Did you know that there are an estimated 53 million family caregivers in the U.S.? Chances are good that you probably know of at least one in your life. Whether they are willing to ask for it or not, they could probably benefit from your help and support, especially as we observe National Family Caregivers Month. Keep reading to find out more about how you can make a difference in the life of a caregiver with even the smallest and simplest of acts of kindness.
November is National Family Caregivers Month
Every year, the calendar turns to November and many people start making their Thanksgiving plans. Too few of them seem to recognize that it’s also National Family Caregivers Month, which invites everyone to give thanks for the family caregiver in their lives. If anyone is deserving of our gratitude, it is caregivers, who are often the first to lend a helping hand and the last to ask one of them. There are certainly plenty of reasons for them to ask, as at least 23% of caregivers say the role has made their health worse, and 61% are juggling work responsibilities at the same time.
The stress associated with caregiving can lead to burnout, so take this opportunity to learn more about the challenges caregivers face and what you can do to support them.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiving can be rewarding, but the fact that it can also lead to physical, emotional and mental exhaustion is not always talked about as much as it should be. Caregivers can become so concerned with the well-being of the loved one in their care that they neglect their own health. This is what leads to caregiver burnout, which not only affects the caregiver but can also impact the level of care they are able to provide for their loved one.
If you are looking for warning signs of caregiver burnout, watch out for:
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Sleeplessness or changes in sleep patterns
- Weight loss, weight gain or changes in appetite
- Getting sick frequently or increased health problems
- Withdrawal from close friends and family
- Feelings of depression, helplessness or hopelessness
- Resentment toward the person being cared for
5 Ways You Can Show Appreciation for a Family Caregiver
No need to plan a series of grand gestures for National Family Caregivers Month. In reality, it is the simplest things that can make the biggest difference for caregivers. Here is a handful of ways you can show support and appreciation for the family caregiver in your life.
Be a Good Listener
Sometimes, a caregiver isn’t looking for solutions. They’re simply looking for someone who will listen. This may be difficult if you’re a natural problem solver, but the best thing you can do is often a listening ear to the caregiver in your life and let them vent. They may have a lot of thoughts and feelings bottled up and you can give them the release they need.
Make a Thoughtful Gesture
Isolation and loneliness can be common for caregivers. They may even withdraw from social activities, either because they don’t feel they have time for it or because they aren’t feeling up to it. When you’re not around a lot of people, it can be easy to let yourself believe that no one cares. To make sure the caregiver in your life knows that you care about them, try to call or text them regularly to check in. Take the simple step to remind them that they are important to you.
Running errands isn’t always a simple task for caregivers, especially if the loved one in their care can’t be left alone. Offer to take those errands off their hands and run them yourself. It’ll free up time in their life and also allow them to check a to-do off their list.
Help Around the House
How often do you remember to clean around the house? Now imagine being a caregiver who has to provide for the needs of a loved one who depends on their care. Suddenly, those household chores become a lot easier to neglect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still need to be done. You can help by volunteering to take care of these simple tasks.
Not every caregiver needs the same kind of support as another caregiver, so sometimes the best thing you can do is be flexible. Just make sure that the caregiver knows you are there for them, no matter what they need from you. Make yourself available. It’s also important to be empathetic and understanding, offering them patience and support at all times.
Additional Support Options for Caregivers
If you know of a caregiver who may need more support than what you can provide, consider approaching them about respite care. Beacon Hill offers 24/7 respite care services, with a minimum stay of seven days in our health center, to provide relief for caregivers and give their loved ones compassionate care and support. They may not be ready to take that step just yet, but it can be beneficial for them to at least know that they have the option.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about our community at Beacon Hill, we encourage you to reach out to our friendly support team.