If a caregiver can provide emotional support to a loved one, every other challenge becomes easy. Go through this caregivers guide to providing emotional support for ideas on how you can help your loved ones in troubling times.
Nearly 1 in every 5 Americans is a family caregiver. For a caregiver, providing emotional support as much as physical support is as essential as challenging.
Yes, you can help them walk to the bathroom and support them in putting on clothes, but do you understand their pain or fear? You must learn to say the correct words of encouragement and reassurance – this is what emotional support is all about.
Caregivers are themselves a stressed lot. They are even more anxious if the condition of their loved ones is critical, and this directly affects their mental, emotional, and physical state of being. Thus, it is also important to practice self-care before extending support to others
This guide will show you how to emotionally support your loved ones in their time of need, and how to keep your own emotional balance while going about all of this.
What Is Emotional Support All About?
The number one thing that all caregivers should understand is that it is all right to feel overwhelmed by the circumstances. Even if you are an adult, it cannot be easy to be strong mentally and physically all the time. None of us have a guidebook for the same, and only by learning and supporting each other can we reach there.
What do we mean when we say and expect caregivers to provide emotional support?
To put it simply, providing emotional support to someone is to reassure them that they will get through the situation they are living in at the moment.
It can be challenging for older adults or sick people to get past their current reality. The fear of the future, the frustration of the present, and overwhelming sadness are some of the emotions they feel most of the time – this is where your job as a caretaker comes and your emotional intelligence comes into question.
People usually show emotional connection by verbal expressions of love, empathy, understanding, and compassion. However, the same cannot be the case all the time – you can get overwhelmed with the entire situation – you are human too.
Thus, it is essential to jot down the words you should use when expressing compassion towards your loved one. With little practice, you will say the right words to the person who needs to hear it.
Ask Important Questions and Listen With an Open Heart.
The best way to provide emotional support to your loved ones is to ask what they need in the present moment. ‘How can I help or make you feel better,’ is the best way to do it. However, this mere question doesn’t work with people every time.
So, you have to dig a bit deeper; for instance, if you know that they are severely ill, you can ask if they need some massage or soothing music, etc.
Could you not push it through? People open up when it is the right time for them, know that you are doing your job, and let it all go. Also, it is essential not just to hear what they say but listen with full intent and empathy.
For this reason, you can learn a bit of the body language techniques like nodding, asking for clarity wherever needed, facing them with your entire body, etc., to make them feel at ease and significant enough to speak their heart out. Such conversations alone trigger a lot of healing for the person you intend to take care of.
Some Important Ways To Provide Emotional Support to People
It is pretty simple to support a loved one or someone in need. However, it is never easy. One needs to be in the entire balance of themself to pour love and support to others. This is why the following ways will help you sharpen your skills when being there for and with other people.
Say no to judgment
The biggest block to providing emotional support is removing judgment for yourself and other people altogether. It is psychologically impossible to say no to judging others without stopping self-judgment.
Everything starts with you, and thus, you will have to be friendly and kind (with zero judgment) to yourself before reflecting the same to the world. Nobody likes to feel judged anyway. So, the need to release or avoid judgment should be your number one priority as a caregiver.
Stop telling them that they should or shouldn’t have done things differently to end up here. Also, it is essential to be wary of the tone or the way you talk to them. Even if you aren’t judging, people can still feel it in how you speak or talk. Always remember the words compassion and love when your conditioned mind tells you to judge anyone.
Acknowledge their difficult situation
To learn about this, you can put yourself in their place or somewhere in the past when you were dealing with a problematic situation and went to a loved one for help. You must have wanted to vent out or needed someone to be there for you and nothing else. This is precisely what people want from a caregiver as well.
You might not understand their problem or situation or all they are feeling, but acknowledging their condition is the best way to empathize and show emotional support towards them.
They genuinely don’t want you to fix them but be there for them and validate or acknowledge their pain and problems. Be there with your caring presence and let them know that they aren’t alone in their fight or situation. Just be there, that’s it.
There is no single way to show emotional support to your loved ones, and the only thing that matters is the way you show up. You might not know the accurate phrase to say to make them feel better, but you always know how to be genuine and authentic, and this attitude alone will make you a better caregiver.
Being original will always make your loved one appreciate your actual actions, even if you do not know what to say in the present moment.
Show physical affection
Most of us avoid physical touch when consoling a loved one, even as a caregiver, and thus, this one will demand a genuine effort and practice from your side. However, supporting someone with a physical touch is very easy for a lot of us.
No caregiver is similar to the other, but we can practice showing physical affection since human touch is quite healing for people. Some situations where you can offer appropriate physical contact are listed below –
- After a difficult or emotional conversation, you can end the talk with an affectionate hug, letting them know you are genuinely there for them, even if things get challenging.
- They are holding a loved one’s hands or body when going for their medical tests, surgeries, and other complex procedures.
- Occasional kisses and cuddles for your loved ones, if they are comfortable, aren’t a bad idea either, especially if it’s your spouse, child, or a close friend.
