Taking Care of
Terry stacks the breakfast dishes into the sink, hands the
freshly-packed lunchboxes to her son and daughter, bundles them into
their coats and boots and hustles them to the school bus. With a
smile and a wave she promises, “I’ll pick you up after school. We’ll
make Christmas cookies for your Girl Scout meeting then go to your
She scurries back into the house to spoon-feed one more
before leaving for her part-time job. After wiping his hands and
face, she kisses his nose, helps him into the car, buckles him in,
and drives him to daycare. Hugging him, she promises, “I’ll pick you
up at lunchtime, Dad.” With a vacant look in his eyes he asks, “But
what about breakfast?”
Terry is one of the 54 million Americans caring for a family
member. Over 40% of families who provide care for an elder have
children at home under the age of eighteen. Seventy-five percent of
caregivers are women. Part of the “sandwich generation,” many will
spend more years caring for a parent than they will raising a child.
Not only are they ministering to their parents and children, many
are caring for their children’s children. From 1990-2000, the number
of kids living with grandparents increased 30%.
Alarmingly, women who care for grandchildren have a 55%
greater risk of heart disease. Caregivers of someone with a chronic
illness have a 63% chance of dying early. It’s no wonder caregivers
often experience troublesome feelings such as depression,
resentment, worry, helplessness, exhaustion, guilt, anger, and
sadness with reversal of parent-child
roles. But when caregivers care for themselves, these
statistics and severe emotions can be drastically reduced.
Caregiving depletes a person not only physically, but also
emotionally and spiritually. Because 25% of the world population is
caring for someone, we all know a person in a caregiving role. Here
are 12 easy tips for you to help care for that caregiver, not only
during the holidays, but every day:
compassion and empathy first.
them to care for themselves as attentively as they do another.
3) Remind them
to get regular checkups, to eat properly, exercise, and get adequate
they take time out for themselves and use relaxation or stress
management techniques such as meditation, visualization, biofeedback
5) Advise them
to pay attention to their own feelings and emotions and to seek
counseling and support groups if needed.
7) Help them
to stay actively involved with friends and hobbies.
8) Assist them
in finding respite care so they can regularly take time for
them to supportive caregiving periodicals and magazines and gift
them with spiritual, inspirational, encouraging books.
10) Help them
tap into community-based and national resources for support. The
National Family Caregiver’s Association and the Area Agency on Aging
are great places to start.
11) Deliver a
12) Offer to
sit with their loved one, even for 30 minutes, so they can take a
bubble bath or a walk.
Tell them how much
you admire them for all they are doing.
These small efforts
to care for the caregiver create a win/win/win situation. Your
relationship with the caregiver will flourish; the family member
will receive care from a happier, healthier caregiver; and that
caregiver will feel cared for, too—a much needed and overdue gift,
any time of year.
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