Caring for the Caregiver

November marks National Family Caregiver Month. It’s a time to thank, recognize and support caregivers who make personal sacrifices on a daily basis caring for a loved one. They give so much and ask for so little in return. Many family caregivers don’t think of themselves as caregivers and don’t expect any kind of acknowledgement for their work. However, it is vital to let them know what they do, and who they are, is immensely appreciated.

Hearing a heartfelt “thank you” is something that every caregiver needs to hear regularly. Being appreciated and feeling appreciated is a huge contributor to helping that individual persevere through daily challenges. A simple pat on the back and recognition for doing a great job can be extremely rewarding, but there are many other ways to thank a family caregiver.

Help with the Holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years prep: Holidays are just around the corner, and for family caregivers it can be very difficult to balance holiday to-dos with the day-to-day responsibilities of care giving. You can help to lighten their load by putting up holiday decorations, assisting them in getting a head start on their Christmas shopping or by offering to shop for and prepare Thanksgiving dinner. If your cooking skills aren’t the best, then recruit the family chefs to help in this department. Helping family caregivers check several items off their to-do list will let them relax and enjoy the holidays even more.

Create a Family Gratitude Journal: This is one of my new favorite ideas! Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give thanks for all of life’s blessings, so why not create a family gratitude journal focused on all the positive things a caregiver has done and all the great experiences your family has shared. You can include photos, words of appreciation or letters from other family members that show just how much you treasure your family caregiver. Try this out, and enjoy the wonderful reaction you will get! At the end of the day it will help to remind the family caregiver that despite the long and sometimes difficult days, that the care and love they give alter the course of someone’s life for the better.

Spend an offline day with the family: Don’t get me wrong, technology can be great but definitely difficult to turn off the TV or put away the phone and computer sometimes, but now is a great time to unplug. Ask your family caregiver how he or she would spend an ideal day and turn that dream into a reality. Whether it’s an evening out to a comedy show, spa day, hiking trip, sporting event, movie outing, nice dinner or museum visit, plan a day that the whole family will remember for years to come. They truly deserve the rest and relaxation.

We all have a lot on our own plates. But know that by reaching out and letting someone know that you are there to help and listen, you are taking a good first step. The second step is not to wait for a caregiver to ask for help but to offer your assistance and insist on it. Don’t let your family caregiver go without the proper recognition they deserve. “The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.” -Unknown

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