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One way to recognize those who give so much of themselves is to simply acknowledge the great job they’re doing.

National Family Caregivers Month began as a celebration during the week of Thanksgiving 1997 and has since grown into an annual, month-long acknowledgement and celebration of family caregivers. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation on Nov. 1, 2012, that reads in part, “I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.”

Until you find yourself caring for an elderly loved one, it’s difficult to imagine how much responsibility it can be. Family caregivers’ responsibilities can include everything from meal preparation and housekeeping, to medication and wound care, to transportation and financial planning.

Caregiving is a labor of love for many, but there are things you can say to family caregivers to be helpful and make them feel appreciated:

  • Simply telling a caregiver she’s doing a fantastic job can go a long way. Writing it in a note with a small gift, such as a gift certificate to go out and enjoy a meal, makes it unforgettable.
  • Recognizing what a caregiver is doing is a work of love, and that person is lucky to have him, is sometimes all that’s needed to keep him going.
  • Asking if there’s anything a caregiver needs makes her feel she’s being cared for in return. Mowing a lawn, bringing dinner, cleaning her house, walking her dog, or sitting with a loved one so she can spend time with her spouse or children, are ways to help.
  • Asking a caregiver how he is doing — instead of just asking about the person being cared for — is a great way to offer support.
  • Giving a caregiver “permission” to take care of her own needs without guilt can help relieve stress.
  • Passing along helpful resources will remind a caregiver someone is thinking of her.
  • Distracting a caregiver by sharing a humorous story and laughing together can help relieve stress, promote relaxation and boost energy.
  • Simply telling a caregiver you’re thinking of him can be encouraging.
  • Regardless of the message, most caregivers agree that an e-mail or Facebook message will never replace a visit, phone call or card in the mail.
  • Sometimes just listening, without saying anything at all, is what a caregiver needs.

More than 65 million Americans care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease or the frailties of old age, according to the Caregiver Action Network, formerly the National Family Caregivers Association. Caregivers of people who are 70 years or older can seek support through the Administration on Aging’s National Family Caregiver Support Program.

(This article by Lynn Wilson, founder of the CareGiver Partnership, originally appeared on the CareGiver Partnership blog.)

About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.