Whether it’s the parent who loved and raised you or your friend who helps a sick family member, you likely know someone who is a caretaker. They are the ones who tirelessly work to support the needs of others. They are up before everyone else and the last to go to bed, all the while shouldering multiple responsibilities. They nurture, comfort, and do the things that others can’t do for themselves.
People in these roles, whether by choice or by circumstance, need their own support systems to avoid burnout. Consider what you can do to take care of the caretaker that you know. Here are a few ideas:
Share fondness and admiration often. Tell them how much you appreciate all the work that they do. Be specific such as, “Mom, I love how you call to check up on me” or “Sam, I really appreciate how you handled that bill from the hospital.” Even a simple “thank you” goes a long way to validate another person and let them know they are seen and heard.
Lighten their load where you can. The to-do list of a caretaker is a mile long. What items on that list can you do for them? It’s true that some responsibilities are theirs alone, but simple domestic chores like doing the dishes can mean that they have one less thing to worry about. If you’re a member of their household, think about what you can do on a regular basis to free up their time and energy.
Listen for their nonverbal bids. Caretakers often are the last ones to ask for help. Notice signs and sounds that they’re exhausted and need some support. It can sound like a sigh, labored breathing, or a groan while doing seemingly routine duties. Ask, “Hey, are you okay? What can I do?” Turn towards and lend a hand.
Ask them what they want. This is the blueprint for building love maps, yet it’s easy to miss—especially if you’re used to showing fondness and admiration as a surprise. However, talking with your loved one about what makes them feel special does two things. First, you feed into your emotional connection as they see that you’re interested in their well-being. Second, you know exactly what they need. The risk of disappointing them lowers when you remove the guesswork.
Talk about their life dreams and make a plan. Caretakers are so concerned about the day-to-day that it’s difficult to think about the future. So, when you ask them what they want, take it one step further and inquire about their hopes beyond today. What is their long-term dream? What have they yet to accomplish? Then, see what role you can play to get it going. Maybe you can introduce them to someone you know in their desired career choice. Perhaps you have the means to fund an activity they want to try. It’s all about being an integral part of making life dreams come true.
Lunch and a gift card are nice, but you can do so much more for the person who’s built a life going above and beyond for others. Think about creative, personalized ways that you can show your appreciation for the caretaker in your life.
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