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.
 
Other stuff

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From my dad’s daughter

I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day and thanks for everything.


image from lorna.typepad.comI believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.”
 
– Umberto Eco
 
Dear Dad,
 
As the quote above says, I have become who I am partly because of how you and mom raised me, and also by what you have taught me by example. More than just contributing your genes, you shaped me.  I learned that I was safe in my surroundings, how to be a companion, what to look for in a spouse.
 
In our family, you are the “thinker and planner,” the gentle intellectual.  Some of the things I got from you were an understanding of how finances work, an interest in researching, and, apparently, your ability to make friends: mom reports that you know all the others on your morning hiking trail by name.  This has been one of the delights of my life–thank you for that!
 
Some of my fondest memories include going on a test date together to learn how to expect to be treated, flying to visit colleges with you, going on the family trip to Hawaii and another time renting a beach house in Sea Ranch, sitting quietly (comfortingly) with you in a car dealership as I was nursing a broken heart, convincing you to help me buy my house (“if this is a mistake, let me make it”), then helping me replace a broken sewer pipe in it when I had no money left to pay a plumber.
 
As recently as the 70s, fathers were viewed like second class citizens.  I’m sorry if I made you feel like that.  I have always known that you would be my safety net, helping me navigate my life if I needed it.  I see my brother with his son and am charmed by their relationship and know that he learned how to be a father from you.
 
I can only imagine what it is like to raise a head-strong child like me, imagining what that life would be like, then watch as illness takes over and feel helpless to do anything about it.  But I learned from both of you how to be flexible and always to have humor.  Please know that I know we are all just doing the best we can.
 
I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day and thanks for everything.

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I celebrate a carepartner: my Dad

A poem I wrote to my dad for Father’s Day.

 

DadDaughter of one, sister of one,
married to one, friend to many.
I will never know
how it feels to be one.
But I can thank you.
For everything you've tried
to teach me.
And all the things I've learned anyhow
from watching you.
To be kind, like who I am and strive
to be a better me today
than I was yesterday.
To be curious about new things
and trust my own research.
To let those we love
make big, spectacular mistakes
then help fix what we can
and stay out of it if we can't.
To be polite but pick my battles.
Listen and consider alternatives.
Walk (or roll!) gently on the earth.
To try to age gracefully.

–lorna 

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love you, and thanks!

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