- By Mike Good
We see terms such as dementia-friendly or disabled-friendly but how about caregiver-friendly? There are an estimated 40 million Americans who are considered unpaid caregivers, and they too deserve to be treated kindly.
They’re caring for adult children, parents, friends or even neighbors who have unique challenges. Some are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, a disease which not only robs the individual’s cognitive abilities, but eventually takes their mobility and ability to take care of daily activities.
The challenges faced by each caregiver are unique, and sometimes the role of caregiver lasts for decades. Their days revolve around juggling their own lives with the added responsibility of ensuring the positive well-being of another person.
AARP understands the impact that caring for a loved one can have on a person, and recognizes how important support and acts of kindness are to these caregivers. So AARP is hosting a contest through March 15 to help promote random acts of kindness for caregivers.
A Lot Harder Than It Looks
When you haven’t been a caregiver or seen that kind of work up close, it’s hard to appreciate the enormous physical, emotional and financial toll that caring for another human being can take.
Random acts of kindness make a positive difference in people's ability to cope with their current situation.
With a little friendly support from family, friends, neighbors and even strangers, however, the weight on caregivers’ shoulders can be lightened. Simply sharing a smile, giving a hug or listening when the caregiver needs empathy is a great start and is important to that person’s happiness and health.
AARP caregiving expert Amy Goyer, whose father has Alzheimer’s and lives with her, has experienced this first-hand during some of her own difficult times. She shares how a random act of kindness from a grocery store clerk “gave me strength and filled my tank with energy.”
Random acts of kindness make a positive difference in people’s ability to cope with their current situation. Knowing that they are not alone and that other people care empowers them to stay positive and do things they may not otherwise do, such as taking their loved one on an outing.
Unfortunately, many caregivers stay isolated due to the challenges of leaving the safety and convenience of home. Often, they’re simply too tired or overwhelmed to attempt an outing with their loved ones without additional help from others.
Avoiding isolation by getting out of the house is vital to the well-being of both the caregiver and their loved one. In another AARP article, Goyer talks about the importance of preventing isolation and supporting quality of life. But she also mentions the challenges that caregivers face when getting out and about with a loved one who has unique needs or challenges.
At a recent dementia conference, the presenter said, “Most of us are hard-wired to be friendly.” Yet, many of us are hesitant, maybe even afraid, to intrude into another person’s space, especially if that person is a stranger. Goyer says, “Just ask, ‘Can I give you a hand?’ or ‘What’s on your to-do list that I can help with?’”
Commit a Random Act
All we have to do is step up and open the door for them or slow down to share a smile or hug. These aren’t intrusions. They are random acts of kindness that we can all do with little effort, which have a huge impact on the well-being of a caregiver and their loved one.
An act of kindness can be as simple as listening to a caregiver or as involved as doing a shopping trip for her.
Let’s work together to make this a caregiver-friendly world that helps caregivers maintain their happiness and health.