This is my final post in this series and this one is a tough one to write. Even as a caregiver I am often-times unsure about what I need. I know what I want, but those things are sometimes unattainable.
As I said in one of my earlier posts; sometimes saying nothing at all is better than saying the wrong thing but at the same time you don’t want to appear uncaring and most people want to support and encourage someone they know and love so here are a few of my recommendations on how you can help a caregiver.
- Drop a card in the mail. There is something so special about receiving “snail mail” for encouragement rather than a private FB message, text or email. It is more tangible and it is truly a lost art.
- Drop a gift card in the mail to the grocery store, a gas station or a restaurant. I have even received in the past a gift card to get a manicure or pedicure. Any type of gift card is a huge blessing. Sometimes the greatest thing I have in my wallet is a gift card to Chick-fil-a because it is a quick, easy lunch or dinner when I am too exhausted or busy to cook. These are especially great for doctor appointment days when being on the road and waiting for appointments for hours keeps me from cooking my family a good dinner.
- Offer to bring a meal. This is probably one of the easiest things anyone can do. Look at it this way (this is the way I look at it when I am taking a meal to someone in need). You are most likely going to be cooking at some point for your family. Just double the recipe for someone else. Whenever we take a meal to a friend in need we just cook them the same thing we are eating; just make more. That way, you “kill 2 birds with 1 stone.” Double check to make sure there are no food allergies. Another thing that makes a great meal are casseroles. I will make 4 casseroles, keep one for myself, give one away and put 2 in the freezer for later. Not really difficult at all.
- Pick up the phone and call. Don’t use the excuse “I don’t call because I am just not sure if you are busy.” The fact is, if the caregiver is busy, they won’t answer the phone but getting that voicemail will be welcomed. There is so much about a caregivers life that is lonely. Hearing another voice and being able to just talk for a few minutes and “vent” is such a stress reliever. Having adult conversation is the greatest thing for someone who never gets it. I am one of those people who loves conversation but I don’t want to talk about my problems or Hannah when I get the chance to talk. I want to talk about anything and everything that my life doesn’t consist of . Keep that in mind if you call a caregiver. Ask how they are, if there is anything you can do and see where the conversation goes. It might, like me, go to everything BUT who they are caregiving for and what is going on in their life!
- Be concerned and willing to help, but don’t be nosey or pushy. If someone says no to an offer, accept that and know they have a reason for it. Don’t press.
- Respite care……this one is tough as I am not going to let just anyone care for Hannah. There is a learning curve to know how to care for her and I would venture to say that is a fact in most cases. But, you can offer. Offer to come sit with the person being cared for even for the caregiver to just go outside and sit with a cup of coffee or iced tea and get away from it all for a few minutes. Offer to babysit or “adult” sit whatever the case may be. The caregiver might say no but they might surprise you and say yes too. Be interested in learning how to caregive for the particular person/situation as I can guarantee you that all cases are different. If you offer and the answer is no, don’t be offended. The offer means more than you will ever know. Just knowing someone else cares is huge.
- One of the things that I wished for early on in this was that someone would bring “the church” to me. I don’t mean necessarily a sermon or a pastor but fellowship, Bible Study, encouragement. Being homebound wears you down. No fellowship, socialization or spiritual growth is really hard especially if you have been used to that all your life. I was raised going to church…..I went to church up until Hannah was born. In fact, she was born on a Wednesday but I was at church the Sunday prior. After Hannah got here, I couldn’t go and there were only a handful of times we were really able to take her as a baby/toddler. It wasn’t until she was 5 years old that we went every Sunday morning but that only lasted about 4-6 months. So, I have really gone nearly 13 years with that part of my life being non-existent. That was really hard for me at first. I am over this and would most likely not accept someone bringing church to me on Sunday’s now (chalk it up to my habits/routines as Sunday is my house cleaning day as it keeps my mind from going places it shouldn’t. Sunday is my least favorite day of the week and yes perhaps there could still be some residual resentment)…..keeping it real here. But, how hard is it to call someone up on a Saturday evening and say…..”hey my hubby is taking the kids to church but I thought I would go grab some donuts, you put on some coffee and we can chat and have a little Bible study tomorrow!” I mean, had that been done for me early on it would have meant the world to me. Even 4 years ago, it still would have. This would be huge for someone who is totally homebound with a sick loved one.
- ENCOURAGE……LOVE……CARE…….BE KIND and NOT judgmental! Remember my last posts on things not to say or do.
- Think about what you would want someone to do for you if you were homebound and caring for a loved one. I promise you that if you try to put yourself in the caregivers shoes you might come up with an idea that would be a blessing to them but also to you!
My heart is with all caregivers. I know several personally. I know people who are caring for their child, parent, spouse, sibling and friends. I even know someone who is caring for their ex-husband…..now if that isn’t love/compassion I don’t know what is! The point is…..I know this life and I grieve it daily. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish to live again and wish for Hannah to live outside this house. It hurts….physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually I truly ache. But, those who have come alongside of me, those who have encouraged me and those who pray faithfully for me have helped sustain me on the REALLY hard days. I have also had those walk away and that is not a bad thing. If you can’t handle being a friend to the caregiver; if you can’t be loving, encouraging and kind….if being judgmental is the only thing you can do then walk away from them as you will be doing you both a huge favor. Yes, I speak from experience and I still experience it today but it is okay and I am better off for it!
I hope to one day make this a mission of mine…..a retreat for the caregiver, gift bags for the caregiver, respite for the caregiver…..most importantly to be a friend to the caregiver!
Until next time…………