Most of us probably know a family caregiver. The friend, neighbor, the knitting club member that has taken on the role of caring for a seriously ill loved one. In fact, about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to another adult in the past 12 months. Family caregivers are everywhere.
When you think about a family caregiver, have you noticed any changes in them? Do they seem overwhelmed and less engaged in your friendship or relationship? If so, there may be a good reason. On average, family caregivers spend about 20 hours per week caring for others, but many reach up to 40 hours or more a week on top of their full-time jobs!
Seeing a difference in a caregiver you know? Here are some important signs to look for:
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- New or worsening health problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Eating, smoking, or drinking more
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Cutting back on leisure activities
These are signs that the caregiver needs a little extra support. Most caregivers don’t want to be a bother or appear needy, so they often won’t ask for help. But there are simple things you can do that could make a big difference:
- Listen. Caregivers give their time up to take care of another, and simply listening to your friend could help reduce their stress.
- Don’t Judge. Don’t second guess a caregiver’s decision. Only support the decisions they make. As their friend, they need your shoulder to lean on.
- Offer Help. Caregivers will typically be reluctant to ask for help but can always use it. Sometimes this means simply bringing a meal over, walking their dog, wash their car or offer to mow the grass. As the friend, you may not always know how to help but by asking it becomes more sincere.
- Let Them Know You Care. Call to let them know you’re thinking about them. Pick up a heartfelt greeting card. Write a short thinking of you email. Simple gestures mean a lot.
Delaware Hospice can also help through our continuum of care programs. Our services support both the patient and their family caregivers. We can add an extra layer of support to the care they are already providing. If you know someone who seems overwhelmed with their caregiving role, we’re happy to reach out and see if our services are the answer. Just give us a call at 1-800-838-9800 and we’ll be there.