November is National Family Caregiver Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, and chances are you know a family member, friend, or neighbor who is caring for someone with a long-term illness like dementia. Here are 10 ways you can help a caregiver – not just in November, but year-round:
1. Validate the caregiver’s personal needs: physical, mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and financial. Do what you can to help the caregiver prioritize and take care of their own needs.
2. Encourage the caregiver to take regular breaks to rest, refresh, and recreate (this may be getting out of the home, or simply having personal time to pursue a hobby they enjoy at home); support them in this by offering to stay with the loved one or by arranging for respite care.
3. Don’t let a caregiver do it all alone – encourage and help them to build a care-team, including other helpers (home health care aides, day health programs, etc.).
4. Listen. Sometimes the caregiver just needs a listening ear and an open heart.
5. Steer caregivers to available support programs (these may be held at different local venues or available by phone or online).
6. Consider donating just one hour a week or month to help out in a tangible way.
7. Encourage the caregiver to practice stress-reduction skills every day. These include deep breathing, meditation, vigorous and calming exercise, good nutrition, hobbies, and seeking out social support.
8. Bring them a favorite meal, or gift certificates for a favorite takeout place that delivers.
9. Help the caregiver to attend regular check-ins with medical and dental providers, by helping to coordinate respite care during these times.
10. Provide referrals to mental-health and medical professionals you know and respect.