“I am happy to help care for my mother, but she worries that she has become a burden on my sister and me. I want to help her feel a part of this holiday season without any guilt. Do you have any suggestions for ways we can express gratitude that have real meaning?”- Barbara from Smyrna

Is there any better demonstration of love than caring for another person who needs help? Your mother may have held that role of caregiver on and off throughout her life, so she may understand the selflessness and work that goes into it. Even if you enjoy taking on that responsibility, you should be thanked for all that you do, from other family members as well as your loved one.

What’s the Magic Word? 

A simple thank-you can make anyone feel appreciated, but expressing gratitude can go further for health and wellbeing than merely a polite exchange on its own. Researcher Robert Emmons at the University of California-Davis has studied the benefits of gratitude, and the results are encouraging; being thankful can affect both your physical and mental health for the better. Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved sleep and mood
  • More positive outlook

When you share your appreciation with others, and when other people do the same for you, you are getting as much good as you are giving. It sounds like a win-win for everyone.

It’s No Problem

Your mother may be concerned that words are not enough to express her gratitude, but the truth is, it’s not a bad place to start. Small acts of kindness are a genuine demonstration of gratefulness, and the best part is they don’t cost a thing. By recognizing the things you do to support and care for her, your mother can validate the care you provide for her. On the other hand, you can demonstrate your respect for her by preserving her dignity and helping her to maintain her independence as much as is appropriate.

These suggestions for expressing gratitude may work for both your mother and you:

Send thank-you notes. It may be an old-fashioned notion, but a hand-written thank-you note can share your thoughts and appreciation in a more personal way than a text or email can convey.

Make eye contact. Sincerity and emotion can be shared through body language, and direct eye contact can demonstrate the respect people have for one another.

Look on the bright side. Reframe your thoughts and interactions to encourage positivity. Even trying times and painful memories shape learning experiences, so if you and your mother stay positive, you can find the joy in each stage of your relationship.

Create a gratitude journal. Imagine the dialogue you and your mother can share by leaving thoughts, notes, and comments to one another in a small notebook. It can be a way to say what may be difficult to say out loud or just another expression of mindfulness. Plus, you can have the journal as a keepsake of the time you were able to spend with your mother.

Give and get a hug. Even seniors with cognitive impairments can appreciate a gentle, warm hug or the comfort of holding hands. When words cannot express your thanks, there is always an embrace to show your appreciation.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Hopefully, your mother can understand that caregiving is a choice, not a chore. By making an effort this time of year to give and receive thanks, you can both remember that every stage of life has meaning and value, and that a heartfelt thank-you is always in season.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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