Just got a magazine article published. Check it out in the July/August 2011 issue of Designed to Flourish magazine (scroll down to page 12). I’m also providing it in plain text below. My personal favorite is Number 3 (hint, hint).
Every nerve in Annie’s body tensed as she heard her 85-year-old uncle calling from the next room. Blurry-eyed, she glanced at the clock: 2:30 am. “It’s like having a newborn,” she mused, “except he never grows up.” She’d cared for Uncle Ned for eleven years, but things were getting tougher: lately he’d been spitting up blood but the doctor, who seemed to have given up on Ned, wouldn’t return Annie’s calls. And she hadn’t gotten a full
night’s sleep in over a year.
Uncle Ned’s only other relative, Tom, refused to help in any way and had been badgering Annie about putting Ned into a nursing home. But she’d promised Ned years ago that she would never do that to him.
Many people had told her, “If there’s anything we can do to help, please call!” But Annie always hesitated to take them up on their offer. She was unsure exactly how much her friends were willing to give and she didn’t want to impose. So she merely thanked them and asked them to keep her in prayer.
Do you know someone who looks after a mentally or physicallychallenged child? A disabled husband? An elderly parent? Whether by choice or
circumstance, caregivers give themselves daily for the sake of others. One of the ironies of long-term care-giving, however, is that caregivers often feel guilty asking for help or taking care of their own needs.
Here are 6 ways you can lend practical and emotional support to the caregiver in your life.
1. Provide Encouragement. Thoughtful gestures mean the world to caregivers who feel at the end of their rope. Send an e-card, a real card, or a gift card to cheer up their day. Leave a voicemail saying that you were thinking of them today.
2. Lend a Listening Ear. Not many people want to hear the ins-and-outs of daily care-giving but sometimes venting is exactly what the
caregiver needs most. Listen. Really listen and try to understand.
3. Give Food. Having to prepare meals several times a day can be draining, especially to an already overworked caregiver. Groceries, home cooked or store bought meals, restaurant take-out … You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to please a caregiver when it comes to food he or she doesn’t have to make!
4. Lend a Hand. When it comes to giving the caregiver a break from regular duties, it’s best to communicate clearly what exactly you
are willing to do and what days and times you are available. What you do to help will depend on the situation and the individual. Some examples include watching the dependent for a couple of hours, sitting with the caregiver, taking the dependent to a hair appointment or a routine doctor’s appointment, or going grocery shopping or running errands.
5. Give Time. Chatting over a cup of tea at the caregiver’s home can be the best gift you could give. It could also be the worst, if it adds stress to the caregiver. She may feel that now she needs to entertain you and take care of her dependent. Be sensitive to the caregiver’s temperament and make sure that this is a treat to you both.
6. Be a “Judgment-Free” Friend. Guilt is a constant factor in a caregiver’s life. Don’t give caregivers suggestions on how they could use their time more wisely, run their home more efficiently, get more exercise or eat more healthfully. Simply love them and be their friend.
Finally, remember that everyone is different. Before you volunteer to help, evaluate the time and resources you have available and take
stock of what you are capable of giving. The best kind of friend is someone that the caregiver can count on for the long haul. Don’t get burned out by doing too much too soon, then disappearing from the caregiver’s life and causing additional pain. Be specific in your offers of help.
In Annie’s case, a long-time friend said to her one day, “My husband and I are available this Saturday night from 6-9 pm. We’d like to come
over and sit with your Uncle Ned so you can leave the house and do something fun. We know you love Mexican food: here’s a gift certificate to Don Jose’s.”
Annie sat down and cried – and eagerly took her friend up on the offer.
Nathalie Jeter recently moved from Virginia Beach to Ozark, Missouri to be a full-time caregiver to her mother, who is recovering from a stroke. She is the author of the guidebook PrayerWalk Beijing and blogs about travel, food, and prayer at www.prayerwalkguides.com.