This holiday season will look a lot different than last year’s, thanks to the COVID-19 virus. Every family will have its own unique way of figuring out how to keep it meaningful despite the restrictions. But there is one thing that should be standard for all families with a relative who takes care of an elderly loved one: giving that family caregiver their well-earned thanks. And they deserve to be thanked with more than a card. Here are four ways of showing gratitude that will continue long after the holidays are over.
1. Stay connected every day.
If you’re not the main family caregiver, then check in daily with the person who is. Being the primary caregiver can be very isolating, so the frequency of quality communication from others is very important. You may be thinking about your elderly loved one every day, and you can be feeling gratitude for the family caregiver all day long, but actually letting them know is what really matters. Doing this every day is essential. The easiest thing in the world is to get caught up in our own responsibilities, and a week can fly by before you “get around to” connecting with them. All it takes is a two-minute phone call or a quick text message for the family caregiver to feel like they’re not in this alone.
2. Find an extra sliver of time to be there.
If you look hard enough, there will be at least a couple of hours when you can relieve the family caregiver - even one hour can make a difference. It is not always easy to ask for help, even if the family caregiver desperately needs it. The greatest support you can offer may just be the gift of time. Offering this time will not only provide a needed break for the caregiver, it will also provide a time for you to really connect with the loved one.
3. Think ahead and anticipate.
Don’t say, “Let me know if you need anything” – that can put even more pressure on the family caregiver to figure out what they need? Instead, figure out what the need is and offer specific things you can do, and if possible, just do them! Have your radar on every time you visit your elderly loved one and every time you have a conversation with the primary caregiver. And it need not be for the elderly loved one’s benefit. Think of the family caregiver’s needs as well. The last thing they need is to run out of a household essential, but you can think ahead and top off their supply of tissues, paper napkins, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, detergent, condiments, canned goods, frozen meals, soft drinks, coffee, tea or a hundred other things that we all run out of unexpectedly.
You can also make sure that the family caregiver has a constant supply of their favorite ice cream, cookies, or whatever treat gives them a lift. Don’t even announce that you’re bringing it over. Just put it in the pantry or freezer and let them discover it on their own. Do it again and again.
Does the family caregiver have a birthday or anniversary coming up? As far ahead as possible, make arrangements so that they have the day or evening—or both—to celebrate their special occasion. Wait until your arrangements are confirmed before telling them. That way, if they object because they think they don’t need to take time out for themselves, you can say that everything is already in place.
4. Supplemental in-home care services.
Maybe you don’t live nearby or are not able to spare the time, but you really want to support the family caregiver. It might be time to evaluate in-home care. An in-home care service allows an elderly person to stay safe and independent in their own home. You can start by making a call to a local home care provider and learn what supplemental care is possible. It could be Wellness Calls, 24/7 Monitoring or Personal/Companion Care. An in-home consultation will determine the needs and cost; Home Helpers® Home Care offers this consultation at no cost and can even do it virtually if in-home is a concern during these times.
These are just a few suggestions, and they might not work for everyone. In order to make a difference, efforts need to be tailored to each circumstance. Being a family caregiver is a challenging and rewarding role that deserves our thanks!