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Supporting Family Caregivers: 20 Heartwarming Ways You Can Make a Difference

Mug that says "What Good Shall I Do Today?"

Being a family caregiver can be an incredibly challenging and isolating experience. However, the love and support of friends and family can make a world of difference. If you have a family caregiver in your life, here are 20 thoughtful ways you can show your support and brighten their journey.

Social & Emotional:

  1. Text Messages: A simple "I'm thinking of you" text can go a long way. In the chaos and monotony of caregiving, knowing that someone cares can provide a much-needed emotional boost. Some caregivers say it’s especially wonderful when there’s no expectation to reply, since their lives are often hectic and stressful without having yet another thing on their “to do” list.

  2. Phone Calls: Take a few minutes to touch base with a phone call. A friendly conversation can be a welcome distraction and a chance for the caregiver to share their experiences. Consider establishing a monthly check-in call time. Also consider texting a day or a few hours ahead of time to check when it’s a good time to talk, since spontaneous phone calls can be stressful or interrupt their necessary routines when they are time-starved.

  3. Greeting Cards and Postcards: Send snail mail to brighten their day. A thoughtful card can be a simple yet powerful way to show your support.

  4. Arrange for a Visit: Since it’s often hard for a caregiver and their ill loved one to go out, make plans to visit them. It could be just for 15 minutes or a few hours, depending on their bandwidth and yours. Consider bringing flowers, a takeout meal, snack, or dessert, but your presence is what’s most appreciated. 

  5. Keep Trying to Get Together: Despite the challenges, continue trying to make plans to get together. Sometimes the caregiver can’t attend special events or get-togethers due to caregiving responsibilities. The effort alone shows your commitment to maintaining your relationship.

  6. Listen and Give Space: Provide opportunities for the caregiver to talk, vent, laugh, or express themselves. Sometimes, all they need is someone willing to listen without judgment, disbelief, or interjecting “have you tried xxx?”

  7. Learn About the Illness: Read articles or watch videos about the illness to better understand the potential symptoms, seriousness, and complexities the caregiver and their loved one is dealing with. In the case of ME/CFS and Long COVID, this also means understanding researchers are still trying to figure out what's causing the debilitating illness and that there is no known cure to date.

  8. Ask for Updates: Inquire about the caregiver and the person they're caring for. Beyond medical updates, ask about new interests, skills, or book recommendations. It shows genuine interest in their lives.

  9. Acknowledge Limited Lives, Expansive Minds: Recognize that their lives may feel small and restricted, but their minds, hopes, dreams, and wishes are not. Validate their aspirations beyond their caregiving responsibilities.

  10. Send a Small Gift: Make or buy a small gift online or at a local store and send it out of the blue (not necessarily during the holidays or a birthday) as a way to show you’re thinking of the caregiver. It will be a delightful surprise.

  11. Advocacy Support: Get involved in advocacy efforts related to their situation. Offer your support for their advocacy initiatives and help raise awareness about their cause. It could be as easy as reposting a social media post they share. Household & Practical:

  12. Help with Errands: Offer to run errands, like picking up groceries or pharmacy prescriptions. Or take their car in for an oil change. These everyday tasks can be overwhelming for caregivers who are already managing a lot.

  13. Bring Home-Cooked Meals or Baked Goods: While you’re cooking or baking for yourself, make an extra batch for the caregiver and their family. It's a tangible way to show you care and provide a break from cooking.

  14. Give Gift Cards for Takeout/Delivery: Give the gift of convenience with restaurant gift cards. This allows caregivers to enjoy a meal without the hassle of cooking or going out.

  15. Help with Special Projects: Offer assistance with special projects, like cleaning the house, fixing something broken, or tackling yard work. These tasks often get neglected and can make a big difference to their daily lives.

  16. Provide Respite Relief for the Caregiver: If possible, be available to tend to the ill loved one, allowing the caregiver a much-needed break. This may mean helping prep a meal and/or just sitting in the next room to be available in case there’s an emergency.

  17. Childcare Support for Partner Caregivers: Partner caregivers with kids may appreciate help with childcare. Offer to babysit young children or take older children out for an activity, allowing the caregiver a break from active parenting.

  18. Research Community Programs and Support Groups: Find community programs and support groups that can help the caregiver with helpful information, respite services, and other types of support. Many caregivers try to do everything on their own and burn out.

  19. Find Home Services: If their budget allows, help the caregiver find and hire home services, such as a housecleaner, gardener, handyman, paid caregiver, babysitter, etc. Even though getting hired help can help alleviate a caregiver’s workload, searching and hiring for these services can be challenging if they’re feeling overwhelmed.

  20. Help Schedule and/or Drive to Medical Appointments: There are often many doctor appointments that need to be scheduled. See if you could take some of this off of the caregiver’s plate and spend 5-10 minutes calling a medical office to make an appointment. If possible, offer to drive the patient to some appointments so the caregiver can take a break.

Supporting family caregivers doesn't always require grand gestures. Small, thoughtful acts often make the biggest impact. By incorporating these 20 ideas into your interactions, you can provide meaningful support to the caregivers in your life. Remember, your presence and kindness go a long way in making their journey a little brighter.


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