Caregivers provide love, care, and time often at the expense of their own health. February 17 is National Caregivers Day. It’s a time to appreciate the parental, professional, and volunteer caregivers who assist some of America’s most vulnerable adults and children.
As a psychologist, Tentis-Berglund notices the caregivers she sees are often trying to do everything perfectly. In addition, many caregivers can feel lonely, isolated and often feel as if they are “under a microscope” as they interact with teachers and medical professionals.
Tentis-Berglund and her team at Gillette say it’s important for caregivers to be valued and recognized for the important work they do. They have a few tips to help caregivers take care of themselves.
- First and foremost, give yourself permission to care for yourself. Caregivers need to take a break, have a day off and receive help to do that.
- Have some part of your identity that is separate from your role as a caregiver.
- Try to have time to “just be a family.” You can watch a movie, listen to music, go outside, and try to focus on family activities and making memories. It’s important for families to have time where the focus is not about medical issues, but instead about other interests, events or topics. If needed, set a “no medical talk” rule for times of day; for example, some families may decide that mealtimes are times to refrain from medical discussions.
Tips to support caregivers
The expert psychology and psychotherapy team at Gillette also has tips for people seeking to be helpful to caregivers.
- Be encouraging and give caregivers permission to take breaks. Caregivers need time to process their emotions, struggles, and grief.
- Medical professionals should take the time to provide caregivers with easily understood information. Sometimes it can be a challenge for caregivers to understand complex medical and financial language, especially during times of stress.
- Try to consider the social and health needs of caregivers such as, food security, housing, and transportation. Try to be aware and respectful of the stress caregivers have in their lives.
- Take a few moments and ask a caregiver how they are doing and coping with things. Take time to listen and be a support.
Useful resources for caregivers
The team at Gillette Children’s wants caregivers to know we see them, recognize their efforts, and values their commitment to providing the best care for their child.
Tentis-Bergland and the expert psychology and psychotherapy team at Gillette want to remind caregivers that they are not alone and they suggest reaching out to these useful resources:
- Caregiver Briefcase: Learn more about being a family caregiver, cultural factors, the needs of family caregivers, and more: Caregiver Briefcase for Psychologists (apa.org)
- Family Caregiver Alliance: Learn of some resources available by state, read caregiver stories, and more: Home - Family Caregiver Alliance
- PACER Center: Find a variety of resources and supports related to topics such as helping youth with disabilities transition to adulthood, understanding special education, navigating healthcare, and bullying (among others) as well as opportunities to connect: PACER Center - Champions for Children with Disabilities
While caregiving can be challenging and tiring it can also be gratifying. It can be rewarding to see how special care and attention can help a child or young adult live their best life.