There are people who wake up every day and do the work. Sometimes they do it so well, so dependably, and so quietly we almost forget they are there.
“They” are primary family caregivers.
Primary family caregivers are often undemanding, patient, dependable people who frequently put others ahead of themselves. And because they are so dependable, we sometimes forget to show our appreciation to them.
So, how do you thank a family caregiver?
How to Thank a Family Caregiver
- Say “thank you”. It seems simple, but it requires reminding ourselves of the work they do, and the price they incur for doing it. Perhaps a visit to the loved one’s home to watch the caregiver go through their daily routine would remind you to let them know you appreciate them.
- Offer your help. Relieve the caregiver and allow them some time to themselves. A day or even an hour of staying in the senior’s home would be a physical and mental relief, as well as a way of indicating that you understand some of what they are going through. In addition, you could periodically perform tasks like doing the laundry, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn or taking the parent to the doctor’s office. If you are not able to perform a task, pay for the service to be provided by someone else.
- Offer to help the caregiver with his or her family. Often primary family caregivers are in the “sandwich generation.” They are taking care of a senior parent but also have a spouse and children at home. Offer to pick up a child from soccer practice, take a dinner to the parents’ home, and make it a little easier for everyone.
- Write a card, letter, email or text. Express your gratitude to let them know you recognize their efforts.
- Visit. Maybe the caregiver needs to talk about the challenges, concerns, and anxieties they feel. Your gift is one of awareness–taking the time to listen. You don’t have to have the answers. Or you could bring along a movie and a bottle of wine and just let them relax for a couple of hours.
- Make a donation to the caregiver’s favorite charity in his or her name.
- Send or bring them a thoughtful gift. Don’t wait for a holiday or a birthday. In fact, being spontaneous shows you’re not giving them the gift for any other reason than you are grateful for what they do every day.
- Encourage other family members to express their appreciation for the primary family caregiver. Perhaps the family can buy a gift for the caregiver, or become more involved in assisting him or her on a regular basis.
Isolation and Loneliness
Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common among primary family caregivers. In many cases, they have withdrawn from their previous life routines to focus on a senior loved one while everyone else in their life seems to be carrying on as normal. Without support or contact from others, they may begin to feel no one understands or cares about them. This can have physical as well as emotional effects, including weight gain, increased blood pressure, stroke, and depression.
Studies show that family caregivers who feel appreciated experience better physical and emotional health. Even if your primary family caregiver seems reluctant to receive expressions of appreciation and recognition, she or he deserves and needs them. So thank a family caregiver today.
Acting as the primary caregiver to a senior loved one is no easy feat. If you need a break this holiday season, contact Bethesda to learn more about our Respite Care program.