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Family Living Focus: Ways to celebrate National Family Caregiver Month

When an elderly parent or grandparent needs help, it is often a family member that steps up to provide care. It is an around-the-clock job and an obligation that continues even when you clock out of your regular career every day.

If family caregivers were given a salary, they would earn well over six-figures a year, but the work they do is priceless. This fall, celebrate and honor a family caregiver who has devoted his or her time and energy to helping a loved one. November is National Family Caregivers Month. It is the perfect opportunity to say thank you and to show appreciation for the difficult work they do.

Here are six great, fall-friendly ways to show your gratitude:

Give a Family Caregiver a Much-Needed Break: Caregiving is a 24/7 obligation, and sometimes family caregivers need a break. Offer to assume a task that they would normally do themselves, whether it is grocery shopping, cooking, bill paying or taking an elderly loved one to a doctor’s appointment or group activity. A family caregiver can use the extra time however he or she chooses, even if it is just to take a quick power nap.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors: Fall is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the change of seasons. Caregiving often involves staying inside for longer periods of time, so a nice gesture may be to take a family caregiver on a hayride or to a corn maze where they can indulge in fun fall-friendly activities. You could even take them to a pumpkin patch. Who knows, they just may score an awesome pumpkin that you could use to create a delicious fall dessert.

Prepare a Sweet Treat: Almost everyone has a sweet tooth, so what better way to show your appreciation than by baking a family caregiver a fall-themed cake, cupcake, or other dessert. There are so many great seasonal treats to make, including pumpkin cheesecake, a fresh apple cake, pumpkin spice cookies or crockpot apple cider. If your family caregiver is not much of a sweets fan, you always could get him or her flowers or a card to show your appreciation.

Help with Thanksgiving and Christmas Prep: The holiday season is upon us, and for family caregivers it can be very challenging to balance holiday to-dos with the day-to-day responsibilities of caregiving. You can help lighten their load by putting up holiday decorations, getting a head start on their Christmas shopping or by offering to shop for and prepare Thanksgiving dinner (if you aren’t the best cook, you can get several family members together to help with the meal). Helping family caregivers check several items off their to-do list will let them relax and enjoy the holidays even more.

Create a Family Gratitude Journal: Thanksgiving is the perfect time to give thanks for all of life’s blessings, so why not create a family gratitude journal focused on all the positive things a caregiver has done and all the great experiences your family has shared. You can include photos, words of appreciation or letters from other family members that show just how much you

Spend an Offline Day with Family: Technology is everywhere, and it is sometimes difficult to turn off the TV or put away the iPhone and computer, but fall is a great time to unplug. Ask your family caregiver how he or she would spend an ideal day and turn that dream into a reality. Whether it is a spa day, hiking trip, sporting event, movie outing, nice dinner, or museum visit, plan a day that the whole family will remember for years to come.

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Information adapted from article by Lisa Pattanayak, M.D. Physician, Metro Health, Inc, Fall 2014.

If you would like more information on “Ways to Celebrate National Family Caregiver Month” contact Gail Gilman, Family Life Consultant, M.Ed., C.F.C.S. and Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota at waldn001@umn.edu. Be sure to watch for more Family Living Focus™ information in next week’s paper.

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