We all deal with our share of difficulties every day. Some of us have it harder than others, but this doesn’t mean that someone’s pain is less or more than others.
For this very reason, when your loved one is going through turmoil and wishes for you to support them emotionally, the most hurtful thing you can do is compare their problems with others or, worse, yourself.
Nobody wants to listen to it. Moreover, it will make them close their hearts and not share their pain with you anymore. The dreadful lines of ‘they have it worse than you’ or ‘it isn’t that bad and you need to look at it with a positive attitude,’ etc., will do the exact opposite of what is expected from a caregiver.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Providing Emotional Support to Your Spouse
A caregiver is often referred to as a care partner in this situation and is expected to manage life challenges while supporting and caring for their spouse or partner. From emotional support to physical assistance, they shall provide their spouse with all of it to thrive together with them in this world.
So, what must you do if your partner or spouse is going through a distressing time in terms of career, health issues, financial crisis, losing someone close, etc.?
Signs that your spouse needs emotional support and care
This would be on your part to notice sure signs displayed by your spouse if they need extra love and emotional support from you. Unfortunately, not many people share their problems, even with a spouse, so it is entirely on you to notice sure signs that include –
- Increased irritability
- Lack of self-confidence
- Pessimistic approach towards things
- Mental exhaustion
- Physical tiredness
- Heightened sensitivity
How to give emotional support to your spouse
Two-way communication is essential to learn precisely what your spouse is going through to support them. Allow them to have their space and then come to you with whatever is bothering them. Keep a calm headspace to listen to it since it can also be something you wouldn’t expect, like an illness or loss of someone close to you.
This might be tough for you as a caregiver, but allow them to share the issues with you all the time they need. Remove all signs of judgment and open your heart to them. Make sure that they feel loved and supported when talking to you and sharing their pain.
Shower them with compliments in public
When someone needs emotional support, they might not be feeling good about themselves as well. Thus, it is essential to make them feel good in person and in front of people.
Shower them with great compliments when you are out with other people. Make them feel good about themselves and see the change in their attitude in no time.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Providing Emotional Support to Your Child
Children deserve primary care, including everything from mental to emotional support 24/7. As a caregiver, you must observe, document, and plan everything for the child’s emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
Providing emotional support to a child might seem like an easy task, but it isn’t. Let’s learn about a few ways to support your child emotionally.
Foster a healthy relationship with them
There is nothing you can do except create a safe environment for them to open up to you. If you always make fear in their minds, they will hardly feel comfortable with you.
While it is good to be tough on them sometimes, you must always foster your relationship with them in such a way that they always come to you when they need emotional support or help.
Carry out their personal care routines
Your kid is still very young to be emotionally mature and takes responsibility for their personal life. Thus, you are required to learn about their care routine and hygiene and carry it all out yourself.
This way, you will also learn about their emotional needs and how they see the world. Ask them about their day, notice their moods, observe how they feel, and regularly talk to them about the same.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Providing Emotional Support to Your Parents or Loved Ones
Perhaps the most challenging part as a caregiver comes when one has to convince their parents, family members, or friends to open their hearts to you. Often, they will refuse to acknowledge that they might support them emotionally, which is where your part is crucial.
Even though they tell you not to worry, you must remain persistent, especially if you see signs such as increased irritability, low energy, deplorable behavior, impatience, negative attitude, low self-confidence, etc.
When do your parents or a loved one need emotional support?
Mostly, your parents and loved ones need emotional care when they –
- Have a severe disease or life-threatening injury
- Are frustrated and going through significant life-change like a financial crisis or personal loss
- Cannot control the environment, bodily functions, or feel good.
- Going through financial problems or close to burnout
How should you show emotional support to them?
As a caregiver, you shouldn’t wait for a crisis to provide them emotional support. Stay ready to take up the much-needed conversation, love, and kindness with them. If they are lonely, perhaps the best way is to get them to join a local group, to help them meet new people.
If there is a severe illness they are dealing with, ask for the medical documents, take them to an excellent professional and get them tested again, hold their hands during the ongoing process, and when the results arrive, take the most apt action at the time.
As a caregiver, it should be your duty to be there for them throughout or hire professional help to take care of your parents or loved ones till they become healthy again.
In case of a financial crisis, offer to help them or find local jobs for them if they insist on earning extra money on their own. You can deposit a certain sum of money in their account every month.
Hold their hands, give them long hugs and kisses, stay by their side and always take care of their emotions when grieving the loss of a friend, relative, or someone close to them. You can actively choose to stay with them for a while or move closer to support them better.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Providing Emotional Support During Late-Stage and End-of-Life
Probably the most challenging part of being a caregiver to a loved one is to accept that despite all the love, care, and treatment, they are still approaching the end of their life. The late-stage or end-of-life period may range from a few weeks to months to several years.
During this time, they need your love, attention, empathy, compassion, and all the emotional support that one can offer – it is indeed a unique challenge.
