5 Ways to Thank a Caregiver on National Caregivers Day

17 02 2023

Photo: AARP

Show appreciation to those who give so much. By Amy Goyer from AARP – February 17, 2023

Family caregivers spend a great deal of time caring for family, neighbors and friends — an average of 24 hours of care per week, studies show. For some, it’s a full-time job. Although it may truly be a labor of love, the truth is family caregivers often feel invisible, alone and unappreciated. That’s where you come in. You can make a real difference for your family members, friends and coworkers who are caring for others. On National Caregivers Day, Feb. 17 this year, let them know you get it: You see what they are doing, and you honor and value them.

I’ve been a family caregiver my entire adult life for various loved ones, and I can tell you that even the smallest gesture means so very much. Here are some ways you can demonstrate your support and appreciation.

1. Be with them.

Melanie Mitchell, who cared for her mother, expressed it so well: “Sit with me. Don’t just tell me how great I’m doing. Spend some time with me.”

What that looks like:

  • Ask them how they are doing. Be clear that their physical, mental and emotional health and quality of life are just as important as their loved ones’.
  • Listen nonjudgmentally. Let them share their feelings, tell stories, laugh, cry, vent and process their caregiving experiences. You don’t need to fix anything; you just need to care and to validate their perspectives. Let them know you see they are having a rough time and you understand. Tell them it’s OK to sometimes feel resentment, anger and frustration, along with joy.
  • Do things with them on a regular basis. Walk with them once a week, schedule a weekly check-in call, or take them out for a meal or a cup of coffee or tea. Plan ahead so they have something to look forward to. Be flexible if their caregiving duties mean a last-minute change.
  • Stop by for a visit with them (and their loved ones). Even short visits can change the course of their day. If they are providing hands-on care for loved ones try to avoid their busiest times.

2. Make it possible for them to take a break. 

Don’t just encourage them to take a break, plan for it. Help them find the time to exercise, get a haircut, travel, go to the post office, go shopping or keep up with their own health care. Offer and follow up — don’t wait to be asked.

What that looks like:

  • Pay for some respite care. It can be through an agency or other paid caregivers.
  • Provide care yourself. Spend some time with their care recipients. Even if they are there, too, it’s a real help for their loved ones to have someone else to interact with. Play games, watch a movie, look at photograph albums and listen to music together.
  • Arrange for family members to help out. See if an aunt, cousin, nephew or other close relation will step up.
  • Research other respite care options. Check out state or local respite programs or a short-term respite stay at an assisted living facility or skilled nursing facility. Talk it over with them and do as much as you can to follow up and make it happen.

3. Actively demonstrate your support. 

Hands-on help is always needed in so many areas.

What that looks like:

  • Cook or order a meal for delivery for a caregiver and/or those they care for. Let them know it’s coming so they are aware they don’t have to cook that day. (Be sure to follow special diets.)
  • Do online research for them. Help find health care providers, gather information about health conditions, locate medical equipment, or find just the right gadget to meet a special need.
  • Do housework and yard work (or hire someone to do it) at their home or their loved one’s home. Cleaning, mowing the grass, handling holiday decorations and other tasks on top of caregiving can be overwhelming. Fix things or pay for a handyperson to do so.
  • Help them get organizedEase their stress by tackling that messy closet or cabinet, organizing medical supplies, cleaning out the refrigerator or clearing clutter in the home. You can even hire a professional organizer to guide and/or do the organizing.
  • Run errands. Pick up groceries, care supplies, household items or dry cleaning, or arrange and pay for delivery.

4. Tell them how great they are.

Be specific. Point out the many ways in which they are making a real difference in their loved ones’ lives. Celebrate the victories, small and large. Tell them you see their skills and resilience in even the most difficult of circumstances.

What that looks like:

  • Mail greeting cards. We don’t often get “good mail” these days, so it’s an extra special surprise when we do. Be sure to say thank you for all they do for their loved ones. When I was in the throes of caring for both of my parents and my sister, my best friend sent me a card that said, “She who never gives up!” I posted it in the house, and it frequently gave me a lift and encouraged me to press on (it still does). It gave me confidence.
  • Send edible treats, such as a fruit bouquet, cookies or wine-of-the-month club. My aunt loves bread pudding, so I found a place that ships it. My sister once surprised me with a package of chocolate-covered strawberries when I was in the thick of caregiving. Her enclosed note said, “Thank you for all you do for Mom and Dad.” It meant the world to me.
  • Bring them fresh flowers — or have them delivered. Fresh flowers bring joy and beauty to our existence and make us feel special.
  • Write a letter. Tell them they are incredible and explain how important they are and how much you admire them.
  • Nominate them for an award. Find out if local, state or national organizations give awards to recognize outstanding caregivers or people who are making a difference in their communities. If you can’t find one — create an award for them yourself, complete with a certificate!

5. Encourage their self-care. 

Remind them it’s not selfish to care for themselves; it’s practical. They need to “fill up” so they have the internal fuel to keep on caregiving. And they will be better caregivers.

What that looks like:

  • Give a gift certificate. Treat them to a massage, facial, manicure/pedicure or another pampering treatment. But don’t stop there. Help schedule the appointment, provide transportation and arrange backup care — or maybe have fun getting treated together.
  • Sign them up or buy tickets. Go with them to a class, movie, art exhibit, festival, exercise session or another local community event.
  • Help them schedule their wellness checkups. Offer to drive them there and have lunch or coffee afterward.

I moderate AARP’s Family Caregivers Discussion Group on Facebook and giving and receiving thanks is a frequent topic of discussion. As group member Jaclyn Strauss said in a comment recently: “A simple moment to pause and say thank you can go a really long way!”

So, I urge you to take a moment to thank a caregiver in your life today.

Amy Goyer is AARP’s family and caregiving expert and author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving. Connect with Amy on FacebookTwitter, in AARP’s Online Community and in the AARP Facebook Family Caregivers Group.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2023/ways-to-celebrate-national-caregivers-day.html




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