Nurse. Housekeeper. Decision maker. Friend. Support system.
Caregivers often take on these jobs and more. An estimated 43 million Americans are currently responsible for serving as the primary — and unpaid — caregiver to a loved one or family member. Add the holiday season on to an already full schedule, and a caregiver’s to-do list can become overwhelming.
As part of November’s National Family Caregiver Month, we’d like to offer a few suggestions for offering support to a caregiver in your life during the upcoming holiday season. While these ideas can certainly be applied year-round, we think they’re particularly important during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
With all that we have to do during the holiday season, it can certainly be tough to juggle it all — but the gift of time might be the greatest gift of all to a caregiver. Offer to run a few errands, wrap some gifts, or simply help around the house. Another option — if the situation allows for it — is to offer to take over caregiving duties for a few hours so that the caregiver can have some time to run their own errands or attend a holiday event. Social time can be at a premium for a full-time caregiver, and an opportunity to join in the festivities may be just the thing to help them rejuvenate during the holidays!
Do you have room for one or two more at your holiday meal? Extending an invite – or offering a “to-go” option — can mean the world to a caregiver who doesn’t have time to prepare a holiday feast. Healthy food gifts may also be greatly appreciated, as caregivers don’t always have time to prepare something special for themselves. (Remember, they are focused on taking care of someone else!) Consider chopping up some veggies or fruit to put into plastic bags so that they have healthy snacks to grab on the go. If you’re not a cook, simply picking up some groceries can also be a huge help for someone who may not have time to get them otherwise.
Serving the role of a full-time caregiver generally leaves little time or budget for discovering new places and meeting new people — but it can be rejuvenating for a caregiver to get away. Help a caregiver find an opportunity for respite by applying for a Road Scholar Caregiver Grant, a form of financial aid that helps to offset the costs of arranging substitute care while a caregiver attends a Road Scholar learning adventure. Take the first steps by printing out the application and offering to mail it in. Then, sit down with them and help them choose a program from the Road Scholar catalog. They may be thanking you soon for the learning adventure of a lifetime!
Hobbies? What hobbies? Caregivers often put aside their favorite activities in order to take care of their loved one. Create a gift basket of your favorite books, movies, games or art supplies with a caregiver who may be looking to stretch some of their cerebral muscles or simply unwind. The gift of a journal may help a caregiver relieve stress, or encourage them to begin that novel they always dreamed of writing. Or, take it a step further and secure a museum pass or movie ticket for them to enjoy — then refer back to number one on our list to help them secure a few hours to get away.
So many of our New Year’s resolutions revolve around becoming more active, but that can be a challenge for a caregiver who has limited time to exercise. Do you practice yoga or meditation? Consider sharing your knowledge of these practices with your caregiver friend to help them relax. Invite your friend to join you for a brisk, 20-minute walk a few times a week, and meet them at their house so they don’t have to head out to a gym. There are also countless exercise videos available for free on the internet; offer to be a work out partner who travels to them!
While there are countless other ideas for sharing your friendship and support with a caregiver, we hope this list gives you a head start on the holiday season.
Learn more about Road Scholar Caregiver Grants and general financial aid.
Ann Simanis, Associate Vice President of Advancement & Engagement, manages the Financial Assistance program which provides more than $150,000 annually in Scholarships and Caregiver Grants for adults 50+ who could not otherwise afford to participate in Road Scholar programs.