Taking Care of Caregivers

By Berny Unruh, K-State Extension
Berny Unruh

In “The Caregiver Helpbook,” the author shares these flight attendant’s instructions, “If the oxygen masks drop down, put on your oxygen mask first before helping others”. If you don’t help yourself first, you may not be able to help others. This scenario is also true with caregiving.

Did you know that during this last year, caregivers provided about 18.4 billion hours of unpaid care to someone they love? Roughly 80% of the care that is provided at home is delivered by family members. A big concern is that often the caregivers forget to take care of themselves.

Last month, I was able to attend a virtual class offered by Extension agents from the Southwest area. The Powerful Tools for Caregivers class is designed to help family caregivers take care of themselves while caring for a relative or friend. The class included information on helping to reduce stress and learn to relax, communicating effectively, helping make tough decisions, and learning to set goals and problem solve.

If you are a caregiver, consider joining an upcoming class to be offered for six consecutive Thursdays, January 14th through February 18th from 1:30 to 3 pm. The class will cost $5 and includes a Caregiver Helpbook that is covered by grant funds. Class size is limited, so don’t delay signing up. The link to register for the class is: https://bit.ly/tools4care If you know a caregiver who could benefit from this class, please share the information with them.

Are there other things that we can do to support caregivers? There certainly are:

Offer to help them with daily tasks. Running an errand or picking up a few groceries can be a big relief to the caregiver. 

Give them a break. Stay with the care receiver while the care giver goes to the doctor for a routine checkup.

Bring a simple meal for them. The simpler and easier it is to re-heat or eat the better.

Send a card of encouragement to the caregiver and offer some positive words of encouragement to them. 

Help them find local resources for support with their situation.

Call them on the phone frequently.

Encourage them to take time for themselves. Thinking of their own health is not selfish. Taking care of themselves benefits everyone.

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at bunruh@ksu.edu.