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What Do Family Caregivers Need Most? In a Word – Support.

caregiver supportA few weeks ago a reader I’ll call Cara got in touch to tell me about her mom Jeannie.  Recently divorced and concerned for her father’s health, Jeannie moved her father into her home.

Immediately, there were benefits.

Dad liked the companionship he’d been missing since his wife died, and Jeannie liked biding adieu to the thrice-weekly one hour drives to dad’s house that had become the norm.

It’s six months later and Jeannie is happy with her decision; her father’s health has even improved.

But something isn’t working in this caregiving scenario and that something threatens the whole arrangement. The problem is this:

Jeannie’s siblings (who promised otherwise) have all but left the picture.

Jeannie’s brother, who lives ten minutes away, looks for excuses not to visit.  Her sister, who used to visit regularly, cancels at the last minute without explanation or apology.

All of this is upsetting to Jeannie and has, in turn, become upsetting to Cara…

“I wondered if you had any advice on how I could best make my mom feel special and appreciated. Hallmark cards are getting old and I know I sound like a broken record on our nightly venting calls…”

My advice to Cara — and to anyone else who may be caring for a caregiver — is this:

Keep lending your ear and whenever possible, your hands. Don’t assume that the primary family caregiver has things covered.  In other words, don’t step back – especially if that primary person is your sibling.

Make a point to recognize and appreciate what they do.

Whether you live close by or far away, practice being a soft place to fall and also someone who lightens the load every now and again. Family caregivers need support most.

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