How to Show Your Appreciation During National Family Caregivers Month
Over 40 million people in the United States do the often underappreciated and unpaid work of taking care of a senior loved one. Family caregivers are tasked with long days full of various chores and tasks and never get a paycheck or paid vacation for all the work they do. They provide important, necessary work – but work that is largely unseen by the larger society.
To the family members they care for though, their work is seen. You know how much your family caregiver does and how lost you’d be without the work they put in. But do they know how much you appreciate them?
National Family Caregivers Month
November is National Family Caregivers Month. If there’s a chance your caregiver doesn’t know how much you value their efforts on your behalf, then let this be a good reminder for you to let them know.
Here are a few ideas for ways to show your appreciation to the hardworking family caregiver in your life:
1. Give the gift of self-care.
People who are responsible for taking care of loved ones can sometimes forget to schedule time to take care of themselves. Everyone needs some time and space in their life to do the things that make them feel comfortable and relaxed. Try to figure out what those are for your family caregiver. Do they love long baths? Time on the couch with Netflix on? Trips to a masseuse?
Pay attention to what their go-to self-care activity is and choose a gift that enables them to do more of it. If it’s trips to the gym, pay for their membership for a couple of months. If it’s getting a manicure, get a gift card to their favorite place. Something that helps them indulge and take care of themselves can help make the (limited) time they have to themselves more rewarding.
2. Have everyone chip in to do all the chores for a week (or more).
Round up all the family and friends you can to commit to taking over various chores for at least a week this month. While it won’t provide as significant a break as respite care, at least having the laundry or sweeping or dishes taken care of can make a difference in how much your caregiver has to do.
Bonus points if you can make it a semi-regular occasion for others to help take over a few of the chores to give your family caregiver more of a break.
3. Make their favorite meal.
Your family caregiver has probably taken on a lot of the work of making or buying meals for you. Turn the tables and do it for them this month. You should have some idea of their favorite foods, but if not, go ahead and ask. Then cook their favorite meal to serve to them.
Making your caregiver’s favorite meal both gives them the night off from worrying about meal prep, and rewards them with something you know they like.
4. Offer time off.
Family caregivers usually don’t feel like they can “take a vacation” from the kind of work they do. If they’re not around to do laundry, keep the house clean, help you with meals and all those other day-to-day tasks you can’t do on your own – who will? In some cases, you may be able to figure out an easy answer to that. If another family member can come in for a visit or take some time off work to fill in, then they can offer to take over for a little while.
If there’s not someone obvious to turn to who can fill in, you do still have options. Respite care is temporary care provided by senior living or in-home care companies that you can hire for a set amount of time in order to allow your family caregiver a proper vacation. They can take that trip they’ve been wishing for all this time, or just have a lazy week at home to themselves to rest. Either way, giving them the gift of no responsibilities for a set amount of a time is probably one of the best ways to show them you’ve noticed how hard they’re working and know they deserve a rest.
5. Pay for a night out.
A nice night out can always feel special, but they’re especially hard to find time for when life responsibilities make every day too busy. Offer to bankroll a nice night out for your family caregiver. Let them choose the activity – it could be a nice dinner, going to the movies or going out dancing. Whatever they choose, make sure you won’t have any need of them that night so they can enjoy the whole evening without interruption.
6. Provide a gift card or subscription to something that takes work off their plate.
In recent years, a number of services have become available that are devoted to taking some of the tedious tasks of life off people’s plates. Cleaning services can take over some of the daily chores that fill up so much of a family caregiver’s time. Dog walking or doggy day care services can take some of the pet care duties off the to do list, if you have pets. Food delivery services can save you the trouble of grocery trips.
You can make your family caregiver’s life a lot easier by figuring out a service they can use to outsource one of their regular chores.
7. Write a letter.
People don’t get handwritten letters that often anymore, but remember how nice it feels on the rare occasions you do receive one? Give your caregiver that feeling with a personal letter sharing how much they mean to you. It may seem like a small thing, but it can let them know you appreciate and see what they’re doing – and it gives them a physical object with kind words that they can revisit on tough days in the future.
Family caregivers give a lot and don’t always get much back in return. As much as they love the people they care for, the work involved in senior caregiving can get trying. Take this opportunity to show your family caregiver how much they mean to you and try to make their life a little easier. Even small gestures can make a big difference to someone worn out.