With Thanksgiving upon us, it seems rather predictable that our blog should be about gratitude.
Perhaps you’re feeling a bit cynical or shaking your head, thinking to yourself, “Here we go again, another article telling me to be grateful for all that I have or for simple pleasures. They have no idea what’s its like to be in my shoes!”
And you’d be bang on. We couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to be in your shoes.
In the past we used to think that being a family caregiver meant the same thing to all caregivers.
We know differently now.
Thanks to feedback from family caregivers about their experiences, coupled with research on the impact of caregiving, this idea of a homogeneous caregiving experience is being replaced with evidence that each caregiving experience is very different.
Even more so, what research tells us is that family caregivers benefit from different forms of interventions based on their individual needs and multi-interventions often yield the greatest benefits for them. So for one caregiver, attending a support group works, whereas for another caregiver is might be practicing yoga 3 times a week and attending monthly educational webinars.
How does gratitude fit into all of this?
Right now you’re probably hearing a lot about gratitude trends that tell you to be grateful for all the good things in life. Usually, the article or TV show ends with advice and some rah-rah messaging telling you to keep a gratitude journal. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong with this form of self-care and intervention used by caregivers, digging deeper into the purpose of being grateful reveals gratitude is about strengthening our relationships with those we lean on, be it daily, monthly, yearly or maybe once a decade.
When we express gratitude to someone and tell them how their assistance or support helped us, they’re more keen to stay in a relationship with us long term. They feel invested in us. The person helping benefits greatly and feels appreciated for their time, energy, even when things are hard and they feel burdened. They actually want to continue helping.
On the flip side, it makes complete sense what happens to that same person when they feel unappreciated. Especially family caregivers, who are often thrown into their role (by choice or not) and placed under heavy demands. When you aren’t thanked, you don’t feel motivated to continue helping.
When someone thanks you for helping them and tells you why, you feel appreciated and more supportive in your role. If you are a friend or a professional and you know a family caregiver, please take a minute to tell them this over the phone.
At the Family Caregivers of BC, we want to express to all family caregivers how grateful we are for their ongoing support. And we don’t just mean to those who you are caring for, although we hope you know this is implicit in that message. Our province simply could not support the needs of those people requiring care and support were it not for unpaid caregivers.
Here are some ways we feel grateful:
- For speaking up and telling us your stories. Whether it is in support group, over the phone or by email, your stories, lessons, advice all help other caregivers feel they are not alone. And they help us do our best to shape services and programs to help meet the needs of family caregivers.
- For giving us feedback on our programs and services. Just like in caregiving, “You don’t know what you don’t know”, the same applies to the Family Caregivers of BC. If we don’t know what is working or what isn’t working, it’s hard to make and support change. So, thank you for helping to build a strong, vibrant, and caring provincial organization.
- Finally, if we didn’t have a group of individuals who were so compassionate, caring, and invested in the people they care for, we wouldn’t exist. It’s through your voices, at a grassroots level up to a policy level that allows us to work towards our mission: To inform, support and educate to improve quality of life for family caregivers. We provide leadership to strengthen the voice of family caregivers and promote the significance of the family caregivers’ role.
From all of us at Family Caregivers of BC, happiest of Thanksgivings to each of you.