How to ease the burden for a caregiver

November 20, 2017 | by Sivakami Krishnan, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

We’ve all watched someone go through it: taking care of an ailing, elderly family member as long as possible before allowing hospice, home healthcare workers or another facility to take over.

It’s a full-time job, and it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. So much emotion is wrapped up with the heavy responsibility. It takes quite a toll, mentally and physically.

If you’re on the outside watching someone you love care for someone they love, channel your urge to help them in productive ways.

In an article for the National Caregivers Library, Suzanne Mintz, president and co-founder of the National Family Caregivers Association, lists several ways to support a family caregiver, including:

  • Reassure the caregiver. For a family caregiver to let outsiders help care for a dying loved one, he or she must first feel that it is safe and acceptable to do so. Hospice has been helping people die comfortably and with dignity for many years. Encourage the caregiver to reach out to hospice, since hospice professionals and direct care workers are specially trained to care for the dying and understand a caregiver’s feelings and hesitations.
  • Set up a care team. A care team of friends and acquaintances will help the caregiver focus on the spiritual connection with his or her loved one without being distracted by what needs to be done. If multiple people help with small tasks, such as fixing dinner or providing transportation to religious services, one person isn’t left shouldering a major responsibility.
  • Help the caregiver relax. Provide the caregiver with time away from home to go to a movie, have dinner with a friend or get a massage. Caregivers need more than help with physical tasks; they also need someone to help them to relax. It may be difficult for them psychologically to allow themselves the luxury of indulging in a favorite form of entertainment. But without taking enjoyable breaks, it may be even harder for them to settle back into a normal lifestyle once their loved one has died.
  • Be a friend. Taking the time to listen to what a family caregiver is experiencing is critical to his or her emotional well-being. Let the caregiver share his or her thoughts and feelings freely. Let him or her cry. Show that you care by sending flowers or a care package, or sharing a favorite recording of relaxing music.

The AARP says the greatest gift you could give a caregiver is time – taking time to listen to them vent, help out with tasks or provide support so caregivers can have time for themselves.

You could also point the caregiver toward organizations offering helpful resources and information, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance, The Caregiver Space and CareGiving.com.

Learn more about home healthcare services offered by Edward-Elmhurst Health.

When is the right time to ask about Hospice?

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