Family Caregivers and How You Can Help
Do you know a family caregiver? I will bet that you do. With statistics like the ones below, how can we not? Next time your in a grocery store, take a look around at the other customers. Chances are, some of them are family caregivers.
A recent report from the National Alliance of Caregiving and AARP states:
- There are 53 million family caregivers in the U.S.
- One in five adult Americans is providing unpaid care for an adult or child family member who has a health condition or functional limitation.
- 26% of American family caregivers are caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- 24% of U.S. family caregivers are caring for more than one person now.
November is National Family Caregivers Month
With these kinds of numbers, it becomes evident that there are family caregivers all around us. If you know of one, perhaps in your neighborhood or family, you might want to reach-out with a helping hand to honor them this month.
If you are close by and can volunteer some time to show you care in person, here are two great suggestions:
- Create a calendar of volunteers to help with household chores, meals, yardwork, transportation and other services. You can create such a calendar for volunteers free online at several websites. These kinds of websites will ask you to create an account for your group or for the person. As the care coordinator, you will just provide volunteers the password so they can go online and enter the date and service they would like to provide to the loved one. This saves a lot of time and effort for you in coordinating their efforts. Websites such as CareCalendar and Lotsahelpinghands are free online for just this purpose.
If you don’t have internet access, you may choose to keep your own paper calendar and phone family and friends to ask them to help out sometime this month. The caregiver will be delighted to have this help, and to have it all planned out in advance.
- Volunteer to give them some time off. Call the caregiver and tell them you are available to sit in for them for a few hours. The caregiver will be delighted to have some time for an appointment for herself, to do something she enjoys, or just to go shopping. This could be just an occasional visit or a regularly scheduled period each week. The caregiver will benefit from having time to take care of herself, and so will you and the care recipient. A little free time makes a happier caregiver.
If you live at a distance from the caregiver, here are two suggestions that you might find helpful.
- Give the caregiver some relief from housework.
Hire a maid for the caregiver for a day. For about $30 to $35 an hour, you can hire a maid service to come to the house to help out that caregiver. What household chores does that caregiver need help with most? Cleaning the tub or shower? Mopping? Deep cleaning of the kitchen cabinets? Get some ideas from the caregiver about that most dreaded or difficult task. Call a local maid or maid service and talk to the maid service about their process and their charges. Schedule a day that suits the caregiver. Household chores? Tell that caregiver, “Forget ‘bout it. It’s being taken care of!”
- Send them something special to eat.
If you can’t be there to bring them a meal you fixed yourself, then think about other ways to provide them something they will all enjoy eating. Send them a coupon for a meal, or just call a restaurant and have a meal delivered to them. You can order pizza, Chinese, Mexican, cafeteria fare, just about any kind of meal by phone or online, and have it delivered these days. Or, mail them some fancy, special candies, cookies, jellies, sausages; there are all kinds of mail order foods out there.
Caregivers are selfless persons who care enough to give of themselves for someone in need. The time spent is invaluable, but the hours can be lonely and stressful. So seemingly small gifts of our time, service, and thoughtfulness can provide some needed relief, even if it’s for a short time.
And that can make a real difference.
Reference: AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/ppi.00103.001