4-minute read

I know a caregiver. How can I help?

Ways to support a caregiver to someone living with mental illness in your life.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Although no official numbers exist, it is estimated that there are millions of caregivers in Asia alone. Thus, it is quite possible that you know someone who is a caregiver or may become acquainted with one at some point in your life. Caregivers shoulder heavy daily responsibilities and often go it alone. Physical, mental and emotional burdens build up over time and can lead to caregiver stress and burnout. How can you meaningfully support a caregiver in your life?

FIRST STEPS TO SUPPORTING CAREGIVERS

While we share some general tips below, it is important to understand that every caregiver and their needs are different. So it always helps to check in with the caregiver to find out what it is they would truly like help with and to respond flexibly to their requests. Otherwise, the already-stressed caregiver may be put in a position where he or she is accommodating you rather than the other way around, no matter how well-intentioned you are. In order to make a genuine difference, thoughtfully tailor your efforts to the caregiver’s unique circumstances, personality and preferences.

TIPS ON HOW TO SUPPORT A CAREGIVER*

I’m an acquaintance or neighbour. What can I do?

You may not know the person well but would like to show care and concern. Here are some useful pointers:

  • Send a ‘no-response-needed’ text 
    • This reaches out in a thoughtful, non-intrusive way and the caregiver does not feel obligated to give you a progress update or share their feelings if it isn’t a good time. 
       
  • Offer practical help 
    • Some examples can be picking up groceries, taking out trash, walking the dog, making an extra portion of food, or watching the kids. Practical help gifts caregivers with more free time.
       
  • Send a nice treat to show you care 
    • It could be chocolates, a gift card, a funny book or a note to encourage a caregiver to press on.
       
  • Respect boundaries
    • Be mindful that your show of care does not place unnecessary demands or expectations on the caregiver.
       
  • Provide a listening ear
    • Listen more and avoid negative chatter or toxic positivity. Communicate in a sensitive and considerate way, and keep everything confidential.

I am a good friend or family member. How do I support?

Being in a caregiver’s inner social circle affords you opportunities to make a difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Share caregiving tasks
    • As a trusted person, you can help out with some caregiving duties. This includes, sitting with the person being cared for and being a companion, following up with treatments, or being a backup resource.
       
  • Share other tasks
    • If you have more intimate access, help with chores or with personal matters like insurance and taxes. Providing logistical and coordination support can be useful for the busy caregiver. Consider scheduling, organising, arranging for alternative help, and so on.
       
  • Provide emotional and psychosocial support
    • You may be in a position to initiate deeper conversations when the caregiver is ready. Or encourage self-care, include them in social activities, take a break and have fun with each other.
       
  • Support financially
    • Caring for someone with mental illness can drain one’s resources. In addition to cash gifts, consider gift vouchers, funding therapy sessions, taking care of the utilities bill or paying for the groceries.
       
  • Find information
    • Learn about the condition and find resources and contacts that will better equip the caregiver to support their loved one. This can range from health info brochures, support groups, helplines, training centres, alternative care services to professional help. Present the information in easy-to-digest ways.

I am an employer or co-worker. How can I help?

Having an understanding and supportive workplace reduces the pressure caregivers face. Here are some ways:

  • Offer flexible work arrangements or remote work options
    • Allow caregivers to work different hours or telecommute, for a better work-life balance.
       
  • Cover a caregiver’s duties
    • For when there are unexpected situations. Help advocate for them by managing co-workers’ reactions or concerns.
       
  • Organise an affinity group for caregivers
    • This raises awareness and provides mutual support through an isolating journey.
       
  • Create organisation-wide awareness
    • Host a lunchtime talk series inviting care providers, counsellors, mental health advocates, social service agencies and other experts to share on relevant topics. Also share information on in-house schemes and benefits for caregivers.
       
  • Evaluate how well your efforts are doing
    • It is important to review the policies, programmes and benefits for caregivers. Ask employees for feedback regularly and solicit new ideas to do better. Ask after their personal wellbeing too.

Want to know more? Here are the articles we referenced to compile this resource:

100+ Ways to Support Caregivers by Sharing the Care 

10 Ways to Be a True Friend to a Family Caregiver 

How to Show Up for a Friend Who Is a Caregiver

How to Really Help a Family Caregiver

How to support caregivers

Employees Who Are Caregivers

Step into the shoes of a caregiver
Explore our first multi-plot interactive video, A Quiet Ripple, that shows what a mental health caregiver might experience - from dilemmas, to a need for support. The choices you make will impact how the story ends. Experience it to better understand the lives of caregivers.

 

Contributors

Writer

Angela Wu

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