The Caregiver's Gratitude List

A loved one's illness can come out of nowhere. And when it does, everything changes.

If you're caring for an elderly loved one, you're not alone. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter said it first and she said it best: "There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers."

Caregiving is universal. It is difficult work and most people feel ill equipped for the job. It's not like anyone gives you a manual to tell you what to do.

People are quick to talk about the demands caregiving places on people. While caregiving is often viewed as a burden, less is said about the positives that can come from the experience. Caregiving can be rewarding. It all depends on how you look at it. Is the glass half empty or half full? There are plenty of things to be grateful for if you open your eyes and heart to receive them.

If you're a caregiver, consider adding these five items to your gratitude list:

  1. I'm grateful for the new perspective. Caring for a loved one who is either sick or dying makes you realize that life is indeed short and our time on this earth is limited. Caregiving forces us to face our own mortality. As a result, you may choose to make different decisions for yourself. Perhaps the person you are caring for has many unrealized dreams and plans for the future that they will never get to experience. What will you do today to live out your dreams and a life of no regrets?

  2. I'm grateful for the little things. Many caregivers will tell you that caregiving has taught them to slow down. When the person you are caring for is no longer able to experience all that life has to offer, it’s the small things that make a difference. An ice cream cone, a foot massage, or a phone call from a friend can make a day worth living. Caregiving teaches you to savor the little things.

  3. I'm grateful for the gift of presence. Caregiving can give you the opportunity to just be with the person you love. When you are forced to slow down and be in the company of another person, it opens space for conversations to take place that may otherwise never happen.

  4. I'm grateful for the people who provide care for a living. Caregiving will make you appreciate the work of professional caregivers. It takes a special kind of person to devote their life to caring for others and you will never again take these people for granted.

  5. I'm grateful for the opportunity to care for those who cared for me. It's a privilege to care for the people who raised you. There is no experience more intimate than to help your mom or dad to bathe or to assist them with eating. To be able to do so is an opportunity to thank them for all that they did for you growing up. Some people may never have the opportunity to thank their parents or to care for them when they need it most.

On this Thanksgiving Day, why not take a moment to reflect on the unexpected blessings that can come from caregiving? You'll be glad you did.

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