Whether you call it a random act of kindness or paying it forward, doing something unexpected for someone else feels good. If you know someone who gives their time taking care of a loved one or friend, you have an opportunity to give back to him or her. November is officially National Family Caregivers month and the perfect time to make a difference in the life of a caregiver.
Being a caregiver can start out as small as just raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or balancing your mother’s checkbook. But most times, and especially for those of us with aging parents or relatives, it comes at you unexpected, like an out of control train. Such was the case of my 75-year-old mother who never expected to be a caregiver for her two siblings, still living in the family home. My uncle was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. My aunt was healthy but always taken care of, and she was unable to deal with household chores, much less taking my uncle to chemo treatments. So my mother stepped in. As a former nurse, it was natural to her, but over time it took a toll on her physical, mental and emotional health.
Because we lived several hours away, my sisters and I looked for things we could do to alleviate anything extra our mother needed to do around her own house and ways to help her relax. As expected, the last person a caregiver takes care of is often himself or herself.
So what can you do? It’s the little things. Here are some ideas:
- Rake their yard or shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks
- Bake some cookies or a pie
- Buy her a certificate for a massage or day at a spa
- Cook a meal or stock up on groceries
- Be the driver for the caregiver to help run errands or take her client to doctor’s appointments
- Not using your sports tickets? Extend them to your friend for a night out
- Drop off a nice bottle of wine
- Send them a card just letting them know you are thinking of them
- Take their car to get an oil change or tires checked
- Fix things around their house: a leaky faucet, clogged drain or clean the carpets
- Buy him/her a Kindle and download the latest books or just buy several new paperbacks
- Put a care package in the mail
Pay attention to things that are unique and personal to the caregiver and extend those random acts of kindness to them. I guarantee that any gesture, no matter how small, will go a long way. Caregivers are extra-special people who may be doing something that takes the burden off of you and your family. Let’s show them we care.