One part of having multiple sclerosis that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in public consciousness is how the disease can affect your closest relationships. Family members, good friends, or significant others often choose to become our caregivers out of love for us — but being a caregiver is hard work!
It’s far too easy, while we’re constantly dealing with the ups and downs and uncertainty of MS, to forget that our family members, friends, and caregivers are going through it with us. That’s why it’s extra important to show them how special and valued they are.
Here is a list of five ways you can show your caregiver(s) that you appreciate everything they are to you and everything they do for you.
1.) Say “thank you!” regularly.
It should go without saying, but the folks who make sure you’re doing alright deserve to hear that they’re appreciated. Whether they’re grabbing you a bottle of water while they’re up or carrying you from the car to a hospital wheelchair, manners matter. Nobody wants to help someone who is unkind to them. There are infinite ways to show gratitude, and the more personal, the better.
2.) Be their medical concierge.
Often times, caregivers are so wrapped up in taking care of their family members that they forget to take adequate care of themselves. Those of us who have chronic illness are experts at researching for the best doctors, making/changing appointments, packing pills, and hashing things out with providers and insurance companies.
If you have the time and ability, take some of stress off of your caregiver’s plate by helping them find the right doctors for their needs, scheduling appointments for them, and reminding them of important activities with regard to their health, such as drinking enough water, remembering to exercise, and taking time to relax. Packing their pills for the week is an easy way to say, “Your health matters to me too.”
3.) Treat them to a massage!
Massages have a ton of health benefits. If you have the ability to do so, giving your caregiver a massage will give you an opportunity for physical and emotional intimacy that is non-sexual. (Of course, if your caregiver is your significant other, where things go after the massage is entirely up to you two!)
Unsure of how to give a massage? There are some really great instructional videos on YouTube. Still not feeling confident? Lacking spoons? Get them a professional massage as a gift. Trying to send a romantic message? Book a couples massage instead.
4.) Give them time to themselves, and have patience with them.
Caregivers don’t get nearly enough time to themselves, and “me time” is invaluable to anyone. You can help them recharge by scheduling some activities for yourself with other friends and family members.
Empathy/Compassion fatigue is a real thing too, so if they’ve been in the thick of things with you during a bad time, they probably need to recharge. Caregivers have so much patience for us that they deserve patience from us as well when they’re close to hitting their limit or are not feeling well.
5.) Do everything you can to take good care of yourself.
Whether it’s remembering to take your pills or shot on time, exercising (when appropriate), eating healthfully, or getting enough sleep, there are countless things that a caregiver worries about but cannot do for you. The better self-care you engage in, the less your caregiver will have to worry about. Plus, being gym-buddies with your caregiver has benefits for both of you.
This list is just a jumping off point to inspire people. You’re only limited by your creativity, time, and finances.
How do you care for your caregiver? Please comment with additional suggestions below.
Rachael Shapiro Majka is a writer, health advocate, and stay-at-home mom who loves to cook, make music, and foster kittens. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and a juris doctor from Southwestern Law School. Diagnosed with MS in May of 2007 (which caused her to develop seizure disorder), she chronicles her quest to live the best life possible on the blog In It For The Parking and keeps up a popular Pinterest board of paleo recipes called the Paleo Compendium. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
You may also enjoy reading other articles by Rachael: 5 Ways To Make Your Home MS Friendly, Having The Best Sex Possible With Multiple Sclerosis and Cinnamon Helps To Suppress Symptoms.