Jayne Mund, Caregiver Consultant
East Central Senior Resource Center
November is National Caregiver’s Month. It is a time to acknowledge the important role that family, friends and neighbors play in caring for the sick, our aging parents, disabled friends and relatives.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, a caregiver refers to “anyone who provides assistance to someone else who is, in some degree incapacitated and needs help: a husband who has suffered a stroke, a wife who has Parkinson’s, a mother-in-law with cancer, a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease…”
Caregivers offer a range of services, including emotional and spiritual support, assistance with financial matters, transportation and home-and-health-related services. This is an incredible responsibility and service that often goes unnoticed and acknowledged on a daily basis.
According to FMC, “Family Caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.” Today’s caregivers juggle careers, personal relationships, home maintenance, housework and more while caring for a relative or friend.
Mother Teresa said, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” These wise words remind us how important it is to keep refueling ourselves, especially if we are caring for someone.
People who are caring for another person need all the support they can get. If you know someone who is caring for another person, here’s how to help. The Mayo Clinic offers some practical and concrete ways to support a caregiver.
Be specific: When someone you care about is going through a difficult time, you might say, “Let me know how I can help.” It’s a nice gesture, but such offers can be difficult to accept, primarily because they are not specific. Instead make concrete offers of help. For example:
“I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?”
“I’ve got a couple of hours free tomorrow afternoon. May I sit in for you while you run a few errands or take some time for yourself.”
“I doubled my meatloaf recipe so that I could share it with you. I brought enough to last you for several meals.”
“Do you need some laundry done? I could pick it up today and bring it back clean tomorrow.”
“Does your yard need to be raked? I’d be happy to take care of it this weekend.”
Sometimes sending a card or making a phone call to check in on a caregiver means a lot. Email and text messages work too, but often personal visits are even better. Contact from the outside world can lift a caregivers spirit and acknowledge the journey they are on. If your offers of help aren’t accepted, be gently persistent. Remind the caregiver that he or she doesn’t have to do this alone, and the best way to take care of someone else is to first take care of yourself.
(Sources: www.mayoclinic.com and www.aoa.gov)
For those of you who are caring for someone as you read this, remind yourself you are doing a great job. You are doing the very best you can. Encourage, lift and strengthen one another. For the positive energy spread to one will be felt by us all.”