Nursing homeThe news is filled with horrifying headlines. As comfort, we remind ourselves that the world knows more kindness than tragedy, even if the former never earns the lion’s share of the coverage.

Though we seldom hear about them, millions of acts of kindness unfold on Earth every single day, big and small. I see some of them in my own clients.

America has a large and ever-growing elderly population, and many of those seniors require long-term care. For some, that involves a mix of professional services and volunteer family care. For others, a loved one’s sacrifice represents the primary or even sole source of daily care.

Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the long-term care provided in this country comes from unpaid family members. There are 40 million of those caregivers in the U.S. alone.

Family caregiving isn’t just an act of kindness. It is a lifestyle of kindness, defined by dedication, sacrifice, and love — day after day. These noble caregivers deserve our respect, appreciation, and shows of gratitude.

Last month marked National Family Caregivers Month, and as part of that, the AARP launched a Random Acts of Kindness Contest. They’re encouraging people to surprise caregivers with unexpected, heartfelt acknowledgements of their service. The winners will share a prize pot of $10,000.

The contest runs throughout the holiday season and on into March, so there’s still time to reflect on the caregivers in your life and devise the perfect surprise. Need inspiration? The Huffington Post offers a few ideas:

  • Send uplifting greeting cards and text messages
  • Offer to take care of time-consuming tasks, like boxing up holiday decorations after Christmas
  • Compile the latest research on whichever condition they’re providing care for (especially if the developments are of the encouraging kind)
  • Pay for their next meal or grocery list
  • Chocolate (because who doesn’t love chocolate?)

Whether those are bold enough to win a contest remains to be seen (AARP insists you don’t have to break new ground or get especially creative to win). Winners or not, though, they are guaranteed to lift the hearts of those who could probably use a pick-me-up now and then.

In my own practice as a Massachusetts elder law attorney, I see the wonderful work and tremendous sacrifice of family caregivers every day. To those people, I am proud to say thank you, bless you, and Happy Holidays.

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