By Breeda Miller
Invisible Pain. The pain is real, the scars run deep. Depression, grief, loneliness, anxiety – they are far too common and often unrecognized. For Caregivers – these issues impact those in their care as well as themselves. It’s a double whammy that is often ignored.
Who cares for the caregiver?
Caregivers often suffer from many of these maladies themselves while caring for others at the same time. Their pain goes unrecognized as it is chalked up to the normal exhaustion and stress of caregiving. But when the overwhelm, sleep deprivation and frustration is relentless, the caregivers themselves become ill and need to be recognized and helped. Too often caregivers just carry on – thinking that they are somehow deficient because they are not handling everything as well as they think they should. Seeking help from a medical doctor, a therapist or even an honest conversation with a wise friend is not something that caregivers are known for. How many times have well-meaning friends and family asked about the health of the person in care, totally ignoring the exhausted caregiver who is there making everything work? An in-depth article regarding Caregiver Depression was just published and provides additional insights – https://www.everydayhealth.com/wellness/resilience/learn-signs-caregiver-depression/ . It’s a good read.
Silence is not golden
Sometimes people don’t ask (especially family members) because they don’t want to hear the answer. They are not willing (or able) to help out and they don’t want to feel guilty about the impact caregiving is having on the caregiver. Sometimes they just feel helpless and say nothing, because they don’t know what to say or what to do. Finding ways to make the day a bit easier or brighter for caregivers is a great start. Here are some ideas:
Four Really Helpful Ways to Help
- Time. Ideally, the best offer is time. Time spent with the person needing care so that the caregiver can have some time to themselves – to go to a movie, take a walk, a weekend away without worry – that is always on the top of the caregiver wish list.
- Money. Financial support to help with daily living needs, medical co-pays, home health aides, new equipment (not covered by insurance), home repairs. An offer of financial support without being asked is a double gift.
- Skills. Maybe you are a financial whiz and love dealing with numbers and accounting but have no interest or ability to physically care for someone. Your money skills could be a tremendous gift to a stressed out, exhausted caregiver. Maybe you like to cook – delivering batches of ready to eat or ready to freeze meals once a week would be a welcome treat. Are landscaping and yard work your jam? Show up with your tools and you can make the world a more beautiful place if that’s a need in your family. You get my drift – what are you good at that can lighten the load for a caregiver?
- Surprise Treats. Order something special for your caregiver – something they wouldn’t buy for themselves and have it delivered. Imagine their surprise and delight to receive fresh flowers, a subscription to something they love or need, a delicious treat – what would put a smile on the caregivers face and make them feel appreciated and honored?
You can make a huge difference
The point is to act. To be helpful. Consider ways you can offer support and show appreciation. The number of people needing care, especially dementia-related care is increasing daily and the number of available caregivers is diminishing at a very high rate. We need to find ways to support and honor caregivers as if our lives depended upon it. Because it really does.