An Open Letter to My Caregiver

An Open Letter to My Caregiver,

I may not have the ability to say these words but thank you for all that you do. Your work matters more than you may realize. The things that you do might be basic and simple to do for you but they have become a real challenge for me. You help me to find and maintain the balance between my need to be taken care of and my need to be independent. I want to manage my own life but I need help, even if I don’t want to admit it. As my caregiver, you are making a difference in another senior’s life, in my life, in more ways than you know.

Your compassionate care puts my family at ease; they don’t have to worry when you are here with me. You provide my family with peace of mind and a measure of confidence in helping me age independently. My family has come to rely on you for updates on my day as well as for advice and support. They count on you to explain things to me, keep me safe and to reassure me. You give my family space to catch their breath and recharge their spirits, allowing them to spend quality time with me without worry.

As my caregiver, there are so many things that you do that no one sees, sometimes not even me. What you provide for me cannot be easily defined. It often involves meeting my mental, physical and emotional needs, often just by listening to me. You let me share my concerns about growing old and listen as I tell stories of my younger years. My independence is very important to me and you understand that. Thank you for including me by helping me with all the activities I used to be able to accomplish on my own, like folding the laundry or making a meal. Thank you for helping me to remain in my home with independence and dignity. Thank you for being my friend.

Any caregiver can be kind and helpful, treat me with respect; they can remind me to take my medication or buy my groceries. But only you, as a senior caregiver understand that most everything I do requires extra effort. Often, I am in pain and my energy level is not what it used to be. As a senior, you know that. You know how meaningful it is to take a ride in the car or to make the bed. As a senior, you understand when I forget something or how hard it is to keep track of my medications. You understand that even taking a bath or a shower takes planning and seems like an overwhelming task. Only from one senior to another is there understanding of how difficult change can be as we age. As a senior, you look and feel more like my friend.

Your positive attitude, your non-judgmental acceptance, your openness, your compassion, your heartfelt honesty and your courage to be vulnerable, to be human matter to me. It makes my day when you smile as I say something funny or the deep sigh for me when you sense my frustration. I am thankful for the fact that you know the order I like to walk the aisles in the grocery store. I appreciate that you are not in a hurry. You wait patiently as I take the time to choose the perfect piece of fruit. I love that when my favorite song comes on you know all the words and sing along with me.

Thank you for listening to my stories and asking me for my advice, it makes me feel relevant. You encourage me to be proactive in managing my health. Sometimes I am lonely and your sincere companionship makes my day. You help nourish my sense of belonging and purpose and make me feel like my life is still productive. But most of all, thank you for making me feel like I am the most important person when we are together.

Even if recognition is overlooked and gratitude is in short supply, you are doing something very important. You are appreciated. You are respected. You make a difference. You are loved. Even if you never hear these words, it’s true. Caregiving is far more than just a job, it’s an amazing adventure. It’s an adventure that both you and I will treasure forever. Thank you for being my caregiver, my friend.

Lauren McLamb, Director of Operations, Seniors Helping Seniors® Charlotte