Caregivers provide necessary assistance to those in need for everything from medical aid to personal care. Unfortunately, the ever-important role of a caregiver is frequently underappreciated. In 2015, the Providers Association for Home Health and Hospice Agencies (PAHHHA) recognized the need for caregivers nationwide to be acknowledged. The organization dedicated the third Friday in February to caregivers. So whether you know a caregiver or are one yourself, mark February 19 as a day to celebrate the caregivers in your life. Here are six ways to do that:
Offer a Verbal “Thank You”
You may think caregivers know how much they are appreciated. However, taking time to verbally express your appreciation can mean so much. Make a point to say “thank you” to the caretakers next time you visit your loved one.
Alternatively, pick up the phone and call the caregiver directly. It may seem simple, but kind words of appreciation might be just what your caregiver needs to hear – especially given what our country and world have been through the last ten months.
Arrange for Time Off
Providing care is an undoubtedly exhausting job, and unfortunately, caregiver burnout is all too common. Whether you’re caring for a loved one or overseeing a caregiver, prioritize time-off.
Annette Fields, executive director at Vineyard John’s Creek, an assisted living and memory care facility in Georgia, states, “This is one of our most common pieces of advice for caregivers: It’s okay to admit that you can’t do it all. You’re not superhuman—and no one expects you to be!Do not consider yourself ‘selfish’ for caring for yourself – consider it as part of being a better caregiver. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of your loved one.”
Consider respite services to handle your loved ones needs while you take a break. On the flip side, offer to take over the duties while the full-time caregiver takes time away. Taking a break from their sacrificial role can allow caregivers to provide better care in the long run.
Provide a Meal
If you know a caregiver that you want to celebrate this February, consider providing them with a delicious meal. Between their many caretaking duties, finding the time and energy to cook for themselves can be hard. Take a home cooked meal to a caregiver or provide a meal deliveroption. Preparing freezer-friendly dinners will also keep meals on hand for especially busy days. If you oversee caregivers in a facility, consider providing employees with a catered meal to show your appreciation.
Ironically, caregivers are great at providing care, but they don’t always prioritize their own health and personal needs. While self-care looks different for everyone, the goal is to reduce stress. Unfortunately, chronic stress affects major biological systems resulting in overall compromised health. It can be uncomfortable and draining but can also cause life-threatening conditions. Allow caregivers “me-time” to relax outside of their role. Encourage them to find an activity they love like exercising, reading or a new hobby. If possible, provide a caregiver with a massage or other spa service for an extra treat.
Be a Good Listener
A caregiver may often feel isolated with their day-to-day duties. As a friend to a caregiver, you can help by offering a listening ear. The struggles caregivers face are unique to their situations. Simply sharing their experiences with someone who is willing to listen can help them sort through their feelings. Check in with a caregiver you know to see how they’re doing.
Put it in Writing
Caretaking can be a rewarding job, but some days are harder than others. Consider writing a thoughtful note to the caregiver in your life for those difficult days. Share your words of gratitude and encouragement to help them feel appreciated. If applicable, consider writing to the caregiver’s supervisor to further show your appreciation. Lastly, express your gratitude publicly with a #NationalCaregiversDay post about your beloved caregiver on social media.
Recognize Caregivers on February 19
Providing care is a physically and emotionally demanding job. Healthcare professionals and devoted loved ones nationwide should be honored this year on National Caregivers Day – perhaps more than any other year. Caregivers provide quality and compassionate care each day and should feel valued for their important role. Take time this month to think about the caregivers in your life and to let them know how much they mean to you.