You might be surprised to learn that according to a recent study by the AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving, an estimated 53 million Americans act as caregivers. While they may not always be in the spotlight, they deserve our compassion and support. Continue reading to discover ways you can show your appreciation for the caregivers in your life.
What is National Family Caregivers Month?
National Family Caregivers Month is celebrated each year throughout the entire month of November. It serves to remind us of the critical role caregivers play in our society and bring awareness to the challenges they face.
You’ll rarely hear a complaint from those caring for a loved one, but the job does come with its fair share of difficulties. In fact, a 2021 survey from the AARP found on average caregivers spend 26% of their income on caregiving activities. In addition to the financial strains, mental and emotional fatigue are common. At least 23% of caregivers say the role has made their health worse, and 61% are juggling work responsibilities at the same time.
As these stresses start to add up, it can lead to a condition known as caregiver burnout. Luckily, National Family Caregivers Month is the perfect opportunity to identify the signs and learn how to support those who are struggling.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is characterized by a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. In many cases, caregivers are so consumed by their responsibilities and sense of duty that they don’t even notice the detrimental impacts until they’ve taken their toll. Here are some of the caregiver burnout signs to watch 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
Though it might seem inescapable when dealing with these symptoms, a trusted support network can help caregivers bounce back and have a rejuvenated outlook on their role.
6 Ways to Show Support for a Family Caregiver
There’s no need for grand gestures when it comes to supporting the caregivers in your life. Sometimes the simplest action is also the most impactful. Whether you have someone specific in mind or just want to show your appreciation for caregivers in your community, here are some suggestions to get your started:
1. Be a Sounding Board
When someone is struggling, your natural instinct is likely to offer solutions. However, sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. Instead of trying to solve their problems, provide a safe space to let the caregivers in your life vent. Unburdening those bottled-up feelings goes a long way toward relieving stress.
2. Thoughtful Gestures
Acting as a caregiver can often lead to feelings of isolation. When the needs of others take priority, caregivers regularly end up skipping social events, family gatherings or even holidays. Knowing their time is at a premium, think of some thoughtful gestures to remind them you care. It could be anything from sending regular check-in texts to sending flowers on a special day.
3. Help With Cooking
No matter how busy you get, you have to stop for sustenance at some point. Unfortunately with limited time and energy, it’s all too easy to pass on healthy meals for whatever is easy and available. You can help take this concern off the plate of caregivers by offering to help with cooking duties one night a week. For the less culinary inclined, takeout is always an option, too.
4. Take Care of Errands
Running all over town and sitting in traffic might be some of the last things you want to do when your stress levels are maxed out. By offering to run simple errands, you can help caregivers get more of their day back. If you have flexibility in your schedule, offer to pick the kids up from soccer practice, get groceries or drop some packages off at the post office.
5. Tackle the Chore List
If you own a home, you know all too well the to-do list never ends. While caregivers are focusing their efforts helping those who have difficulties completing regular chores, this can leave tasks in their own home unattended. Think of simple things you can help cross off the list like walking the dog, mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. Any amount of time you can give back makes a difference in the big picture.
6. Flexibility in Support
Sometimes you don’t know exactly where you need support, but knowing someone is there to have your back is a huge weight off mentally. Whenever possible, make yourself available on a schedule that works for the caregivers in your life. Also, try to be sympathetic to schedule changes or last-minute plans. When it comes to prioritizing the health and wellness of a loved one or social activities, the former is always going to win out and it’s easy to understand why.
Additional Support Options for Caregivers
Despite your best efforts, sometimes a task is just too much to handle on your own. If you or someone you know is in need of extra assistance with caregiving responsibilities, respite care might be an ideal option. Temporary in nature, respite care is designed to give caregivers a much-needed break while their loved ones receive professional care.
At The Stayton we offer residential respite care options in the Fort Worth, Texas area. During their stay in our welcoming community, guests enjoy access to the same activities and amenities as full-time residents. This includes everything from chef-prepared meals at our world-class dining venues to taking in a show at our performing arts theater. Best of all, professional health services are available around the clock for any needs that arise.
We understand these decisions are never easy to make, and want to be a trusted partner for you and your loved ones every step of the way. Our friendly team is here to answer any of your questions and show you what makes our community so special. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at your convenience to learn more about the respite care options available at The Stayton.