Caring for a Family Member
She scurries back into the house to spoon-feed one more before leaving
for her part-time job. After wiping his hands and face, she kisses his
nose, helps him into the car, buckles him in, and drives him to daycare.
Hugging him, she promises, “I’ll pick you up at lunchtime,
Dad.” With a vacant look in his eyes he asks, “But what about
Terry is one of the 54 million Americans caring for a family member. Over
40% of families who provide care for an elder have children at home under
the age of eighteen. Seventy-five percent of caregivers are women. Part
of the “sandwich generation,” many will spend more years caring
for a parent than they will raising a child. Not only are they ministering
to their parents and children, many are caring for their children’s
children. From 1990-2000, the number of kids living with grandparents
The Personal Risks of Caregiving
It’s no wonder caregivers often experience troublesome feelings such
as depression, resentment, worry, helplessness, exhaustion, guilt, anger,
and sadness with reversal of parent-child roles.
Caregiving depletes a person not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. In fact :
- Women who care for grandchildren have a 55% greater risk of heart disease
- Caregivers of someone with a chronic illness have a 63% chance of dying early
But when caregivers care for themselves, these statistics and severe emotions
can be drastically reduced. Because 25% of the world population is caring
for someone, we all know a person in a caregiving role.
12 Ways to Provide Support to a Caregiver
- Extend compassion and empathy first.
- Encourage them to care for themselves as attentively as they do another.
Remind them to get regular checkups, to eat properly, exercise, and get
- Suggest they take time out for themselves and use relaxation or stress
management techniques such as meditation, visualization, biofeedback and yoga.
- Advise them to pay attention to their own feelings and emotions and to
seek counseling and support groups if needed.
- Help them to stay actively involved with friends and hobbies.
- Assist them in finding respite care so they can regularly take time for
- Subscribe them to supportive caregiving periodicals and magazines and gift
them with spiritual, inspirational, encouraging books.
- Help them tap into community-based and national resources for support.
The Area Agency on Aging is a great place to start and www.strengthforcaring.com
is an online comprehensive resource for caregivers.
- Deliver a heat-and-eat meal.
- Offer to sit with their loved one, even for 30 minutes, so they can take
a bubble bath or a walk.
- Tell them how much you admire them for all they are doing.
These small efforts to care for the caregiver create a win/win/win situation.
Your relationship with the in-home caregiver will flourish; the family
member will receive care from a happier, healthier caregiver; and that
caregiver will feel cared for, too—a much needed and overdue reward.
About the Author
LeAnn Thieman is coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver’s Soul
and a nationally acclaimed Speaker Hall of Fame, author and nurse. To
learn more caregiving service issues, her books or presentations see