How to thank a caregiver

Family caregivers give a lot and don’t always get much in return. As much as they love the people they care for, the work involved in family caregiving can be exhausting. 
It is estimated that over 40 million people in the United States are unpaid caregivers to an adult family member or friend. That’s like 21% of the population! 
According to the National Alliance For Caregiving, “care delivered by informal and family caregivers add up to $257 billion each year.”
Since the count of MSers is now recognized as close to 1M, it would be interesting to see what the numbers are for those caring for someone with MS or another chronic illness.
And although the majority of family caregivers are women, more and more men are becoming caregivers too.
Imagine How They Feel
If you live in the same house as your caregiver, be aware that they may often feel invisible. Everyone’s attention can seem to always go to the MSer, causing them to feel that no one cares about them. Many say, “no one even asks.”
Also research shows that the “emotional stress of caring has little to do with the physical condition of the person with MS or the length of time the person has been ill. Emotional stress seems more related to how “trapped” caregivers feel in their situation.”
Just know that caregivers give a lot and don’t always get much in return. As much as they love the people they care for, the work involved in family caregiving can be exhausting. 
“The most successful carepartners welcome and appreciate the practical and emotional support of other people,” says the NMSS. Also, they “don’t give up the activities or hobbies they enjoy.”
What can I give
How can you show appreciation to your caregiver? Simply asking them is a great place to start.
Other ideas
  • Express your gratitude out loud and often. Brag to others about your caretaker.
  • Write out a note or card. Taking time to hand-write why you appreciate your caregiver can be very meaningful plus it gives them something with kind words they can reread in the future.
  • Suggest a coffee-break or cup of tea. In fact, encourage your caregiver to take breaks. Make sure they are taking time to fill their own tanks so they have the energy to take care of you.
  • Celebrate National Caregiver’s Month (November in the U.S.). It’s an opportunity to draw attention to the needs of all caregivers.
  • Show interest in the things that your caregiver is interested in. It shouldn’t only be about you.
  • Share jokes with each other. There is power in a good laugh. Try to do it at least once a day.
  • Find support services or even classes that might be right for them, or figure out a service they can use to outsource one of their regular chores.
  • Offer to help them with a task you know you can take on. Or, when visitors come, make the most of your time: be prepared with a short list of to-do items you need help with.
  • Try to temper your emotions, maybe make a conscious effort to be cheerful.  Facing perpetual crankiness can be draining.  Remember that your caregiver is not your therapist.
  • For paid help, you can give a bonus, a day off, or a quick call to their supervisor to report what a good job they do.
Look for ways to make your caregiver’s life easier. Even small gestures can make a big difference to someone worn out.
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I celebrate my carepartner: my Mom

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thanks!

MomWe scorn the crass commercialism 
of Hallmark holidays 
and flowery memes, you and I 
(wonder where I get that from?)
but on the other hand, 
we still appreciate the sentiment
of a Happy Mother's Day wish,
a Happy Birthday hug.
So we celebrate May together,
the beginnings of Spring, 
sharing laughter and family.
And I will continue to say 
thank you, thank you, thank you
for being my mom,
(like you had a choice!)
wheeling me around the 'hood
cleaning my house,
changing my sheets,
helping me problem solve,
and loving me selflessly.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and thanks!
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“Share The Care”

I got the idea that having a list of projects we intended to accomplish to finish the house would be useful for when someone says they want to help and is there anything we need.  My thought was to break the projects into smaller projects so that we would have some ready projects to give when asked.

Then I found a copy of the book Share The Care: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who Is Seriously Ill (Capossela & Warnock). It is written by two women who came together with a small group of other friends and family to manage the caregiving for a woman whose cancer was getting worse.

I've started to think about those of us with MS who tend to heavily rely on our spouse or a close friend for solace and support, and how quickly burnt out those people can become.  I think it is very common for a caregiver to get overwhelmed.

Granted, MS is not life threatening and there are certainly often times when an MSer can manage whatever without help.  There aren't necessarily frequent visits to the doctor for which they need a ride, for example. And we Msers are reluctant to ask for help and often resist it.

But so too "healthy" individuals fear offering help to a person with MS, fear that they will be asked to do something they don't know how to do, fear that others will see their fear of illness or that they'll be taken advantage of or that they'll come to be relied upon and thus locked into a commitment.  Still people do want to help, so how practical it would be to create a "team" to share in it.

And the system of forming a team of caregivers laid out in this book starts with a group meeting to create a structure for it and get everyone on the same path.  As the manual says "it gives you something to fall back on when things get difficult, a ground of being that keeps the group going, keeps the individual members from burning out, and keeps the group together."

I've heard several accounts of people that got together to fundraise and walk in the MS Walk just after someone they knew got diagnosed, for example.  Obviously these are folks who want to help and might be interested in joining this team.

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