How to Care for the Caregiver in Your Life
Caregiving - the practice of tirelessly tending to others’ needs - is a herculean task that is often underappreciated. You may have been around at least one caregiver, maybe a parent who raised you or a colleague who looks after their ageing mother. In the times we find ourselves in today, a lot of us may have had to become caregivers too, caring for our family members and loved ones. That’s what caregivers do quite naturally- caring for others, shouldering multiple responsibilities and tasks, nurturing and comforting their loved ones, and placing others over themselves.
As noble as all of this sounds, it is often forgotten that caregivers are human beings too and not some invincible, immortal supernatural beings. Because of this incorrect glorification, so many such caregivers, especially those that have been caring for the elderly and other vulnerable people over the past year, might have reached burnout without realising it. They might have been so busy tending to others that they might have forgotten what it feels like to care for themselves. So if you know a caregiver who has been relentlessly working this past year, here’s what you can do to help ease their burden a little:
- Notice any small and unspoken signs that require attention.
Due to their sheer load of responsibilities and worries, caregivers might sometimes simply forget to ask for help. This is where you need to be very attentive to their actions. Unspoken cues often reveal more than words possibly could so if you notice that they look haggard and pale, like they haven’t been sleeping well, for example, then ask questions about their well being. Even knowing someone cares can lift their spirits.
- Create space for them to talk about what they might be experiencing.
Engage in conversation and ask questions about them that get them thinking. Allow them to tell you what’s on their mind and how they feel about this situation. When you create a safe space that allows for them to be honest about their struggles, you are letting them feel, thus humanizing their efforts.
- Take up something, if you can.
Discuss with them what needs to be done - for the week or the month ahead. If you can do something, like running an errand or refilling prescriptions for them, then see if you can take it up. If you live in the same house, maybe you can take up a few chores to lessen the load on the caregiver, so they can get some free time to rest or do other activities.
- Remind them that they are allowed to take breaks and practise self-care.
This is a constant reminder that is super important for everyone today, but especially for caregivers. They might forget to take a break or feel guilty for even considering it. In such a situation, you can do your bit by reminding them that it is okay to want to care for themselves because that can ensure they have more energy to care for others better. You can even join them on one such day set aside for self-care and simply spend time unwinding.
- Find support groups for them.
Because they cannot take the time to search for support groups for similar caregivers, you can do this for them. This is so they can have a network of caregivers where they can truly feel seen and heard. Similar stories of what worked and what didn’t can give them hope and provide pointers for caring for their loved ones. If they aren’t already attending therapy, consider arranging for it. A mental health professional can help them cope with these struggles and come up with effective ways to cope with them.
- Share admiration often.
Be honest and open about how you appreciate all that they are doing. Thank them for their hard work and effort. You can bring up specific examples of something they did. Something along the lines of “Thank you for cooking me a meal that day,” or “I appreciate you checking up on me,” will truly make them feel seen. This won’t necessarily lessen their responsibilities but it will provide them much needed support and encouragement.
Caregivers, just like everyone in society, need some taking care to prevent burnout. We can do our bit by showing them empathy and helping them whenever we can.