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7 Simple Ways to Show Caregivers You Care

Say Thank You, Thoughtfully

There are approximately 53 million unpaid caregivers (family members and friends) in the United States. This startling statistic isn't reserved for just the "sandwich generation," either. Roughly 23% of unpaid caregivers are millennials.

Whether it is a friend or co-worker, chances are you know someone who is trying to juggle their personal responsibilities while taking care of a loved one. Here are seven ways to show that you care.

  1. Offer a helping hand. An act of kindness can go a long way. Ask if you can pick up their children from school or walk their dog. Consider watching their children or providing rides to appointments to give them a well-deserved break.
  2. Provide a homemade meal. Between juggling a full-time career and caregiving, it can be hard to come home and cook a nutritious meal. Prepare some freezer-friendly dinners, or shop and package fresh ingredients in a box for fuss-free meals.
  3. Encourage self-care. Providing care is physically and emotionally demanding. Encourage the caregivers in your life to take a break and address their own health needs, too. Pencil in a spa day together to help them relax. You can even recreate the spa experience at home with store-bought facial masks and aromatherapy oils. These activities can relieve tension, which can reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure. "I really make a point of saying to the caregiver, 'You need to make some time for yourself, including seeing your own doctors for checkups. If something happens to you, then what will happen to your loved one?" says Sara M. Bradley, MD, a geriatrician at Northwestern Medicine.
  4. Be there to listen. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is be there to listen and support your friend. Take them out for coffee and ask how they are doing, which can help them sift through their feelings.
  5. Write a note. A thoughtful handwritten note can have a big impact on the recipient. Share your gratitude with heartfelt words. 
  6. Invite them to outings. Chances are, your friend has had to turn down social opportunities. Continue to include them and invite them to gatherings so they know you are thinking of them — even if they can't attend. 
  7. Offer to help them with research. Local agencies or social services can offer valuable resources to guide decision making, and they sometimes offer respite care for the patient. You can also encourage your friend to join a caregiver support group.

 "Many caregivers think, 'I'm the only one who's having trouble with this. I'm the only one who can't handle it.' But the truth is that this is hard and many people struggle," says Dr. Bradley, "Just acknowledging a caregiver and their work goes a long way. And, check in with them frequently to see how things are going."