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Seven ways to support a caregiver

Around the world, millions of people provide regular, unpaid care to loved ones, family members and friends. Almost 2 in 5 people say they don’t know where to get support or advice if they become a family carer.1

It is important that, as a society, we start to recognise and support the valuable work of family caregivers. Here are seven meaningful ways you can help to support a caregiver, whether it’s assisting with their caregiving tasks or helping them to switch off and relax.

A woman helps a teenage girl with special needs.

1. Listen to their problems

Many caregivers experience loneliness and feelings of isolation. Many of them are tackling difficult challenges, and they often go through a variety of emotions in one day. It’s important to check in with carers whenever you can. Offering them a cup of tea or coffee and a listening ear is a simple way to show them support. Let them speak about their feelings without judgement or interruption. It’s a small gesture that means a lot.

A tired woman drinks a cup of coffee at a dining table.

2. Give them a break from their caregiving duties

Caregiving covers a variety of different tasks, from running errands to looking after personal hygiene. These duties may be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Because carers have so much to do every day, it’s a nice idea to help them out wherever you can. Even if it’s just going to the post office or supermarket for them, or offering a lift, they’re sure to appreciate any extra help. If you can, offer to hold down the fort while they enjoy a few hours of “me” time.

A woman smiles at her mother over a kitchen island as they cook a meal.

3. Do something nice for them

Many carers receive no pay or reward for what they do. For most people, a trip to the cinema or a meal out are things that don’t require much notice or planning. But as a primary caregiver for a vulnerable person, even leaving the house for 30 minutes can seem impossible. Why not organise something nice? Book them a massage, take them out for the day, or surprise them with a gift to lift their spirits and show appreciation for the amazing work they do.

A woman removes laundry from the machine and hands it to her mum.

4. Offer to help with their errands

After a day of caring for someone else, carers may have little time to attend to their own personal needs. If you’re close to someone who is a carer for someone else, you could try to take one thing off their plate. Ask if you can take on one of their personal tasks to lessen the load, like fetching their food shopping or bringing round a home-cooked meal. Make sure you check in with them before to ask exactly what they could use help with.

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5. Know when to give them space

Carers experience many challenges every day. They may struggle to switch off after completing their caregiving duties. Avoid asking them to do anything that adds extra stress or pressure to their already busy lives. Carers are usually running on a tight schedule, so be sure to ask for a convenient time before arranging a social visit. As a friend or relative of a caregiver, try to recognise when they need space.

An exhausted woman sits alone in a laundry room.

6. Look for signs of burnout

Caregiving is hard work, and in some cases can be extremely mentally challenging for the carer. If you notice them struggling, try to offer support in whatever way they need it. Look out for any visible warning signs of burnout such as a change in their attitude, sleep problems, lack of energy, isolation, depression or withdrawal. Making a difference may be as simple as asking if they are all right and if there’s anything you can do to help.

A woman scrolls on her mobile phone.

7. Point them in the direction of useful resources

There are a variety of organisations that you can recommend to caregivers. Whether it is respite care for their loved one, financial aid from the government, or online communities where they can connect with other people in similar situations, do some research and make the carer in your life aware of all the different organisations and groups that can make their life easier. Our TENA Facebook group is a great place for carers to meet and speak with other carers.

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1) TENA global research on attitudes and awareness to family caregiving in the general population. July 2022 Poland, Canada, France, UK, USA. Each country interviewed over 1,000 men and women (18+).