My mom has been living with Alzheimer’s for six years now, and as her primary caregiver, I’m constantly learning new things about the disease and what goes into elder care. I opened up online about my caregiving experience a couple years ago, but even since then, so much has changed. It’s taken time, but I’ve gradually learned to accept our reality, take a step back when needed, reach out for support, and even let myself grieve the relationship my mom and I once had. Despite all of the challenges, I’ve found moments of unexpected strength, self-compassion, and clarity. 

The other thing I started realizing when I opened up about my mom was that so many people responded by saying, “I’m going through the same thing.” The reality is, many of us are caring for loved ones and carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, but we don’t know how to ask for the support that we need, especially at work. It can feel uncomfortable to leave early for multiple appointments one week, or to ask for a day off because we’re emotionally drained. So if you have a coworker, manager, or teammate who is also a caregiver, know that there are ways for you to show up for them without overstepping. Know that caregiving can be an isolating experience, and just reaching out to show your support can make a difference. Your empathy and understanding can be a much-needed source of comfort during a difficult time. 

Here are some tips that can help you show your support:

Be curious without being judgmental. 

I remember hearing the phrase “Be curious , not judgemental,” on the show Ted Lasso, and it immediately stuck with me. Asking others about their experience with caregiving isn’t off limits. In fact, it’s comforting to know that people care. The key is approaching the subject in a way that shows that you can’t imagine what they’re going through, but you want to learn. If you’re not sure what to say, start with something like, “I know you’re a caretaker and I’d love to learn more if you’re comfortable talking about it.” Just showing you’re interested in learning more can be a source of comfort.

Remember that everyone is going through something.

If your teammate seems “off” or cold on a certain day, keep in mind that you don’t know what’s going on at home. This is true for caregivers and non-caregivers! Sometimes we’re just exhausted, and sometimes we’re in crisis mode. There have been so many days where I’ve gotten a call from my mom’s care facility and I’ve run out of meetings to answer as soon as possible. In those moments, the panic sets in immediately and my mind runs to the worst case scenario. Even when the call is just a quick update or something mundane, it’s difficult for me to get back to my day and come down from that emotional spike.

Be a source of information for your teammate. 

Consider taking some time to look into the organization’s benefits and resources for caregivers. When someone is taking care of a loved one, they often don’t have the time or the emotional capacity to look into all of the resources available to them at work, and they may not know about mental health days that are offered, or bereavement leave, or daycares that are available for their kids when they’re busy with appointments. Being a source of information for your colleague by saying, “Hey, did you know that you can take some time off to go visit your loved one?” or just sending an informative link their way can be incredibly helpful. 

Acknowledge the loss that your teammate might be experiencing. 

The unfortunate reality of elder care, and specifically for Alzheimer’s in my case, is that there is a loss of the relationship we once had with our loved one. Alzheimer’s is often referred to as “the long goodbye,” and it definitely feels that way. With any neurodegenerative disease, one has to come to terms with the fact that their loved one is not really the same loved one they knew their entire life. My mom is here with me, but there’s a certain loss that’s omnipresent in my life. It’s something I carry with me each and every day. Understanding that your teammate is going through a grieving process of sorts can help you empathize and show up for them in a way you might not have considered. Oftentimes, a simple “I’m here for you” or “How can I help you today?” is exactly what someone needs to hear. You may not realize it, but your support can be a lifeline in their caregiving journey.


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"