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November is National Caregivers Appreciation Month, and a great time to reach out to those providing care and help lighten their load.
Chances are you know someone caring for an ill or disabled loved one.
This could be due to an illness such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, stroke, or a variety of other conditions. Some provide live-in care, others visit daily or weekly, and some oversee care from a distance or care provided by hired aides or a nursing facility.
No matter how the caregiver performs his or her role, caregiving is a tough job, requiring resources that are often scarce: time, money, support, and assistance.
The CDC tells us that more than 34 million unpaid caregivers provide care to someone age 18 and older who is ill or has a disability, and an estimated 21 percent of US households are impacted by caregiving responsibilities.
Almost all of this work is unpaid, typically provided by family members, and often performed around the clock with no breaks. In addition, many caregivers juggle other responsibilities such as jobs, raising children, and managing their own households.
Caregiving is a common theme in my work. As a nurse, I've had a lot of experience working with caregivers and feel their stories are important to share. In my novel Blue Hydrangeas, my hero Jack Harmon is caring for his wife with Alzheimer's. My short story Ino's Love is about an elderly woman and her home health aid sharing a Christmas dinner. My work-in-progress Swim Season is about a teenage girl wishing she'd been a better caregiver to her mom suffering from PTSD, drug addiction, and depression after two tours of duty in the Middle East. Caregiving themes are important. I have great respect and empathy for these selfless people who often go about their work quietly and unnoticed. I try to reflect that in my stories.
In honor of National Caregivers Appreciation Month and Thanksgiving, I'm offering Blue Hydrangeas at a deep discount on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo through December 1st. My short story Ino's Love is free on Amazon November 24-27.
In recognition of those who work tirelessly and selflessly to care for a loved one, here are twelve ways to reach out to caregivers to offer assistance and let them know you care. These people need support and often that support doesn't cost much, if anything, and takes little time.
1. Ask if you can sit for them a little while so they can run errands, take a break, see the doctor, or attend church or a caregiver's support group, whatever they need to do to take care of themselves.
2. Going to the grocery store? Call and ask if there's anything you can pick up for them.
3. If your employer allows, donate paid sick time, vacation days, or personal time to a coworker caring for a relative who is hospitalized or needs post-hospital care.
4. Volunteer to mow the lawn, weed the garden, rake the leaves, shovel the snow.
5. Share the bounty, whether from your vegetable or your flower garden. Fresh produce and fresh flowers are cheerful.
6. If you have the skills and tools, offer to change the oil in their car and rotate the tires.
7. Again, if you have the skills and tools, offer to cut theirs and their loved one's hair.
8. Include them in your prayers.
9. Offer to walk their dog.
10. Ask if they'd like you to wash and clean out their car.
11. Volunteer to take out the trash and bring the barrels out to the curb on trash day.
12. Double cook a meal, preferably one of their favorites, and send over a dinner.