As emotional support humans, we know the importance of caring for people in our lives who may need some help and support. It’s important stuff, and let’s be real, we take our jobs seriously! But when those people are busy caring for others, things get more complicated. So, how do you support people who are also giving care? In this post, let’s explore how to make that network of care work for those who primarily give it.
Who is a Caregiver?
Being a caregiver means being there for someone you care about in their time of need. Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes – it could be a paid professional, family member, friend, or even a neighbor. And you don’t always need to have any special qualifications to be a caregiver. It’s all about being willing to help out and provide support to someone who needs it. And because we’re all human, caregivers need support too.
While being a caregiver can be a great honor, it means needing to juggle a lot of responsibilities! These range from managing medications and doctor appointments to providing emotional support and companionship.
Caregiving as a Public Health Concern
Caregiving comes with its own unique set of benefits. In addition to being able to provide care for friends and loved ones, caregivers can also experience personal feelings of fulfillment, strengthen relationships, and develop skills. However, caregiving can also come with some less than desirable side effects. It is not just a personal issue, but a public health concern because of the potential physical, emotional, psychological, and financial strain. According to the National Alliance of Caregiving (NAC), an estimated 53 million adult caregivers live in the United States. An increasing number of caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago.
Caregiving can have serious consequences for both the caregiver and the care recipient.
- Caregivers are at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
- Caregivers may experience physical health problems due to the stress of caregiving, such as high blood pressure, chronic pain, and fatigue.
- Care recipients may also experience negative health outcomes if their caregivers are not properly supported, such as delayed or inadequate medical care.
How to Support Caregivers
So, as an emotional support human, you’re probably wondering how you can support the caregivers in your life! Caregivers tend to provide care in three major areas: emotional care, physical care, and day-to-day needs. Here are some tips to get you started:
Supporting Emotional Needs
It can be emotionally draining to be a caregiver. They often feel the stress of care first and foremost in their emotional bandwidth. And, when your responsibility is to care for others, it leaves less room to care for yourself. Try these tips to help support the emotional health of the caregivers in your life:
- Ask the caregiver if they have a mental health professional that they see regularly or another way they relieve stress and talk about their feelings as a caregiver.
- Share something funny with them, like a hilarious meme or a video of a cat doing something silly. As they say, laughter is the best medicine!
- Ask them to describe ways they might take a break every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If they express interest in some time away, ask if there is a way you can help with their caregiving responsibilities for a bit so they can have some time to themselves.
- Inquire about their favorite creative or relaxing activity and offer to do that with them. Maybe they like painting or going to the movies. Whatever it is, offer to join them for the things they love.
- Remind them that it’s okay to cry. Sometimes a good cry session can be the perfect release!
- And most importantly, be an emotional support human! Check in with them, offer to talk, or simply be there to listen. Here are some tips to put that in action.
Taking Care of Physical Needs
Being a caregiver is not only draining on the mind – it can also have physical affects. Here are some ways you can help care for the physical needs of caregivers:
- Bring them their favorite food or meal. Good food can be a great pick-me-up!
- Ask them what they do to get rest and exercise. Invite them to go for a walk or a hike with you or ask what would be helpful to them so they can take a break and catch up on some sleep.
- Consider booking them a massage, pedicure, or spa day. Everyone deserves a little pampering now and then.
Taking Care of Day-to-Day Needs
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can add up and cause stress. As an emotional support human, you can help alleviate some of that stress by supporting the day-to-day needs of caregivers. Here are some ways you can help:
- Ask if they need help running errands. Do they need groceries or gas for their car? Any little thing can make a big difference!
- Connect them to community resources. Maybe you know of a class they’d enjoy or a book club they could join. Without taking over, it’s great to share ideas for their consideration. It’s important they stay connected to the world around them.
Building a Stronger and More Caring Community
Remember, caring for others takes a village. Between emotional drain, physical stress, and administrative pileup, caregivers juggle a lot of responsibilities! As emotional support humans, sometimes we give support and sometimes we need our own support humans too. So, next time you’re with a caregiver, try out one or two of these tips and see how it goes. If you’re a caregiver yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for support! Together, we can make Howard County a stronger and more caring community.