February is the traditional month of love.

Stores leap at the opportunity to offer candy, flowers, and jewelry to lovers. While these are all special ways of showing love, they are not the only way.

Some of the most tender love streams between caregivers and the people they care for. About 43 million people across the United States regularly show love by ministering to a loved one in need. This type of love is so special in part because it cannot be reciprocated, at least not in the traditional sense.

The caregiver is bestowing a gift of love each time she helps her parent or child or spouse or friend with a daily activity whether it’s arranging a doctor’s appointment or helping with a meal. Love is often the driving force for every act of caregiving.

Sometimes this love can feel a bit unrequited, and yet there are ways to help caregivers know how precious their gifts of caring are.

If you have a caregiver who helps you or if you know someone who is a caregiver (even if you are also one yourself), take a moment to share your love for that person. Here are some ideas on how to surprise caregivers with love this month.

1. Give A Special Gift

Although a loved one who is suffering may not be able to go shopping, there might be other ways to surprise a caregiver with a gift. Perhaps online shopping is a possibility or perhaps a friend or family member might be able to be consulted and do the shopping even if it’s something little like a muffin from a favored bakery. If the loved one is suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s and is unable to say thanks, maybe a family member who can’t be there for much of the day-to-day caregiving could surprise the caregiver with a small gift in the loved one’s name.

2. Say Thank You

Often caregivers feel unnoticed and unappreciated. If you are a loved one, try to take a moment when you can to express your gratitude for the gift of love that your caregiver is providing you. A simple expression of thanks can make a caregiver feel worthy and beloved. Maybe take a moment to record your feelings on paper or on a phone memo to then give to your beloved caregiver. If you know a caregiver, take a moment to share how special you think they are.

3. Take Notice

One of the easiest ways to show love is simply by taking notice of what someone else needs. Many caregivers excel at doing this, but imagine how cherished they would feel if someone else noticed what they needed. The caregiver might need a moment to rest or vent or take a walk. If you are a loved one, consider what you might be able to bestow. You might surprise yourself. Simply asking a caregiver to breathe or share his or her stresses is a gift of love. So if you can, take a moment to let your caregiver be the recipient of your caring words. If a loved one is incapacitated in such a way that this is not possible, maybe another family member could step in and take notice. But regardless, caregivers remember that your loved ones appreciate you, even if a disability is not letting them show it.

Also caregivers remember that it is okay to tell the people in your life that a simple expression of thanks would be a blessing to you. Whether those in your life are able to provide that gratitude or not, please hear it from me: “With all of my heart I thank you. I appreciate you. I know that your efforts are monumental and essential. You are loved.” —Kathi Koll


  • Kathi Koll

    Founder of The Kathi Koll Foundation: Supporting Family Caregivers in Need

    Kathi Koll is the founder of The Kathi Koll Foundation, dedicated to supporting caregivers in need, and author of the award-winning book Kick-Ass Kinda Girl: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Caregiving. She also has a podcast Care for Caregivers. Her experience caring for her late husband, Don, after his debilitating stroke, was the inspiration for creating the foundation and writing her memoir. Kathi has been committed to civic, community, and healthcare organizations within and outside the United States for decades. She currently serves on the Hoag Hospital Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute advisory committee and on the Boy Scouts of America Orange County Council Board of Directors. She has previously served on the board of trustees of Casa Cuna, an orphanage in La Paz, Mexico, the boards of UCLA Health Systems and American Ballet Theatre, and as a trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Kathi grew up in Los Angeles where she attended Loyola Marymount University. She lives in Southern California, and is the proud mother of three children and extremely proud grandmother of nine grandchildren, who all lovingly call her KK.