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This is a picture of my wonderful Aunt Rene. She is the last of my “parents”: at least, she is the last of that generation of folks in my husband’s family who ever functioned as a surrogate grandparent to my kids, since three out of four of our parents passed away before my kids were even born. Rene was so very dear to us! Rene had no children, herself. Before she reached the end of her days, she had enough means, and enough wisdom, to have made plans for her own care, so that when she reached the point of no longer being able to completely care for herself, she would be situated where she wanted to be. Whenever I make pumpkin pie, I think of Rene, and my last visit with her, where I took her a homemade pie at Thanksgiving, before she passed away.
Did you know that November is not only the month when the United States celebrates Thanksgiving, but that it’s also National Family Caregivers month? The Random Acts of Kindness for Caregivers Initiative aims to recognize and support the 40 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. Many caregivers are people my age, who often find themselves sandwiched between the needs of their parents and their own kids. My husband and I have so many friends who are involved with caring for their parents.
It’s a popular misconception that most caregivers are paid medical professionals, providing full-time care to someone in need of daily help. In reality, most caregivers are family members or friends who are also working and managing their own families at the same time. For many, the caregiving role starts with simple things like scheduling a doctor’s visit or helping with daily errands, but gradually expands over time, until it becomes a major commitment in their lives.
It is a challenging situation, at best, and it can become all-consuming, and overwhelming.
Is there a way that those of us who are *not* involved in a similar situation might be able to help?
This November, AARP is kicking off a program designed to encourage all Americans to perform an unexpected ‘Random Act of Kindness’ for a caregiver. By starting a nationwide movement, we can raise awareness of caregiving and caregivers while at the same time reaching caregivers directly—helping to alleviate some of their daily stresses and reward them for their ongoing support.
Here’s what you can do:
Identify someone in your life or in your community who is serving as a caregiver and do something nice for them. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive! Just a little thing can encourage someone who does most of their work unseen. (That link might spark some inspiration!)
AARP is also asking that participants share your story. If you submit a 150 word or less summary of how you made a caregiver feel special and a photo, you’ll be entered to win a cash prize from their $10,000 pot.
Almost three in ten people who are caring for someone say their life has changed with caregiving, oftentimes for the negative. More than one in five say their weight, their exercise, or their social life has/have suffered. Emotionally, one in five say they are generally unhappier and one in three say they feel sad or depressed. That’s why AARP created a community where caregivers can connect with experts and other caregivers and can find information and tools to take even better care of the person who once took care of them.
My parents, my in-laws, and our beloved Aunt Rene are all gone, now, but my hat is off to each caregiver I know, and each caregiver who reads this! You do what you do out of love: to care for those who once cared for you. The Lord sees what each of us does in secret, and He knows each sacrifice you’ve made. You honor those you serve well, by seeing that their needs and wants are met. Thank you for your service!