More than 40 million people serve as caregivers in the United States. While it can be fulfilling to help care for a loved one, the responsibilities can also be stressful and overwhelming.
Vanny Soeung, a licensed social worker at the Maxine Mesinger Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine, shares ways to assist those who care for others.
The most common concern Soeung hears from caregivers is that there is not enough self-care time.
“Since some caregivers care for their loved ones 24/7, they are often unable to find time to take care of themselves or leave the house to run errands,” she said. “Giving them a break allows them to focus on their own mental and emotional health.”
Friends and family members can offer to take over care for a few hours so the caregiver is able to take time without feeling rushed to return home.
“They may want to go shopping, schedule a doctor’s appointment, or simply relax. This time and freedom can help prevent caregiver burnout, which is very common.”
Let them know they are appreciated
Even though the holiday season is over, it’s not too late to give the caregiver in your life a gift. Whether it’s a card or a simple text message, your words of appreciation and encouragement can go a long way.
Another way to show your appreciation? “Consider gifting them a massage or a nice dinner,” Soueng said.
It’s important for caregivers and their loved ones to have a support system. Friends and family members can also encourage caregivers to seek resources when necessary.
“Caregivers can reach out to organizations that provide respite care for their loved ones – sometimes free of charge. This can be planned in advance and they also have the option to pay out of pocket if they are able to afford it. Find out if the person’s medical insurance or long-term care insurance covers any type of caregiver services before paying out of pocket.”
There are several homecare agencies available in most areas. There are also many federal- and state-funded programs that offer these services (not applicable to all). Resources include:
- The Department of Health and Human Services
- Aging and Disability Resource Center (for Texas residents)
- National Center on Caregiving
- National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
- United Way
- Eldercare Locator
-By Alexandria Bland, communications and corporate affairs associate with the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine