Caregivers: Why We Should Thank These Unsung Heroes
Leif Cared For His Ailing Grandmother With Gratitude
These words describe my good friend, Leif.
From 2011 to 2013, he cared for his ailing grandmother before she passed. Finding himself between jobs, he was able to give her the time and care she needed until hospice took over near the end of her life.
Proudly, he states, “You know, the hospice nurses told me that they rarely saw someone so well taken care of.”
And, when he speaks about this period in his life, it is with gratitude.
Appreciating the Small Moments
When I asked Leif about his experience as a caregiver, he recalls the small, seemingly routine moments that he appreciates the most. With a chuckle in his voice, he tells me about his grandmother who, at 95, had never eaten fast food. He convinced her to try Taco Bell for the first time. Then, there were their shopping days at Costco when they’d delightedly fill up on free snacks. My friend is also grateful for having the opportunity to get to know his grandmother on a deeper level. He loved “chilling” with her in the backyard as they talked and admired her acre of fruit trees.
I applaud my friend for never viewing his role as an obligation–only as an enrichment to his own life. He admits that it wasn’t always easy. Each day, he’d prepare her morning tea, dress her, help her use the bathroom, feed her, provide her with company, and make sure she took her medications. For my friend, the hardest part was accepting that the person who once took care of him now needed caretaking.
Recalling Spending Summers Together
As a child, Leif’s grandmother was his main caregiver during the summers. The rest of the year, she worked as a school bus driver. When he was a preschooler, Leif would join her on her route. He loved the days when they’d go fishing over the seat of the school bus. He fondly reminisces, She’d peel an apple in one long stroke and slice it up. Then, she’d dangle a wedge over the seat, and I’d pretend to be a fish and gobble it up.
Rossalyn Carter wisely concluded the following:
“There are only four kinds of people in the world–
Those who have been caregivers.
Those who are currently caregivers.
Those who will be caregivers, and
those who will need a caregiver.”
Leif’s Advice To Caregivers
Since many of us know people who currently fulfill this role, my friend offers some sage advice: Express gratitude to the caregiver. Feeling valued and appreciated by family members keeps resentment at bay. Oftentimes, caregivers forgo activities that the rest of us take for granted because they can not leave their sick or disabled loved one. Caregiving can deplete a person both physically and emotionally. For some caregivers, this is a lifetime role, especially for those who have special needs children.
Ways To Express Gratitude To Caregivers
Here are some ways to show our gratitude:
Write a Heartfelt Letter of Thanks
This simple act of gratitude will let the caregiver know how much he or she is appreciated, but don’t stop with one note. Remind them periodically just how priceless they are.
Suggested Read: The Importance of Writing a Handwritten Note
Give the Caregiver a Day Off
Offer to step into the role of caregiver for a day. It will allow your friend or family member to rejuvenate and give you an appreciation for the daily work they do.
Offer to Help
Caregiving can be a thief of time. Whether it is picking up a prescription or a few groceries, planting flowers around the house, or doing a few dishes, offering a helping hand will be valued.
Spend Time with the Caregiver
Take time to visit your friend or family member. Caregiving can be extremely isolating and lonely. Ask them with sincerity how they are doing over a cup of coffee or tea. By listening, you may discover they are becoming burned out and are in need of some self-care.
Donate to a Cause
Show appreciation by donating to a charity or organization in the caregiver’s name. Make it relevant to the caregiver’s situation. Perhaps they are providing care for an autistic child, an adult suffering from Alzheimer’s, or a wheelchair bound spouse. This simple act will let the caregiver know that you acknowledge the work they are doing.
Surprise them with a Gift
A vibrant bouquet of flowers will brighten up the toughest of days. Any thoughtful gift of self-care will surely bring a smile to the caregiver. Think about a gift card for a massage, facial, manicure/pedicure, or a gift basket with the caregiver’s favorite treats.
In her book, A New Look at Caregiving: Two Halves of a Whole, Linda Edgar, R.N., Ph.D. points out that caregivers’ needs are as important as those they serve. If we want our loved ones to receive first-rate care, it is essential that we honor and show gratitude to those selfless individuals who generously take care of our friends and family.