one. It’s far too easy to suppress the feelings that lead to burnout. How can you show your support? The first step is to declare your availability. AARP suggests saying something like, “I know other people who have had a difficult time with caregiving. Please let me know if you would ever like to meet or talk on the phone about what this is like for you.” The caregiver may not take you up on this offer right away, but this makes it known to them that you are willing to support them.
2. Be Present and Listen to Them
Everyone’s situation is different and that’s especially true for family caregivers. While we may think we know how to best help a friend or loved one, that’s not always the case. Instead of being quick to offer advice, focus on being present and listening with intent. This will help you tailor the support you provide to the caregiver’s circumstances and preferences. Listening is a great way to show a family caregiver that you care. But you also need to be available to help, too.
3. Give Them the Gift of Time
Listening is one thing, but you also need to have the availability to follow-up and show your support whether it’s a one-time event or a long-term form of assistance you are providing. After listening to a family caregiver, see if you can pinpoint an area where you can offer help. Maybe that means watching the person receiving care for a while or running errands for the caregiver. Any way you can free up time for a caregiver to focus on their own needs can be helpful.
4. Be Flexible With Them
Emergencies happen, but if you commit to helping out a family caregiver, you shouldn’t be rescheduling things last-minute or realizing that you don’t actually have the time to do so. You should be working on the schedule of the family caregiver and show them flexibility if plans change or they end up running an errand that takes longer than planned. Life happens.
Support Options for Caregivers
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may find that a family caregiver needs more help than you can provide. There are a number of support options available to caregivers. Even if you find you don’t have the availability to help a family caregiver in need, you can help them get further assistance by sharing information and resources about caregiver support services.
Caregiver support options include:
- Local support groups for caregivers.
- Services and programs at adult day centers.
- Hired support from a home health aide.
- Residential respite care services.
When a family member needs more extensive care, that’s when we recommend seeking out a higher level of support. Respite care is a temporary or recurring form of caregiving assistance that is available to give unpaid caregivers a break. Residential respite care is a specific type of assistance offered to family caregivers of older adults through a senior living community.
Respite Care at Village on the Green
Village on the Green offers residential respite care stays of a week or more in our newly remodeled health center. Whatever a family caregiver’s reason for respite care, the skilled team in our five-star rated health care center is here for them. While staying in our community, the person receiving care will enjoy the companionship of our residents and team members. They will also receive access to 24/7 care, engaging activities and nutritious chef-prepared meals.
At Village on the Green in Longwood, Florida, we recognize the challenges and rewards of family caregiving. If you or someone you know could benefit from residential respite care services, please reach out to our team through the form below or give us a call 407-682-0230.