According to the dictionary, a caregiver is “a person who takes care of an ill or disabled child or adult.” Are you kidding me? This definition makes me downright angry because it doesn’t begin to define who a caregiver is or what a caregiver does. To help outsiders better understand the value of family caregivers and help caregivers realize their own worth, I decided to write my own definition.

A caregiver is that rare and special individual who says “yes” to helping, supporting and caring for a loved one. A caregiver offers the most special gift of all to another human being who is in need. A caregiver doesn’t just help with the challenges of daily life. A true caregiver also provides emotional and spiritual support. These gifts are all given with patience and love even though many caregivers must make difficult sacrifices to do so. A caregiver is really God’s way of giving us angels here on Earth. Caregivers do angelwork.

As a society, we need to do a better job of embracing the totality of what it means to be a caregiver for a loved one. In turn, family caregivers need to embrace the significant and honorable role they play in their loved ones’ lives. This is often a lonely and thankless journey that leaves caregivers feeling isolated and worthless. But nothing could be further from the truth. Caregivers matter. You matter, and you are not alone.

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When you care for a loved one, be it a parent, spouse, sibling, child or friend, you are continually called upon to give unselfishly. There are days and nights when you feel like you are on your last leg, but you get up and keep going. You give endlessly and often do so without thinking of your own wants and needs. There is a certain degree of sacrifice involved when you say “yes” to caregiving. Those who have never walked in our shoes cannot fully comprehend the responsibilities we bear and the crucial part we play in our loved ones’ lives.

Sometimes, we can’t even give ourselves the credit we deserve. Wouldn’t it be better if, as a caregiver, you wrapped your head around the idea that caregiving and angelwork are one in the same? So, the next time someone asks you what you’ve been up to lately, simply tell them, “I’ve been doing angelwork.” See how that definition makes you feel.