The month of February may make you think of chocolates, flowers, and all things love related, so its fitting that National Caregivers Day happens to fall on the third Friday of the month. This well-deserved day of appreciation is unfortunately not well known. And while it technically is in honor of health care professionals serving in long term and hospice care, caregivers come in various forms.
Though healthcare providers in these specialties are very much deserving of a day of thanks, those truly in need of recognition are the friends and family who provide care for their loved ones day in and day out. As a physician assistant and special needs parent, I am caregiver both professionally and personally. And while all moms can relate to the constant concern for those around them, it comes at a different cost when the responsibility is for the lives of patients and a medically complex child. While having personal experience as caregiver, and being surrounded by them in the workplace, I have come up with some suggestions for ways to thank the caregivers in your life.
Don’t say, “Let me know if you need anything!”
Caregivers are already inundated with doctors appointments, phone calls, pharmacy runs, and therapies. While your offer may be heartfelt, asking for help can often feel like one more thing to do. Next time, instead of wondering why you haven’t heard back, consider making a specific offer. “I am going to drop off dinner, I don’t need to stay, but I just wanted to make sure Tuesday works.” “I can help get you to that appointment if you need.” “Here is a gift card for your favorite restaurant.” While taking the work of asking for help out of the equation, your offer is much more likely to be accepted.
Offer babysitting or caregiving services
Sometimes food and money are nice, but time can be invaluable. Everyone deserves time for themselves, but especially those who care for loved ones with chronic conditions. The main thing that can keep caregivers from prioritizing themselves, is concern that there is nobody they can trust to fill in for them. Offering a couple hours for them to regroup can do wonders.
Check in and let them know you’re thinking of them
If the pandemic has taught most of us anything, it’s that human connection is a necessity. Those with serious medical conditions are often already isolated, along with those who help care for them. Regardless of social distancing, getting out and about can be much harder for people in these situations. A simple text or phone call can go a long way in just letting them know you’re thinking of them, even if you can’t get together often.
Remember upcoming events
Maybe there is an important appointment or test coming up. If something is mentioned, try to make note of when that date is, and follow up to see how it went. Little things like this can have a big impact in the lives of patients and their caregivers.
Reach out to the facilities around you.
As mentioned, National Caregiver Day is technically for those professionally serving in the areas of long term and hospice care. Gift cards, treats, flowers, and cards are great ways to thank those who are helping care for the most vulnerable in our society. When visitor restrictions lighten, consider going to a long term care facility to volunteer. There are often games, movie nights, and crafts arranged for patients and residents, and facilities are often in need of volunteers to help with these.
Caregivers come in various roles, but those who do it best, do so with love. Take some time to show some love back to them this upcoming National Caregiver Day, and look for ways to connect with them year round.