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Paying it Forward: How Caregivers Can Help Other Caregivers

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Caregiving can be highly stressful for those who are providing the care. It can be physically demanding and mentally exhausting. Taking care of others can also take time away from a caregiver’s own life. 

Most caregivers need all the support they can get. And sometimes the best source of support is from other caregivers who are “paying it forward” by performing good deeds or random acts of kindness for one another other.


What does it mean to “pay it forward”? 

The term “pay it forward” is an expression referring to the act of returning a kindness done to you by performing an act of kindness for another person. 

Rather than simply repaying the original giver with a good deed, the recipient seeks a different person to perform an act of kindness towards. In turn, the new person also goes out and seeks another person to help in one way or another.

Ideally, by doing so, paying it forward creates a chain of good deeds that spreads into a community. It’s a ripple effect of kindness.

Giving thanks for an act of kindness bestowed upon you is the standard response. But paying it forward means taking it one step further, and by doing so it distributes kindness to others. 

Paying it forward can foster a culture of assistance, selflessness, and kindness within a community. 


How Can Caregivers Benefit from the Concept of Paying it Forward?  

Most caregivers are unpaid and, furthermore, perform their tasks out of love or kindness rather than for payment. These daily tasks are typically ones that the care recipient can’t do for themselves. 

The following numbers mentioned below provide a picture of just how much work goes into caregiving. 

  • Roughly 74% of caregivers cook and feed the person they are caring for. 

  • About 55% of caregivers spend 6 hours a day or more providing care.

  • Approximately 15% of caregivers spend 25-45% of their own funds to carry out their caregiving activities.

  • Caregivers often don’t have time for their own needs.

    • For example, about 38% of caregivers sacrificed time away from work or exercise to perform caregiving activities. 

Caregivers spend a significant amount of time looking after someone else, without the expectation of a reward or return.

Because they spend so much time giving, they often feel hesitant to ask for assistance or accept help. The practice of paying it forward creates a network of assistance, without having to ask for it. 


4 Simple Ways to Pay It Forward to Other Caregivers 

It’s evident that caregivers are impacted by their caregiving responsibilities, physically, mentally, and financially. This impact is why paying it forward is so necessary when it comes to the caregiving community. After all, only other caregivers can truly understand what it’s like to care for others every day. 

In the end, caregivers can be one another’s strongest social support. 

The following are four ways caregivers can pay it forward to another caregiver, by performing a good deed or two for each other.

1. Arrange Some Time For Self-Care

One pay it forward idea is to designate a couple of hours or a day to take over for another caregiver, and encourage them to use those hours for self-care activities.

For example, a haircut appointment may seem unnecessary, but a trim or a new hairstyle can work wonders for self-confidence. 

Sometimes, allowing another caregiver a few hours to nap or catch up on sleep can make all the difference. 

2. Create Check-In Phone-Trees

One way to pay it forward is to create a “pay it forward phone-tree.” Sometimes, calling in on another caregiver means randomly phoning them whenever the notion occurs to do so. However, pre-assigning a phone-tree ensures that each caregiver receives a check-in at regular intervals.

Each person on a phone-tree is assigned to call another person within 24 hours of receiving their call. 

A phone-tree starts with an assigned day of the month and a person starts the phone-tree, calls their assigned caregiver peer, and that person then calls another assigned caregiver peer. In this way, the responsibility to check with other caregivers falls equally on a group, rather than one person doing all the calling. 

3. Create or Join a Resource Group 

While caregivers do need support, very often what they need more are resources. Creating or joining a resource group for dementia or autism caregivers, for example, can direct members to areas where they can obtain assistance, like nonprofit organizations or government sources. 

A group for caregivers to share knowledge and viable resources can immensely improve a caregiver’s personal life and caregiving duties.

4. Anonymous Gift Cards

Although paying it forward doesn’t have to be anonymous, many in the pay it forward movement prefer to perform their good deeds anonymously. 

Caregivers can choose to purchase or save gift cards from restaurants and retailers, and disburse them to other caregivers anonymously — perhaps through a resource group or caregiver phone-tree. Small gift cards to the local coffee shop, grocery store, or pharmacy can brighten up a caregiver’s day.


Why Is The Term “Pay It Forward” So Popular?

Most people recall the term “pay it forward” because of the movie with the same name. 

The movie, Pay it Forward, starred a young Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Spacey and was released in the year 2000. In this movie, a young boy attempts to start a pay it forward movement

Although his attempts don’t appear to make a significant impact at first, they eventually make a difference in the lives of each person touched by the movement. The movie is also based on a fiction novel of the same title by author Catherine Ryan Hyde

Surprisingly, the pay it forward concept is not a model one, despite its recent resurgence. After loaning a friend of his some financial assistance, Benjamin Franklin famously asked his friend to “pay it forward”, instead of repaying him back the money. Ralph Waldo Emerson also brought up the concept in his 1841 essay Compensation, in which he emphasizes the need to repay good deeds to others rather than toward the original benefactor. 

Look up “pay it forward” on Wikipedia, and you’ll find that the concept has been around for centuries.


Have You Heard Of National Pay it Forward Day?

Nationally and globally, Pay it Forward Day occurs on April 28 of each year. Founder Blake Beattie began Pay It Forward Day in 2007 after being inspired by Catherine Ryan Hyde's Pay It Forward idea

Pay it Forward Day is a celebration of how good deeds, no matter how small, can cause a ripple effect of kindness. Initially started in Australia, Pay it Forward Day is now observed in 85 countries. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the pay it forward concept, visit the Pay it Forward Foundation, a nonprofit organization started by Pay it Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Maria Tesoro-Morioka

A Licensed Registered Nurse in the mental health field for nearly 15 years.

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