Deja-vu came on strong for me one morning recently. My mother-in-law lay in the other room recuperating from a fall which had resulted in a fracture of her spine. Every morning she needed help getting out of bed and putting on a back brace. She needed help with her daily care. As I reviewed the plan for the day, I realized why this process felt so familiar. Last fall, I had taken care of my husband in many of the same ways. He needed help out of bed. He needed a brace and help with his daily care. Being a sole caregiver can be exhausting This time around with my mother-in-law, I am grateful for my husband’s support and encouragement. We split many of the care duties, cutting down on the strain of responsibility.
Perhaps you know someone who is caring for a new baby, a sick child, or an elderly parent. Chances are they are feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. Do you ever wonder how you can help ease her burden? Here are some concrete ideas:
1. Bring a meal.
This is an old standby, but it really is helpful. Caring for someone sometimes means not having time or energy to put together a good meal. Having a friend come over with an oven-ready dinner seems like a minor miracle to a caregiver. If you are the type who is good at organizing people, consider signing up for a program like mealtrain.com and invite others to help shower your friend and her family with the blessing of not having to cook supper several times over.
2. Offer to sit with the patient/baby/elderly parent.
Your friend needs a nap. And a shower. And possibly some alone time drinking a cup of coffee that is still hot. Offer to sit with her mother or rock her baby while she spends time doing the things she needs to do to feel human again.
3. Wash something.
There are times when it may not be possible for you to take over any of the care of your friend’s patient. This is a perfect time to find something to wash. When I was overwhelmed with my husband’s care, I nearly wept with relief as my mother and sister-in-law washed load after load of laundry and then did the dishes. It may not seem like much, but when you feel like you’re drowning, having a friend wash something so you don’t have to worry about it is a lifeline. Scrub a toilet or throw in a load of laundry. It’s more fun to clean someone else’s house anyway!
4. Bring a gift for the caregiver.
Patients, new babies, and sick children receive many gifts. The next time you drop off a get-well card or a stuffed plush animal, consider bringing a gift meant just for the caregiver. My two favorites are iced coffee and chocolate of any variety. One caution: Unless you know that your friend LOVES flowers and plants, cross those items off your list. She doesn’t need one more thing to care for, beautiful as they may be.
5. Run an errand.
Getting out of the house to run simple errands can be nearly impossible. While you are heading to Wal-Mart or the grocery store, give your friend a call to see if there is anything she needs. When you pick up your child from soccer practice, give her son a ride home. Take something off her to-do list for the day.
6. Tell her she’s doing a great job.
Caring for another person drains you emotionally and spiritually. A simple, heartfelt, “You’re doing great. I love you. I’m praying for you,” refreshes a dry and weary soul. Ask your friend for specific ways you can pray for her and then follow up on those requests. When she wonders if her sacrifice is worth it, remind her of the words from Galatians 6:9 (NIV), “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Have you ever been a caregiver who received a blessing from a friend? Or maybe you’ve been the one delivering the blessing. What ideas can you add to this list? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments.