People who have been helping others throughout their lives often say they feel useless when physical disabilities prevent them from continuing to provide assistance to others, but it does not have to be like this. Even if people cannot provide physical assistance to others, there is still something they can do that not only helps others, but it helps them as well. What is this thing they can do? It is expressing appreciation for the assistance they receive from their caregivers. Now some may say, “Why should I be grateful for help from someone I am paying?” Or in the case of family caregivers, “Aren’t family members supposed to take care of each other?” Research shows, however, that not only does expressing appreciation make the caregiver feel better about what they do, but also that the people expressing gratitude have a greater sense of well-being. If you are not sure how to get started, let me offer three “S”s to help you: Short, Specific, and Sincere.

Keep it short- Expressing appreciation for something your caregiver has done for you does not require the eloquence of a public speaker. A few words are all that it takes.

Be specific- A general expression of thanks is nice, but receiving appreciation for a specific action is even nicer. “I really appreciate how quickly you come when I ring my bell.” “Your gentleness when helping me change positions really minimizes my pain. Thank you.” “The way you talk to me as a person, rather than a patient, really makes me feel good.”

Be sincere- We have all met people who were either sarcastic in their thanks or their thanks is so phony and effusive that it comes across as a manipulative effort to make us feel indebted to them for a future favor. These expressions of appreciation benefit no one, but a genuine expression of thanks will make the caregiver’s day and make us feel better as well.

The beginning of this blog was focused on people who were used to helping others before they became disabled. But they are not the only ones who can benefit from an “Attitude of Gratitude.” As I did a little research for this blog, I came across a statement that I thought was very profound, “expressing gratitude is a choice.” I believe this is true. So, if your responsibilities in life kept you from being someone who was always helping others, there is no reason you cannot become a giver of thanks once you have retired. Even family members, who have loved ones in care facilities, can become givers of caregiver appreciation. Maybe, just maybe, if we adopt an attitude of expressing thanks, it will spread. Then, not only will our lives be better, but the world will be a better place as well.

John W. Reese, M.S., CDP
Elder Care Coordinator