Caregivers come in all varieties. Whether it's a family member who has the primary responsibility of caring for Mom and Dad, the next-door neighbor who shovels the snow or mows the lawn, or the professionals who come into your parents' home or work with them away from home, these people play an important role in the life of your family members. The holiday season is an ideal time to let them know just how much they're appreciated.
"The caregiver/client relationship is special," says Katie Nathan, co-founder of CaregiversDirect, which connects families with local caregivers in Arizona, California, and Texas. "They become part of our family and a special gift is a way of acknowledging that relationship."
Of course, a cash bonus is always a good start, says Nathan, who advises that for full-time professional caregivers, a good guideline is a week's pay; for part-timers, a day's pay.
On top of a bonus, however, Nathan recommends caregiver gift ideas that offer a bit of pampering and an opportunity to relax, such as a gift certificate for a spa visit or manicure/pedicure, a basket of soothing bath products, or movie tickets or a Netflix subscription.
Doing something together--such as taking the caregiver out to dinner or to an event or activity you both enjoy, such as the theater or the symphony, is another way to show that you see her as more than just an employee.
Anything that can make the caregiver's professional life easier is also a welcome gift, says Nathan, noting that there are a number of caregiver-focused apps such as Care3, Caring Bridge, Lotsa Helping Hands, CareZone, and Unfrazzle.
Caregivers who work through an agency or in a private facility (whether residential or adult day care) may be restricted in terms of what they can accept in the way of gifts, so check the company policies first. In addition to bonuses, gift cards, and material gifts, other ways of showing your appreciation can include writing a letter to let the caregivers know how much the attention they give Mom or Dad means to you (you can give a copy of the letter to their supervisor as well); a donation to the facility or organization in the caregiver's name; and, of course, food--coffee, tea, cookies, candies (give enough for them to share with their co-workers!).
When making up your caregiver gift list, don't forget the unpaid family caregivers, whether that's you yourself or other family members.
"One of the greatest gifts that anyone can give a caregiver is time...time to recuperate, to remain healthy, to take a breath, to remain connected with friends and family, and to not feel guilty about doing so," says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging. "As a caregiver our focus must be on caring for ourselves first, as not doing so can reduce our capacity to care for others."
For Amy Goyer, AARP's family, caregiving, and multi-generational issues expert, who cares for her own father, her personal holiday wish list includes gift cards to coffee shops, online shopping sites, and restaurants that deliver; a personal shopper or errand-running service (or willing friends!); and help with household and caregiving tasks such as filling pill organizers, doing laundry, and changing linens so she can have more time to spend sharing enjoyable activities with her father.
Being a source of support to a caregiving friend or family member is a gift in itself, says Colin Milner. "Be there to support them as a friend, realizing that they need you now more than ever. Take them for a cup of coffee every few days, or give them a book that can help them to better understand their journey and realize they are not alone (AARP's Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving is one example)."
And, of course, since money is a challenge for so many family caregivers who often have to cut back on their own professional careers, simple cash or gift cards that can be used anywhere can mean a lot.
Looking for additional resources, advice, and support on caregiving? Read more here.
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