CaringBridge families confirm that one of the most well-intended but unhelpful phrases heard during a health crisis is: “If you need anything, just call me.”
“I appreciate the gesture, but I’m just too overwhelmed to respond,” said a Minnesota wife and working mom of teenagers who added “primary caregiver” to her job description upon her husband’s diagnosis of ALS.
But knowing that family and friends truly wish to be helpful, patients and caregivers who have used CaringBridge over the years offer these recommendations:
1. Show Support on CaringBridge
Sign up to follow websites and regularly post Comments to Journal updates. Also, check out the Ways to Help page, which directs you to any ways to help that the family has requested. It may even include a link to a personal fundraising campaign where you can help the family financially.
2. Help Out Around the House
When health needs are top priority, taking care of the house might fall to the wayside. Volunteering to vacuum, mop, do dishes/laundry and other household chores takes away a massive burden. Depending on the time of year, you can also mow the lawn, rake leaves or shovel snow. The advantage with this kind of gift is that you don’t necessarily have to get permission – show up with your own tools and get to work. Home should feel like a safe haven during troubled times and your help will make that happen.
3. Take Over Carpool Duty
Drive children to and from school and after-school activities. Offer to host the kids after school to do homework and hang out with your own kids. This will offer peace of mind to parents knowing their children are taken care of.
4. Be on Pet Patrol
In a crisis, taking care of pets can add to an already stressful situation. Offering to be on pet duty is an excellent way to offer help. Walk the family dog or clean the kitty litter box. Offer to pet-sit for a few days. You’ll be helping your loved ones while also getting to spend time with a fluffy friend – it’s a win-win.
5. Bring Food
Consider foods that don’t need to be refrigerated and don’t involve a lot of prep work. A refrigerator can fill up pretty fast if everyone starts dropping off casseroles. Fresh fruit and bakery breads and pastries can be welcome alternatives.
Important: Find out about any food allergies before delivering casseroles and then plan to divvy up the dish into single-serving portions that can be frozen. Include reheating instructions on the containers. Use disposable containers whenever possible.
6. Fill Up the Tank
Sometimes it’s the little things we don’t think about that can be the most helpful. One way to offer assistance is by filling up your loved one’s tank with gas. It’s a small price to pay for saving them that time and energy.
7. Run Everyday Errands
All the little details that make up our lives take time. Ask what needs to be done for the week and take over. Some examples include:
- Running to the post office
- Going to the bank
- Picking up groceries
- Oil changes
- Drugstore trips
The less your loved one stresses about mundane tasks, the better.
8. Give the Gift of Money
It’s a well-known fact that healthcare isn’t cheap. Monetary assistance goes a long way when trying to cover large medical bills. If you feel uncomfortable handing over cash, try putting it in envelopes with labels like “Hospital Bills,” “Parking” or “Family Dinner.” This puts more emotion into the gift and shows that you think about their needs.
9. Bring Paper Products
Bringing over disposable goods like paper plates, cups, napkins, plastic resealable bags, garbage bags and tissues reduces the need to do dishes or take extra runs to the store.
10. Be There for Them
During health crises, there is so much uncertainty. One of the kindest things you can do for your loved ones is to be a constant in their lives. Knowing they have someone they can always count on will make them feel loved and take some of the burden off their shoulders.
What Have You Found to be Helpful?
Everyone has a different experience; we’d love to hear what kinds of things you have found to be most helpful during a health journey. Please add your thoughts in the “Comment” section directly below.