How Can We Make Caregivers’ Lives Easier?

During a case of illness, no doubt the patient is at the center of every discussion. However, caregivers are often the second priority. Yet caregivers play an extremely important role in the patient’s recovery — for example, they are responsible for administering medicine on time and properly working medical equipment, which can be taxing on both the body and mind. That’s why everyone on the health-care team should be aware of how the caregiver is thinking or feeling.

A happier caregiver can mean a much happier patient. So whether you are a patient, health-care professional, or caregiver, consider the following tips to make the caregiver’s job much easier.

Find ways to relieve financial stress.

Sometimes, caregiving can become a full-time affair that leads to quitting one’s job to care for a loved one. This can cause financial stress on the family when an income stream disappears or decreases. To minimize that stress, consider:

1. Hiring a professional caregiver. If the family caregiver’s job is a significant source of income, it may actually save the family more money to hire a professional caregiver while the breadwinner continues earning an income to support the patient. Continuing work also brings a sense of normalcy to everyday life, which may reduce stress.

2. Buying prescription medication from cheaper sources. Treatment is expensive, and medication is no exception. However, patients can save significantly by buying prescription drugs online through an international or Canadian pharmacy that connects clients to licensed pharmacies abroad.

Involve multiple caregivers.

Having more people involved as caregivers can give each caregiver time to rest and/or work. One caregiver can even be a part-time professional who delivers more specialized support like administering medications and working medical equipment while the other can be a family member who provides emotional support. 

Enlist the help of a volunteer.

If the caregiver can’t share duties with another person, or if they lack the funds to hire a professional, see if there is a volunteer organization nearby that offers volunteer caregiving services. This can give the primary caregiver a much-needed break while giving the volunteer a valuable experience. Volunteers may even be better trained than typical family caregivers, as they may be students or interns actually interested in a related career.

Stay on top of daily routines.

Studies show that giving up daily routines can increase caregiving stress. While being a caregiver will most likely mean giving up some daily routines, encourage caregivers to hold on to some if possible. This can be as simple as reading before bed or watching a daily TV show with the patient.

Look for a support group.

See if there is a support group for caregivers in the area. Alternatively, there may be support groups online that caregivers can join if being far away from their patient is not possible. Support groups allow caregivers to interact with people who have similar experiences and understand the challenges that come with a difficult job. 

For those who prefer being alone, reading resources like the National Cancer Institute’s Caring for Caregivers guide can also help.

Encourage caregivers to find help.

Caregivers may put the patient’s health and wellness before theirs, neglecting to take care of themselves. Encourage caregivers to find professional mental healthcare if necessary, especially if they are exhibiting symptoms of depression and anxiety. Talking to people outside the patient’s social circle may also provide a safe space to express negative feelings. If a caregiver is resistant to help, remind them that in caring for themselves, they become better at caring for others.

Finally, expect emotional challenges.

Having a severely ill loved one is more complex than just dealing with illness. Tensions may arise among people who were once very close. 

For example, patients can be demanding and frustrating to help. Consequently, anger is not an uncommon feeling experienced by caregivers, whether it’s directed at themselves, family members, or the patient. This anger usually comes from fear and stress, so encourage the caregiver to look closer at what lies beneath their anger.

Finally, remind caregivers that they make a difference. Not all heroes wear capes.

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