Your Gateway to Senior Resources

   Caring for the Caregiver

The relationship between an elderly person and his or her caregiver is complex and intense sometimes. But that relationship does not exist in a vacuum. There are a lot of people affected by what is going on when that caregiver goes to that senior citizen's apartment and gives to him or her that one on one attention that is so necessary. 

For one thing, the caregiver’s friends, family and coworkers are affected. Becoming the primary person responsible for the care and well being of a senior citizen is a peculiar job because it is tremendously demanding and completely unpaid. Caregivers are for the most part children or close relatives of the senior citizen being cared for and they have jobs, families and a full life outside of the time they put in taking care of their parent or parents.

So when that responsibility falls to you, those around you also have to give a little to help you accomplish that goal. But for those who are related to a caregiver, there is a demand on you as well. If mom has to go over to Grandpa’s apartment every night for two or three hours, that means mom isn’t home helping you with your homework, making supper or just being available if her little girl needs someone to talk to.

If dad is gone thirty or forty hours a week taking care of Grandpa, that is time he is not home providing guidance for his kids, fixing the garbage disposal or making those corny but fun jokes the kids groan about but love. Similarly, the friends and working world of a caregiver are also asked to give up a little or a lot of the mind, the emotions and the time of that caregiver so he or she can go and care for that elderly parent and divert that energy and time in that direction.

For those of us who have a caregiver in our family or part of our social or work circle, in addition to the sacrifices, you can become concerned for your friend or loved one because of the demands of caring for a senior citizen. It’s a job that is taxing to even the strongest adult and one that takes a lot out of your friend or family member. Caregiver burn out is a common syndrome and it doesn’t just affect the caregiver. If your parent, spouse, coworker or friend undergoes a break down from the stress of caring for her mom or dad, that will have an impact on everyone.

So there is a compelling need for all of us associated with a caregiver to learn to care for that caregiver to help her and support her in what she is doing. Some specific things you can do are…

§ Let them know you believe in what they are doing. Caregivers often feel very alone and guilty that they are not attending to family and other relationships. By letting her know you are 100% behind what she is doing and that you are doing fine, that guilt is removed which makes her know she can make it.
§ Let her know she is missed. 
§ Pick up the slack. Each evening if dad and the kids can pick up the house, then mom can get some sleep and know that you are taking care of business at home so she doesn’t have to worry about it.
§ Let mom sleep in. Maybe even bring her breakfast in bed every so often.
§ Pitch in. Go over and help grandma out yourself so it’s not all on mom.
§ An unexpected surprise. Every so often do something to surprise and totally delight mom and give her a fun break from her worries of care giving. A movie out or a limo ride around town can go a long way for a weary caregiver.

If the spouse, the children and friends and associates of the coworker can keep an eye on her to look out for those signs of burn out, it may be our responsibility to jump in and give her some support before everything falls apart. By caring for the caregiver, she is better able to give attention to that senior citizen she is caring for. So in a way we are all becoming part of the effort to give the caregiver’s mom or dad the best care possible. And that is what community is all about.