Small Gestures on Valentine’s Day Can Mean a Lot to Caregivers

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by Ray Burow |

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Valentine's Day

Remember when pink and white tissue paper was all you needed for a successful Valentine’s Day? The only thing that was more fun than transforming a shoebox into a colorfully decorated mailbox was the anticipation of how many paper hearts would be stuffed into it by classmates.

Valentine’s Day isn’t as simple as it was back then, though it’s still a big deal in the United States.

Go big or go home

Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas when it comes to consumer spending. This year, lovebirds are expected to spend more than $27 billion on the holiday. That would account for a lot of tissue paper, but the reality is that more than 50 percent of those who plan to spend this holiday will do so on candy (I am guessing chocolate, or maybe conversation hearts), while 43 percent will buy greeting cards, and 37 percent flowers. Surprisingly, only 21 percent will buy jewelry, and coming in last are clothing and gift cards.

What does all of this have to do with Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving? Many caregivers won’t celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, because it’s too difficult.

Sweethearts caring for sweethearts

One in 10 caregivers is caring for a spouse, spending an average of 44.6 hours a week on caregiving tasks. Taking on the caregiving role, spouses and partners report feeling physically, financially, and emotionally stressed. Even purchasing a Valentine’s Day gift for a husband or wife can present a challenge.

It’s doubtful that caregiving spouses are skipping to the mall to purchase flowers, candy, or jewelry. They don’t have time, and finances may also be a consideration. A caregiving spouse whose loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t expect to receive a gift, card, or an expression of love. In most cases, the person for whom care is provided won’t recognize that the 14th day of February is special. It is just another day in the life of a homebound patient and their caregiver.

Three out of 10 caregivers look after a loved one with memory problems. The transition between their previous relationship and their new normal is a huge step that will affect their celebration of a romantic holiday. The couple has shared memories, but only the carer may remember them. This is one of the reasons that Valentine’s Day is challenging. Caregivers already find themselves isolated and lonely, and the sorrow of loss weighs heavy, adding to the burden of care on this emotionally charged day.

Caregivers prove their love every day

For most caregivers, deep love remains for their spouse. But when the world stops on a day that is backdropped in red, even a dusty, candy-filled doily wrapped in construction paper hearts would lift their spirits. Since it is better to give than to receive, caregivers also miss gifting to their spouses and seeing a spark in their eyes, with a present that is more exciting than an everyday item.

“A soldier and a servant: The cost of strength is not the abandonment of feeling and kindness.” (Artwork by Miriam Burow)

What can we do?

There are approximately 43.5 million caregivers in the U.S., so it’s likely that you know one or two of them. We need a throwback to when celebrating Valentine’s Day was simpler. We can eliminate the hype surrounding the day and make a connection with a caregiver.

You don’t have to spend an enormous amount of money on a gift (though if you want to, go for it). Simple gestures speak to the heart of a caregiver. Get the kids involved. An old-fashioned approach might just hit the spot. Caregivers need to be remembered on Valentine’s Day. We can do the remembering for the spouse or their loved one who can’t.

In addition to spousal caregivers, don’t forget the thousands of daughters, sons, parents, siblings, and friends who are in the same boat on Valentine’s Day. Reach out with a text, a phone call, or an e-card. Do something that says, “You’re not forgotten.”

Keep it simple

Elaborate plans often go unfinished. It’s better to complete simple, kind gestures. For example, purchase a small gift for the patient on behalf of the caregiver, or for the caregiver from the patient. Pick up a candy bar at the grocery store, tie a ribbon around it, and drop it off on your way home. How simple is that? Brainstorm ideas about how you can make a difference to a caregiver this Valentine’s Day.

You don’t have to go big or go home. Small, manageable gestures of kindness have more impact than you think. To make a caregiver’s Valentine’s Day, even a paper doily heart will do. A little recognition goes a long way.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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