You owe yourself something.
We are always so quick to thank others for their kind actions that sometimes we lose sight of ourselves.
Of course we should thank those special people in our lives who have made the caregiving journey a bit easier. Take time to reach out to family members, friends, coworkers, professional caregivers, hospice workers and thank them for their acts of kindness.
I know I always tried to express my gratitude in the moment, but when you are in the midst of a family health crisis, the small gestures of kindness sometimes get overlooked. Take time this Thanksgiving to reflect on those who offered a kind word or a helping hand. Even if you cannot reach out in person, send kind thoughts their way.
But don’t forget about yourself.
Thanking yourself for being a caregiver is not selfish; it’s being kind. It’s acknowledging your accomplishments, your sacrifices, your humanity.
Thank yourself for finding the strength and the compassion to be a caregiver. Thank yourself for not giving up, even when the going got tough. Give thanks for the lessons learned, the failures endured, the triumphs reached.
It is often said that caregiving is a thankless job. Sadly, this is often true. It can be especially difficult for caregivers of those with dementia, who may not be able to express their gratitude anymore. Instead of words, search for a smile, a squeeze of the hand, their eyes lighting up brightly for a moment when seeing you. Take these small acts of gratitude and treasure them.
While taking inventory of your triumphs and struggles as a caregiver, take an honest look at your situation and ask yourself if you need help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. You don’t want to burn out. By not attempting to do everything yourself, you’ll actually find that you become a better caregiver.
But don’t wait around for others to recognize your hard work. This Thanksgiving, look at yourself in the mirror and say those two empowering words.
Joy Johnston is an Atlanta-based digital journalist who began The Memories Project blog in 2012 after her father died of Alzheimer’s. Her essays have appeared in best-selling anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias.