Terry stacks the breakfast dishes into the
sink, hands the freshly-packed lunchboxes to her
son and daughter, bundles them into their coats
and boots and hustles them to the school bus.
With a smile and a wave she promises, “I’ll pick
you up after school. We’ll make Christmas
cookies for your Girl Scout meeting, then go to
your basketball game.”
She scurries back into the house to spoon-feed
one more before leaving for her part-time job.
After wiping his hands and face, she kisses his
nose, helps him into the car, buckles him in,
and drives him to daycare. Hugging him, she
promises, “I’ll pick you up at lunchtime, Dad.”
With a vacant look in his eyes he asks, “But
what about breakfast?”
Terry is one of the 54 million Americans caring
for a family member. Over 40 percent of families
who provide care for an elder have children at
home under the age of eighteen. Seventy-five
percent of caregivers are women. Part of the
“sandwich generation,” many will spend more
years caring for a parent than they will raising
a child. Not only are they ministering to their
parents and children, many are caring for their
children’s children. From 1990-2000, the number
of kids living with grandparents increased 30
Alarmingly, women who care for grandchildren
have a 55 percent greater risk of heart disease.
Caregivers of someone with a chronic illness
have a 63 percent chance of dying early. It’s no
wonder caregivers often experience troublesome
feelings such as depression, resentment, worry,
helplessness, exhaustion, guilt, anger, and
sadness with reversal of parent-child roles. But
when caregivers care for themselves, these
statistics and severe emotions can be
Caregiving depletes a person not only
physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Because 25 percent of the world population is caring
for someone, we all know a person in a caregiving
role. Here are 12 easy tips for you to help care for
that caregiver, not only during the holidays, but
- Extend compassion and empathy first.
- Encourage them to care for themselves as attentively
as they do another. Remind them to get regular
checkups, to eat properly, exercise, and get
- Suggest they take time out for themselves and use
relaxation or stress management techniques such as
meditation, visualization, biofeedback and yoga.
- Advise them to pay attention to their own feelings
and emotions and to seek counseling and support
groups if needed.
- Help them to stay actively involved with friends and
- Assist them in finding respite care so they can
regularly take time for themselves.
- Subscribe them to supportive caregiving periodicals
and magazines such as Today’s Caregiver and gift
them with spiritual, inspirational, encouraging
- Help them tap into community-based and national
resources for support. The National Family
Caregiver’s Association, nfcacares.org and the
Area Agency on Aging, loaa.org. are great places
- Deliver a heat-and-eat meal.
- Offer to sit with their loved one, even for 30
minutes, so they can take a bubble bath or a
- Tell them how much you admire them for all they
These small efforts to care for the caregiver
win/win/win situation. Your relationship with
the caregiver will flourish; the family member
will receive care from a happier, healthier
caregiver; and that caregiver will feel cared
for, too—a much needed and overdue gift, any
time of year.
Subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter