Family caregivers give a lot and don’t always get much in return. As much as they love the people they care for, the work involved in family caregiving can be exhausting.
It is estimated that over 40 million people in the United States are unpaid caregivers to an adult family member or friend. That’s like 21% of the population!
According to the National Alliance For Caregiving, “care delivered by informal and family caregivers add up to $257 billion each year.”
Since the count of MSers is now recognized as close to 1M, it would be interesting to see what the numbers are for those caring for someone with MS or another chronic illness.
And although the majority of family caregivers are women, more and more men are becoming caregivers too.
Imagine How They Feel
If you live in the same house as your caregiver, be aware that they may often feel invisible. Everyone’s attention can seem to always go to the MSer, causing them to feel that no one cares about them. Many say, “no one even asks.”
Also research shows that the “emotional stress of caring has little to do with the physical condition of the person with MS or the length of time the person has been ill. Emotional stress seems more related to how “trapped” caregivers feel in their situation.”
Just know that caregivers give a lot and don’t always get much in return. As much as they love the people they care for, the work involved in family caregiving can be exhausting.
“The most successful carepartners welcome and appreciate the practical and emotional support of other people,” says the NMSS. Also, they “don’t give up the activities or hobbies they enjoy.”
What can I give
How can you show appreciation to your caregiver? Simply asking them is a great place to start.
Express your gratitude out loud and often. Brag to others about your caretaker.
Write out a note or card. Taking time to hand-write why you appreciate your caregiver can be very meaningful plus it gives them something with kind words they can reread in the future.
Suggest a coffee-break or cup of tea. In fact, encourage your caregiver to take breaks. Make sure they are taking time to fill their own tanks so they have the energy to take care of you.
Celebrate National Caregiver’s Month (November in the U.S.). It’s an opportunity to draw attention to the needs of all caregivers.
Show interest in the things that your caregiver is interested in. It shouldn’t only be about you.
Share jokes with each other. There is power in a good laugh. Try to do it at least once a day.
Find support services or even classes that might be right for them, or figure out a service they can use to outsource one of their regular chores.
Offer to help them with a task you know you can take on. Or, when visitors come, make the most of your time: be prepared with a short list of to-do items you need help with.
Try to temper your emotions, maybe make a conscious effort to be cheerful. Facing perpetual crankiness can be draining. Remember that your caregiver is not your therapist.
For paid help, you can give a bonus, a day off, or a quick call to their supervisor to report what a good job they do.
Look for ways to make your caregiver’s life easier. Even small gestures can make a big difference to someone worn out.