MENASHA (NBC 26) — National Caregivers Day is Friday, February 21st. It's a day to honor the hardworking men and women who, too often, don't get the recognition they deserve.
Tim Miller and his wife have been married over 40 years. Karen is her husband's caregiver.
"I help him write things down on his calendar, and I give him his meds."
At 63-years-old, Tim suffers from early onset memory loss.
"The memory just disappeared," explained Karen.
She got Tim involved in the Mindworks program at the Fox Valley Memory Project in Menasha.
"We do trivia. They love food. We do crafts. We always have music playing because that is a favorite. We go on field trips," explained instructor Mindy Gries.
The classes, which promote mental exercise and social interaction, are held twice a week.
"It's six hours of respite time for the amazing caregivers," said Gries.
"For a caregiver, they can experience a lot of emotion themselves. About 50% in our research have told us that depression is an issue for them, because they become isolated," added Harriet Redman, member of the Wisconsin Family and Caregivers Support Alliance.
Redman said caregiving can also be physically challenging as well as affect employment and finances.
"It's a hard job. It's a long job and they deserve our thanks."
That's why about five years ago, National Caregivers Day was created to honor the spouses, parents, siblings or other family and friends who provide regular care for loved ones with health problems or disabilities. Most do it without getting paid.
"It's wonderful. It's necessary. It's just a great thing," said Gries.
There are many ways you can show your appreciation, such as writing a letter to express your gratitude, giving a gift like flowers, offering to help with duties and easiest of all, just say "thank you."
Redman said, "They think of their person needing care as number one. For one day, we're saying let's make the caregiver number one."
Gries added, "I hope they feel loved and appreciated and just wonderful, because what they're doing, we couldn't do it without them."
Caregiver Bonnie Johnson, whose husband also attends Mindworks, is grateful for the recognition.
"You know we have a lot of days designated for different things, and just making people aware is important."
"I just can't thank you enough for what you do for me," Tim said to Karen. "She's the best. She keeps me going," he told NBC 26.
National Caregivers Day also recognizes paid caregivers. Redman said we're in a caregiver crisis. Governor Evers has created a task force to come up with ways to increase pay and benefits to retain and attract new paid caregivers to serve our growing aging population.
The Fox Valley Memory Project will be hosting a free Mindworks open house on National Caregivers Day. It runs from 11:00am to 12:30pm at the Goodwill Community Campus. The address is 1800 Appleton Road in Menasha. Enter through Door #2 off Valley Road. If you want to learn more, contact Brianna Jenkins at (920) 225-1711.
There are many resources for caregivers such as the ADRC and the Wisconsin Family and Caregivers Support Alliance.