Sometimes, I find it easy to say thank you. There are just those obvious moments that clearly deserve a thank you: when someone gives you a card or a gift, pays a compliment or goes out of their way to do something nice. And then there are the times that the emotions surrounding the action are so complex, I'm not sure how to begin to express gratitude. For example, how do I say thanks to a caregiver?
It seems like the thanks should extend beyond a simple word or action. Or you can say thanks several times over, and it still doesn't feel like enough.As I mentioned in my previous post, I've become more aware of the caregivers in my family. So how can I or anyone else who knows and loves a caregiver offer thanks? One way to start is by telling the world how amazing your caregiver is.
For example, take Stefani Spielman's story. When Stefani discovered she had breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 30, it was her husband who was beside her every step of the way. Chris Spielman was an NFL linebacker at the time and took a year off to support his wife. When she lost her hair due to chemotherapy, Chris shaved his head. And both Spielmans advocated for breast cancer research. But they also recognized the role the caregiver plays in the fight against cancer. And so Stefani's Champions started with Stefani honoring her husband as the first champion. Now, every year people can submit a short essay and honor the people who have gone above and beyond in helping out. Stefani's Champions honors people that exhibit three basic characteristics: puts family first, shows kindness and commitment to the cancer survivor and place's the survivor's needs above personal needs.
Still want to find a way to thank your caregiver now? There are plenty of things you can do.
1. Give them time off--guilt-free. Caregivers sometimes find it hard to ask for help, but time away will give them a chance to recharge their batteries. Be proactive and offer up a thought out plan for when they can take a break. Having a plan will reassure your caregiver that things will be taken care of while he or she is gone. Even if it's only for a little while, having some time to relax is always welcome. And caregivers can use the time in a variety of ways: either enjoying a night out and catching up with friends or maybe taking care of the essentials such as scheduling a dentist appointment that they might've put off.
2. Be thoughtful. You can always give them something small and personal. Maybe your caregiver enjoys movies but doesn't really have time to go out. Suggest a movie night. Do they spend a lot of time waiting? Create a customized playlist, maybe a series of songs expressing thanks or songs that are meaningful to your caregiver or the both of you. Or is there a hobby your caregiver enjoys or a book you think they might like? Invest a little money in the hobby (For example, if your caregiver likes knitting, maybe buy some yarn). Or give them a $5-$10 gift card to a book store. Little things can make a big difference.
3. Share with the world how great your caregiver is. You can write a letter to your local paper or a local newsletter, share in your church bulletin, have someone give them a public shout out on a blog or website. Even update your Facebook status to show your appreciation. (Or you can create a Facebook page for your person!) With the Internet, the possibilities for sharing your caregiver with the world are endless. You can also check with your medical facility to see if they have a program to thank caregivers, like the one at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. If they don't have a program at your facility, talk to someone about starting one!
4. Create something special. A cheesy poem, fun video, or artwork may seem silly but could actually be a really good idea--no matter how old you are. I once wrote a story and presented it to my grandmother as a gift, and she framed it and put it on display in her living room. Something you create will probably be highly appreciated because you put forth effort to make something especially for your caregiver. Don't feel like much of the creative type? Then try leaving little notes in unexpected places. Maybe your caregiver took over making meals, so you could place a short note in the kitchen thanking them for cooking. Sometimes small surprises can be the best thing to get.
5. Return the favor. While many caregivers run, walk, and fundraise for their loved ones who have battled the disease, you can honor them as a thank you. There are plenty of ways to fundraise. You can start by finding something you're good at or looking into a specific organization. Ask your friends and family to join in the support and help you honor your caregiver.
6. Do something together that has nothing to do with cancer. Maybe go to a park you both enjoy visiting but haven't been to in a while. Or if you both enjoy visiting museums, make a plan to go and see an exhibit. Or suggest a Respite Weekend that's sponsored by the Well Spouse Association.
7. Say it. Even though it may seem small, just saying the words "thank you" is always a good place to start. How have you thanked your caregiver? Or do you have tips for someone who wants to thank a caregiver?
Lindsay Ray is the editorial assistant for CURE.