Did you know that November is National Family Caregivers Month? Family caregivers include children and adults caring for aging parents and relatives as well as adult parents caring for their spouse or child with special needs. Nationally, there are over 40 million family caregivers and that number only continues to rise year to year.
Family caregivers truly work around the clock and deserve recognition year-round, however, this month highlights the opportunity people have to honor family caregivers in a special way. If you have a friend who is a family caregiver, show them some love with these 13 fun ideas:
Make them a meal. One of the toughest jobs in caregiving can be consistently providing nutritious and easy-to-eat food for the person for whom you care. Find out any dietary restrictions your friend’s loved one has and offer to make your friend a meal that they and their caree can both enjoy.
Offer a ride. Whether it’s to the doctor, an adult daycare program, or simply to get groceries, transportation is one of the most time-consuming tasks in caregiving. Offer your driving services this month or coordinate a signup with friends and family to spread out the rides and give your friend an even bigger helping hand.
Send flowers. For caregivers with family members with disabilities especially, getting outside to simply go for a walk can be difficult. Why not deliver a vibrant dose of nature to their doorstep instead with flowers or a low-maintenance houseplant?
Give a helpful gift card. From over-the-counter medicines to pill organizers, adult briefs, durable medical equipment, and tools for blood pressure monitoring and testing blood sugar levels, the stuff so many caregivers rely on can be found in a drugstore or online.
Donate in their name. So often, caregiving duties on top of a job can prevent caregivers from being able to donate their time or money like they might want to. Honor your friend for the compassionate caregiving they provide by donating to a cause or charity close to their heart.
Show up. It’s easy to say “let me know what how I can help” and leave it to the caregiver to fill you in, however, it may be more effective for you to say “I have time Thursday afternoon. Can I come over and keep your loved one company and give you a break?” or “What errands can I run for you today?”.
Include them. While caregiving certainly provides purpose and a sense of fulfillment, it can also often result in social isolation for the caregiver themselves as their time for socializing with others becomes limited. As the holiday season approaches, make sure they know about group get-togethers or have them and their loved one over for dinner. Arranging care for their loved one so they can join you will also help them feel more comfortable with saying yes too.
Set a play date. Many caregivers are finding themselves smack dab in the middle of what is being called the “sandwich generation” where they help care for an aging parent while they still have kids living at home. Offer to offload the kids for a night by scheduling a play date and handling their school pick-up, dinner, and bedtime.
Help around the house. Caregiving duties will always take priority over household chores and it’s easy for ToDos like raking leaves, sealing the deck, mowing the lawn, and organizing the garage to fall to the wayside. Offer to help your friend around the house and check some of those items off the list.
Gift them a massage. Caregiving can be as physically demanding as it is emotionally and mentally. Caregivers often report incidences of musculoskeletal disorder like pulled back muscles and neck aches. A massage can do wonders for relaxation and pain (just don’t forget to make sure their loved one’s care is covered while they are out getting it).
Help with food delivery. Send a note of encouragement with a gift certificate for a food delivery service (like GrubHub or UberEats) or a grocery delivery service. This saves your friend an errand and still allows them to handpick the items they and their loved one want to eat.
Research resources. The financial burden of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially when a caregiver is helping to cover medical and living costs for their loved one. Lend a hand by researching and sharing local resources that might benefit them including free respite and adult day care services, heating and bill assistance, as well as updated information about state policies regarding paid family sick leave and structured family caregiver programs.
Send a note. Brighten your friend’s day with a handwritten card or letter and let them know how much you admire and respect what they do. A real piece of mail that isn’t junk is always nice to receive much less a heartfelt note from someone sharing encouragement and words of love.