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What can I do to support a caregiver?

Families Mental Health

A: Caregivers need a back-up plan, a much deserved recharge, and financial support.

Caregiving during the COVID-19 pandemic has been further strained by disrupted child care, social isolation, unemployment, and a contagious and debilitating virus. If the caregivers fall, so does everything else.

Caregivers come in many forms and are the backbone of daily life for millions of Americans. To anyone in a caregiving role: WE. SEE. YOU. The days are long, the worries are real, and the options in the era of COVID-19 are limited. Here’s how we can help our caregivers.

*A BACK-UP PLAN*

Back-up plans have dried up for many. Bringing another person into the home comes with risks of infection. Home health agencies may struggle to accept new residents due to staffing constraints. Childcare needs in the setting of remote learning are costly and complicated. Family caregivers, primarily women, are absorbing these roles. Women have left the workforce in droves over the last year.

While no plan is perfect, it’s easier to consider the back-back-back-up plan before there is a crisis. Who can step in to assist? What services are essential (meals, personal care) and what could be temporarily paused if needed? Is there anything another person would absolutely need to know to maintain the health of the person being cared for? Is that information known and easily available? How much notice is needed to activate the back-up plan?

For many caregivers, it feels like there is no lifeboat in sight. Prolonged functioning in crisis mode is not sustainable. Planning for the “what-if” can equip others in a network to act while also providing some peace of mind for the most important aspects of care. Tap into informal (family and friends) and formal (social workers and other service providers) to determine what options are available. When possible, enact plans to disperse the load before reaching crisis.

*RECHARGE*

If you know a caregiver and can facilitate recharge time for them, move mountains to make it happen! Caregiving is hard and breaks are essential. Period. While a weekend escape may be out of the question, moments in each day dedicated to caregiver wellbeing are a must. Reserve the space and time for caregivers to do whatever makes them feel whole. Regularly scheduled recharges are more likely to occur if they are planned. A quiet cup of coffee, a daily walk, an extra hour of sleep, questionable television… whatever they need. Completing a pleasant task alone or going to an appointment to address personal health needs are a good start. Adding an event to the day or week solely for their own enjoyment is even better! Longer breaks are also encouraged.

*FINANCIAL SUPPORT*

Caregiving is not free. The cracks in a chronically underfunded care system for the young and old in the US are further exposed in the current crisis. Family caregiving, delivered primarily by women, undermines the economic stability of families while also constraining the economy at large. Significant reform in the compensation of formal and informal caregivers are sorely needed. This includes but is not limited to paid family leave, caregiving tax credits, flexible work accommodations, and reform of long-term care financing for older adults.
Let’s show the caregivers how much we appreciate their dedication and persistence through our actions!

With Love,
Those Nerdy Girls

Additional Resources

Presentation in multiple languages on caregiver wellbeing and social isolation during COVID-19

Psychological PPE Post by Dear Pandemic

Nurse-Family Partnership resources page

The need for comprehensive long-term care reform by Dr. Norma Coe

What’s the “she-session”? by Dear Pandemic

Role of men as caregivers in Fortune

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