Sometimes caregivers feel invisible.
They may toil alone, often with a loved one who, due to physical or cognitive issues, cannot recognize or appreciate their strenuous efforts and support. This invisibility can hurt. It can accentuate the loneliness of a lonely job.
One day, amidst the almost seven years of caring for my husband after he suffered a debilitating stroke, an unexpected person saw me and gave me a present. He was a carpenter who had been working on a project in my home, and he and his wife, who worked at a spa, gifted me with a spa day.
I’ll never forget the lift to my spirits that the gift inspired. It wasn’t because it was a financial boon, as I could afford a spa day. It was being seen–knowing someone was thinking about me and the hard efforts I was making on my husband’s behalf. It made such a difference and brought the brightness of joy and caring into my life. It still resonates more than a decade later.
I would like to spread a similar joy to caregivers around the world by creating a “Surprise a Caregiver Day.” My mother, who I also cared for during a long illness, was born on May 16th, so the month of May is already entwined with love and caregiving to me. It’s also a month of gorgeous flowers and springtime, so it seems the perfect month to begin an annual tradition of surprising a caregiver. If you’re game to give it a try, here are some tips on how to brighten the day of a caregiver you know.
1) Go With the Goods
The traditional gifts of flowers, candy, or a gift card for a spa or coffee shop are always a delight. The simple act of calling a flower shop or putting in an online order with a note, such as “Thinking of you and everything you do each day,” can be so heartwarming that it can bring a caregiver to tears. Many of the caregivers we work with at the Kathi Koll Foundation say the acknowledgement of their struggles was a benefit that lasted far longer than the gift they received. They feel that someone in the world cares about them, and that can be the biggest blessing.
2) The Gift of Time
Every caregiver needs more time, and there are ways to give it to them. The simplest may be offering to step in yourself and hang out with their loved one while they go for a walk or take a nap or head off to the coffee shop for a half hour. Let them know that you see how hard they work and wish to give them a break. If you feel unable to provide the needed care, there are companies with trained, trustworthy employees who can visit and provide care, so the gift of an hour of respite can be had through making a simple purchase.
3) Consider the Recipient
Each caregiver is different. While an introvert may crave time alone, the extrovert may crave time with friends and family. For the latter, the biggest gift may be planning a simple gathering. It can be easy. Ask them if they would be open to you planning a small party to celebrate everything they do each day. Ask if such a gathering would be easier for them at their home or out in the world. A park or your home or even a restaurant can be good spots. Then pick a day and make it simple. If it’s at a home, ask each guest to bring a dish to make it a potluck. Maybe provide a cake or make a simple sign that says, “You are amazing.” Invite a few people, and you’re good to go. The delight that the caregiver experiences will expand and warm their heart for years to come.
Be creative. A caregiver will appreciate things as diverse as a gift certificate to a cleaning company or a thank you card from the drug store. It’s the thought and the sweet unexpectedness of it that matters. If you don’t know any caregivers, but still want to surprise one, reach out to me. I know hundreds and can send one whichever type of gift you’d like to give. Imagine the joy they’ll feel at knowing a stranger wanted to celebrate them. So take a chance, pick a day, and celebrate a caregiver. Your joy in giving will blossom in the heart of the recipient for years to come. Caregivers need as much joy as the world can send them, so spread a little sunshine this spring.
Thank you for reading, please share with a friend, and be well! —KK
Please consider making a donation to the Kathi Koll Foundation to help make a difference in struggling family caregivers’ lives. Thank you!
Photo “Gifts” © Pixabay for WordSwag