How to Care for Our Caregivers

Caring for our caregivers is important.

Many of us need a part-time or full-time caregiver. We know how tough that job can be, but there’s plenty we can do to help.

Nelly Darbois is a physical therapist who works closely with caregivers and people with disabilities in their homes. She explains these important ways that we can care for our caregivers emotionally, physically, and financially.

Provide Emotional Support

Open communication is key for providing emotional support to your caregiver because it creates “a safe space where both parties can express their thoughts and feelings without judgment,” Nelly says.

Encouraging your caregiver to schedule periodic respite care for themselves is also a good idea. For example, Nelly knows a caregiver of a stroke survivor who arranged respite care through a local support group. “This allowed the caregiver to take short breaks to rest and recharge and reduce their emotional stress,” she says.

Also, be sure to acknowledge your caregiver’s efforts early and often. One easy way to do this is to regularly write heartfelt notes expressing your appreciation for all they do. Other small gestures like cooking or ordering a favorite meal or offering a sincere verbal thank you can also go a long way.

Provide a Safe Environment

Take steps to provide a safe environment for yourself. This obviously helps you, but it also eases the burden on your caregiver. Install safety equipment if you can, purchase it for your caregiver to install, or hire someone.

“I’ve seen caregivers who proactively make home modifications to ensure a safe environment,” Nelly says. “In one case, a caregiver of an elderly person with mobility issues installed grab bars in the bathroom and widened doorways to accommodate a wheelchair. These modifications reduced the risk of accidents and physical strain on both the caregiver and the person receiving care.”

Along the same lines, be sure you have the assistive devices you need, including mobility and computer aids. These will help keep you safe and make your life and that of your caregiver much easier. 

You also can encourage your caregiver to visit their own doctor for regular check-ups (and give them time to do so by arranging alternative care). In addition, caregivers should be given time to attend caregiver support groups to learn about managing the physical demands of caregiving while staying healthy themselves.

Focus on Finances

Seek out government benefit programs that can provide respite care for caregivers and allow them to take needed breaks. Your state’s department of human services (it may be called something different) is a good place to start.

Also look into tax breaks and financial assistance programs for caregivers to help make their lives less stressful financially.

“Collaborating with financial advisors can be beneficial,” Nelly says. She recounts a time when a caregiver worked with a financial planner to create a budget that factored in caregiver-related expenses, such as medical supplies and equipment. 

Another way to ease your caregiver’s financial burden is to encourage them to apply for health and disability insurance. It’s also a good idea for them to consult an attorney to establish a power of attorney and a will, which will provide legal protection for both you and your caregiver if something unexpected happens.

Those are just a few ways you can help your caregiver stay emotionally, physically, and financially healthy. If you have any other tips, I’d love to read them! Please share them in the comments.

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