Many American Legion Auxiliary members are caregivers, whether they realize it or not. It’s often a thankless job, one that is done out of the goodness of one’s heart for loved ones. It can lead to feeling a wide range of emotions, such as exhaustion, isolation, anger, sadness, and more. That’s why it’s important to recognize caregivers in your unit so they know they are not alone, and their fellow Auxiliary members are thinking of them.
The ALA has always had caregivers in our ranks. However, during the 2021-2022 administrative year through National President Kathy Daudistel’s special emphasis, there is an extra spotlight on caregivers.
Recognizing caregivers for all they do doesn’t have to be difficult or even expensive. Here are just a few simple ways to let caregivers know they are seen:
- Food: home-cooked or restaurant style — it doesn’t matter — just food that the caregiver doesn’t have to prepare themselves. This idea could involve multiple ALA members so the caregiver would have a few meals provided a week. Just a small thing like taking the stress out of preparing meals can make a large impact on caregivers. Bonus idea: Find out the caregiver’s favorite dessert and drop it off one night as a surprise!
- Cleaning: One of the last things a caregiver wants to do is clean. They are exhausted from the oftentimes constant care of another, and having to clean a home can seem like an insurmountable task. Auxiliary members can team up and clean the house together on a weekly or monthly basis, or gather donations to hire a cleaning service. Use an option that works best for your unit. Know that whichever you choose, it will be appreciated!
- Time out of the house: Volunteer your time so the caregiver can have an afternoon or evening out of the house for a nice dinner, movie, shopping, etc. For caregivers, it’s so important to have time to themselves to recharge so they can take better care of their loved one. This will also give the person being cared for time to talk to someone new or simply rest. It doesn’t have to be a whole day — even a few hours can make a world of difference.
- Caregiver survival kit: Assemble a little kit for caregivers and fill it with items like hand sanitizer, moisturizer, lip balm, water, gum/mints, snacks, pen, paper, etc. This way, they have several useful items for doctors’ appointments while they wait for their loved one. Sometimes, caregivers are there for hours waiting during various appointments, and this kit can help.
- Financial help: Simply pulling together the financial resources of an ALA unit to gift a caregiver with a little extra cash or gift cards to their favorite store and/or restaurant can make a big difference. Perhaps present the gift around their birthday, favorite holiday, Christmas, etc. It doesn’t have to be a large financial amount — it’s the thought that counts, and the caregiver will appreciate it.
- Adult caregiver certificate: As part of Daudistel’s focus on caregivers, ALA members are encouraged to recognize adult caregivers at unit meetings, special events, or even in their own home with a caregiver certificate of appreciation. It’s a simple gesture, but it can mean so much to have just that little bit of recognition.
BONUS — ALA members can also recognize youth in two different ways related to caregiving:
- Youth Caregiver Certificate of Appreciation: Through the American Legion Auxiliary’s Children & Youth program, this award recognizes youth who care for others without payment or expectation of reward. We have many of these young people throughout the country, so let’s recognize what they are doing! Download the fillable certificate here.
Be sure to take pictures of your unit recognizing these extraordinary young people, and share them on our Children & Youth program Facebook group
- Caregiver patch for ALA Junior members and Sons of The American Legion members: The new patch is geared toward ninth- to 12th-graders. There are 10 activities, and five must be completed to earn the patch. Check out the Junior Activities page for more information on activities youth can complete to earn the caregiver patch.
Do you have other ideas on how caregivers can be recognized or ways to help a caregiver? Email us.
By Sara Fowler, Staff Writer