The 5 love languages have become extremely popular in the context of romantic relationships. Finding our language is a popular exercise to put definition to the way we feel loved and appreciated. They come in handy for caregivers and supporters too, so we’re going to repurpose them as the 5 languages of care.
If you don’t know your love language, or your caregiver’s, you can take this quick quiz to find out. As a supporter, it’s a great way to really understand the caregiver in your life, and to realize how your actions can be most impactful.
1. Words of Affirmation
The first language is Words of Affirmation. If your caregiver’s language is Words of Affirmation, you can offer support in the quickest and simplest way. Offering encouraging and loving words can make all the difference in their day. If writing & communication are not your strong suits, don’t worry too much. These messages don’t need to be long, formal, or even well-written.
Ideas for the Words of Affirmation caregiver:
- Send a quick text message saying “you’re doing a great job”, “I know you’re going through a lot. I’m here for you”, or “thinking of you today”.
- Send a card in the mail. They won’t be expecting it, and will be able to go back and reread it when they need a pick-me-up.
2. Acts of Service
The Acts of Service language is more actionable. This person feels most loved when someone goes out of their way to offer them help. This doesn’t have to be as grand as it sounds. Helping with one small task or chore can have a major impact and leave this person feeling good for days afterward.
The key here is that these actions are taken without prompting from the caregiver. Offer help proactively, without the need for them to ask For this person, actions speak louder than words, and the last thing they want is to feel that these actions are being done out of obligation.
Ideas for the Acts of Service caregiver:
- Stop by with a meal
- Call and say you’re picking up a prescription, or that you’re on your way to take over their duties while they get a break outside of the house, no questions asked.
3. Receiving Gifts
This language is often misunderstood. Some people see it as being materialistic or frivolous. But it’s just as much about the thought and care behind the gift than the size, price, or worth of the item itself.
Think back to something they may have vented about or mentioned struggling with, and try to respond with an item that could really help. This, more than anything, will help them feel seen and heard. If nothing specific comes to mind for this person, most caregivers are always happy to receive practical use gift cards (grocery, restaurant, etc.), and things off of their own lists like Amazon wish lists.
Ideas for the Receiving Gifts caregiver:
- If you know the caregiver in your life has been struggling to find time to relax, they might appreciate a spa or massage experience.
- If they had a hobby that caregiving duties now limits, like regular trips to the gym, at-home workout equipment might be a good idea.
4. Quality Time
Quality time is often thought of as the easiest language to execute on, because it doesn’t require much thought or investment. When someone feels loved by spending quality time, it’s often because they’re craving connection, conversation, or just the feeling of being around someone else’s energy.
Caregivers have so many things going on at once, and quality time with anyone other than their care recipient is not typically a reality. Set aside time together, and let them express their feelings and concerns. Be there to listen and offer undivided attention.
Ideas for the Quality Time caregiver:
- Offering some one-on-one time over a meal or coffee
- Drop by for a quick conversation or short, informal visit
5. Physical Touch
Physical touch may seem like the most obvious way to show someone you care, but can have the deepest impact. If any one of us is without physical touch for extended periods of time, feelings of isolation can intensify, which is something most caregivers struggle with regularly.
These moments of physical contact can be quiet, quick, and spontaneous. A hug when someone looks tired or a squeeze of the hand if you see them feeling alone.
Ideas for the Physical Touch caregiver:
- Give a hug
- Letting someone lean on your shoulder
- Holding hands when things are tough
When you know what language of care your caregiver identifies with, you can become more specific and effective in the ways you offer help. As supporters, we constantly look for the thing we can do that will really have an impact - and not just on the caregiver’s to-do list, but their mental and emotional well-being. This is a good place to start.