How to care for a caregiver

When we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in May and June, we honor our parents with gifts and special attention in appreciation of how they have loved us and sacrificed much to care for us. But what about the family caregivers who love and sacrifice much to care for ill parents or spouses—many of their care receivers are not able show their appreciation due to their illnesses and disabilities.

As of yet, there is no official Caregiver’s Day (although perhaps there should be!). But if you know a family caregiver, think about doing something special for him/her on any day. Some suggestions:

• Stop by with a treat or a meal—If you enjoy cooking, cook something; if not, just take out some takeout.

• Bring some cheery flowers—or even a single rose, to make the caregiver feel appreciated.

• Come for a visit or phone the caregiver with a listening ear—you don’t need to give advice or solve the caregiver’s problems; chances are the caregiver is quite isolated and just needs to be able to talk and be heard.

• Send the caregiver an encouraging greeting card—or even an e-card or supportive email message.

• If you love doing yardwork or home repairs, offer to help the overwhelmed caregiver with chores that you can do easily.

• Bring an entertaining book or CD to distract the caregiver’s mind from illness.

• If feasible, offer to stay with the care receiver for a short while so the caregiver can get out of the house.

• Offer to help with errands if the caregiver can’t get out of the house easily.

Caring for a family member who has a chronic, long-term illness is often an extremely stressful, overwhelming life situation with little, if any, time off or vacations. Caregivers go mostly unnoticed in our busy, fast-moving culture; and not only is there no financial compensation for this job, but caregivers must often give up paying jobs in order to provide full-time care.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort to give a lift to your caregiver friends. Just share a little of whatever you enjoy, and you will get an emotional lift also. There are tens of millions of family caregivers in North America.—surely we all know one.