November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time when we celebrate, honor, and support the selfless contributions of our world’s greatest superheroes. Caregiving is no simple feat, and while it feels rewarding to provide care to someone in need, the effects of dementia expand beyond an increase in memory loss. For the family caregiver, it is also the devastation of watching their loved one change and lose parts of the foundation that once built their relationship.
The weight of a diagnosis is just as heavy for the caregiver, whose whole identity has since reshaped around being the person who now provides around-the-clock care and support for their loved one. So today, take the time to reach out to the caregiver in your life to tell them how grateful you are for the hard work they put in to make every day better than the last, and let them know you are here to support them along their journey.
Be Someone Family Caregivers Can Talk To
With everything piling on their plates and all the hats they have to wear, family caregivers will not always feel comfortable being the first to reach out for interaction, let alone to ask for support. As a champion in their corner, this is where you can step in to fill the gaps by being someone a family caregiver can find safety and comfort in talking to.
Start initiating conversations with a simple “How are you?” or “I’m thinking of you” to let them know you are there for them and ready to talk when they need it.
Even if you do not always receive an immediate response back, know that such a small gesture as this can go a really long way in brightening the caregiver’s day. Too often, caregivers shelter many of the emotions and troubles they face because they do not want to burden someone else. They carry real feelings of guilt, but you can support family caregivers by reminding them that it is okay to unload some of what is weighing heavy on their heart to another person.
And, if a family caregiver does come to you wanting to talk about everything they are dealing with, know that it is sometimes okay to just sit and listen. They may not be looking for someone to solve every problem, but maybe just someone they can feel safe venting to without any judgment.
When Caregivers Need Support, Tap Yourself In!
Caregiving happens, and sometimes things happen outside the family caregiver’s control. That is why Caregiver Action Network has incorporated the theme of #CaregivingHappens into their theme for National Family Caregivers Month. Every person with Alzheimer’s or other dementias has different symptoms and experiences, leaving a lot of the unknown in the future – not to mention the uncertainties of life in general. When change strikes, family caregivers are left to figure out how to address every new circumstance at once, which can be incredibly stressful. The good news is you can help support them through these changes!
If a family caregiver has to cancel or rearrange plans because something sudden has occurred, be there to offer assistance and see what you can do to help fill in any gaps. For example, if the family caregiver needs a medical procedure, offer to stay with their loved one so they do not have to worry about them being left alone and can instead focus on their recovery. If the family caregiver is feeling mentally and emotionally overwhelmed, offer to bring them dinner (and do the dishes!) so they can have a break while you spend quality time with their loved one.
Support The Family Caregiver’s Efforts With Daily Affirmations
Offering daily words of affirmation can go a long way in boosting anyone’s confidence and self-esteem. Every person wants to be told when they are doing a good job, and it is especially important to remind family caregivers of the impact they are making in the lives of their loved ones. Caregiving is not easy, and it is okay to admit that. But the strides every family caregiver makes to support their loved ones are worthy of immense recognition.
Even if they might not immediately believe it, it is still important for every caregiver to hear, “Hey, you’re doing a great job,” especially when it feels as though the world is coming down on them.
So, meet them at every corner by telling them how hard you see them working and how much happiness they bring. If they feel like they have made a mistake, let them know that you see how hard they are working to find a new resolution and how grateful you are that their loved one has them in their life.
Most importantly, whenever the family caregiver in your life is really feeling beaten down by the heavy weight of their role, meet them with these gentle reminders: they are not alone, they matter, and it is okay for them to take care of themselves first. At the end of the day, every family caregiver needs to be able to give themselves the care and attention they need in order to continue providing care for their loved ones.
Did You Know?
Oakwood Creative Care is bringing back the JOY in aging! We believe a diagnosis should not have to define your life. Instead, we have devoted our mission to reigniting hope for caregivers and older adults with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other age-related challenges. Click the button below to learn more about how we do this through our research-based, cutting-edge, creative care model found at each of our Day Clubs.