During this time, you and the person at the end of their life will experience many distressing emotions, including anger, sadness, conflict, anxiety, depression, etc. You also have to remember that this is also the time to forgive all the grudges of this life and express love instead.
How to show emotional support during this time?
As a caregiver, you will have to face specific challenges from the person in their late stage in life, even if they do not demand anything from you. These areas can include –
Care and assistance
Reaching the last stage of life can take away a lot from people. They often lose their ability to think, talk, sit, eat, or make sense of the world. Thus, they need more than medical care and physical support. While you do not have to push them to feel more or have fun in life, you can also be there to listen to them whenever they wish to talk to someone without judging. Hold them close and make them feel loved and present at the moment.
Honor their wishes
Assure your loved one that you will one hundred percent carry out their wishes for them, even if they pass away in the middle of their fruition. From creating wills to charity work, you can always perform this job for them and continue to finish it even after leaving for their next journey.
Allow them to reminisce about old times as you hold their hands
The end-of-life period can be sensitive and healing for every person. Accepting and letting go of everything they thought was life can be challenging, and thus, they should remember the good parts and learn the process of dying while having you listen and reminiscing their portion with them and holding them close.
Just be there
Even if your loved one is in hospice care, you need to let them know that they aren’t alone. Be there for them as much as you can and not just via call-in physical. Keep them company, watch movies together, dance, have fun, read books, and sit with them.
A Caregiver’s Guide to Providing Emotional Support to Someone With Severe Illness
Even severe illness is a part of the normal process of aging, and different people react differently to extreme body conditions. Thus, it is easier for a caregiver to know the person beforehand since it makes it simple to understand their mood and reactions while processing the information.
Ways to emotionally support someone with chronic illness
So, how should you work through this information with your loved one? Let’s begin with learning about the entire situation before supporting them emotionally – the challenges, news, research work, success stories, etc., are some of the positive ways you can approach the problem and help them. Check out the points below to learn more.
Use this time as a way to encourage them
While others are joining the pity party, you must go ahead and encourage them to bring a considerable change in their lifestyle to fight this illness.
Your emotional intelligence can work wonders here, and who knows, the positive charge flowing from you to them can even bring them out of their misery and ultimately defeat this illness.
Stop them from sitting alone since the negative self-talk occurs majorly during this time. Please keep checking in and do not stop until they are spearheading the master project of healing themselves completely.
Say no to unsolicited advice and listen to what they have to say
When someone is diagnosed with a severe or chronic illness, most people jump into their space with unwanted and obsolete advice of their own. Do not be like these people. Instead, listen to what your loved one has in their heart and give them the space to express it.
Listen before you speak and work together, like a team. Let them understand in the depth of their heart that while you can only imagine what they must be going through, you can do everything in your reach to support them on all levels and then mean it.
Learn everything about their illness
All it takes is a quick Google research to at least get an idea about the illness your loved one is going through. Thoroughly read about the kind of emotional support they need and want and how you should work your way through it.
The symptoms, signs, coping strategies, success stories, etc., should be on your mind as you educate yourself with the illness and apply the same in real life. Use your emotional intelligence to support them, not enforce what you read about their problem.
You are their caregiver, not doctor – this should always be in your mind, and you will never force your thoughts and knowledge on them.
Plan a distracting activity for them
Living with a chronic illness can be quite stressful for anyone. As a caregiver, you can plan for unanticipated events that can distract your loved ones from their current reality. Anything from planning a road trip, movie night, picnic in the park, weekend getaway, etc., will work wonderfully for them.
You can ask them to pack their important stuff and prepare for a day or two of adventure. However, make sure the severity of their condition – take them out only if they are healthy enough to step out.
Caregiving in the Time of COVID-19
While covid-19 isn’t a chronic or severe illness, it is still an ongoing pandemic and has claimed countless lives. If you are or have been a caregiver to a loved one during this time of crisis, then here are some tips for you to provide emotional support to others –
- Keep yourself healthy, safe, vaccinated, and sanitized, especially when you are around the patient but keep them engaged with fun stories, jokes, or simple conversations. The whole idea is not to make them feel isolated, especially when they have to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. You can do this via call or video call.
- Tell them about the success stories of covid and that there is nothing to fear. Ask them to take a rest and connect with you whenever it is needed. Send them positive stories/news about covid recovery.
- Ask them about the food they are having and then, as per the research, ask them to order it all for themselves. Please do not allow them to order food from outside since it can be detrimental to their condition. If possible, cook for them and leave them on their door.
- Please stay connected with them through sources other than physically (to avoid the infection). However, it is essential to keep your symptoms checked and tested first. It is only when you feel healthy that you can help them.
Being someone’s caregiver can be challenging if you do not set personal health goals. So, go ahead and take care of yourself along the way. Only then will you be able to support, emotionally or physically, someone else.
Seek support for yourself and focus on all that you can give to a loved one without compromising your emotional, physical, and financial condition.
We hope you found this guide useful to your particular caregiving situation. If you liked the content and the ideas that we presented, please do share it with others who are in a similar situation. Your one share might help brighten up a person’s day!