Primary caregiver stress is a serious problem but there are ways to provide much needed support. In a growing number of homes across the country, people are taking on a new job that they never planned for and may have little in the way of skills or training – they are the primary caregivers to an elderly spouse, parent, or someone with significant disabilities.
In many cases (although not always) it’s the daughter that bears the brunt of care, and while the other siblings want to help, they aren’t sure how.
In a perfect world, multiple people creating a safety net of support would share caregiving duties. But the reality is caregiving for a person in need usually rests on the shoulders of one person with others not sure how to help. The problem is made worse because the primary caregivers don’t like to ask for help and don’t always know what they need.
But there some very tangible ways in which families can come together to support the primary care giver.
1. Don’t wait to be asked for help
If you are standing to the side wondering how to help a caregiver here’s where to begin.
Be a friend
A 2012 report by Alzheimer’s Disease International discusses the real problem of stigma by association.
Across nations and cultures, there is a stigma associated with illness, especially Alzheimer’s Disease. People suffering from the disease are seen as devalued with a loss of status and participation in society. People avoid contact and conversation with sufferers. This stigma crosses over to caregivers who are often seen as the reason a person is unkempt, incontinent, or acting inappropriate. Caregivers lose their friends and if the caregiver is part of a couple, they can feel a loss of status and self worth. This leads to the caregiver withdrawing from outside interactions and developing their own health problems and unable to provide the original care.
If you see a caregiver withdrawing from their regular activities, reach out to them. While phone calls, emails, texts, and even a card shows you are thinking of them, it cannot replace face-to-face interaction and support.
Simply “be there” and listen
Many times a caregiver needs to vent, share a challenge, and feel that they are not alone. While you may not be able to help solve an immediate problem listening can help.
Acknowledge the caregiver’s contribution
If you are not the primary caregiver of a spouse, parent, loved one because you do not live near that person or have the abilities, it is important to acknowledge the role the caregiver is playing. Saying thanks for all that the caregiver does is important.
Look for Signs of Stress
The Office on Women’s Health, a department of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides information on caregiver stress and warning sign including a useful fact sheet .
2. Find Services that help—many are free!
Caregivers need help beyond emotional support and friendship. If you see signs of stress but the caregiver feels unwilling to accept help, talk with them about setting up services that “don’t put anyone out,” but can improve their day-to-day living.
- Grocery delivery
- Cleaning services
- Snow removal
- Handyman services
- Dry cleaning pick-up and delivery
- Auto bill paying
3. Help your sister take a break
Primary caregivers report not having the time or resources to care for themselves. They are overwhelmed. Sometimes they only want time alone.
As a person outside of the day-to-day details you may have a different perspective, and can help by discussing how to find skilled and caring professional care. Adult daycare programs, skilled in-home nurses, short-term nursing home care, and home health care aides can provide immediate relief to caregivers.
Adult daycare programs are community based and many provide transportation allowing the caregiver to take a break but still provide primary support.
In-home caregivers can support caregivers when their loved ones are unable to leave the home. They provide assistance in a familiar surrounding and can work around schedules and appointments. With in-home care, a caregiver can leave the home knowing that their loved one is safe and happy. This allows for a mental and physical break for the caregiver who can reconnect with friends, enjoy a hobby, and have personal time to recharge.
These health care options are more affordable and flexible than people realize and maybe covered by some insurance policies. As someone who cares, but are not the primary caregiver, you can help by looking into the options in the local community.
People Come First
Comfort Home Care aides are dementia and Alzheimer’s care certified by the Alzheimer’s Association. Our caregivers are trained to understand the phases of dementia, and changes in behavior. We use this information to provide the best care possible. We strive to understand a client’s health history and personal preferences, their current health and care needs, and what their future needs might be. We believe this is the best way to deliver meaningful care.