Monday, July 31, 2017

Caregiver Chronicles: Ten Ways to Help a Caregiver

If you've ever been a caregiver, you know there are some things your friends and family do that help so much you can hardly believe it. There may be some things that don't help much, but I haven't had many of those yet.

A few things have been game changers for me. Just before this started, Kandy Walker brought paper plates and gave me "permission" to make this easy on myself. I would never have considered this before, because I'm a silver-and-good-china kind of woman, but I'm using paper plates, bowls, and cups right now, as well as plastic spoons and forks. Not every time, of course, but in general. (I'm sorry to admit this, but I'll worry about the environment again later.)

Disposable products have been a huge help. Otherwise, I would be washing dishes constantly. Unloading the dishwasher is one of my least favorite tasks, so it has decreased that work considerably. I'll go back to regular dishes when this caregiving is over, but for now, I'm going with easy.

Sonja and Jerry Iverson came by yesterday with strawberry shortcake and whipped cream for Sam. They brought everything they needed to serve. I didn't have to find a thing for them. I was shocked when Jerry pulled a disposable bowl and spoon out of his bag. When I realized he and Sonja had brought the bowl so I wouldn't have even one tiny extra duty, I wanted to weep with gratitude.

They didn't hand the bowl of deliciousness to me so I could feed Sam. Jerry picked up the spoon and fed Sam himself. 

On Friday, Jerry came by to sing and pray with Sam. While he was there, I asked him to help me shave Sam. Yesterday, he anticipated the need for another shave, and came equipped with razor, shaving cream, and a towel. They cleaned up after themselves. When he was done, they took the wet towel home with them.

Sonja gave me a beautiful gift yesterday. As they were settling in to serve, she said, "We're here for Sam right now. You can sit with us if you want, but we'd like to give you time to do whatever you need to do." I'm not quite used to that idea yet, but I embraced it. I listened to them sing with Sam from my seat on the screened porch, where I did some long-overdue writing, finished emails to missionaries, and read a book.

It was like a mini-vacation that recharged my soul in ways I never expected.

Later, Bill and Linda Buchanan stopped by. The top part (the bowl) of my birdbath was broken. I'd put it in the wagon but hadn't decided how to dispose of it yet. It was a little too heavy for me to carry, but I'd intended to put it in a garbage bag and, somehow, transport it to the garbage pick up at the road. 

Bill asked about the fractured concrete mess. When I explained, he and Linda announced, "We can carry it together." That's what they did. We put it in a garbage bag and they hauled it off. 

Bill grinned. "That's one more thing off your list." He was right.

In case you've wondered, I'm not writing about this journey with Sam to get a lot of views, so you'll feel sorry for us, or so you'll stop by to see us. I'm writing to help us all understand how to be a caregiver and how to help a caregiver.

Here's ten easy ways to help a caregiver:

1) Give the caregiver permission to make it easy on themselves. Offer tools for "easy" - paper plates, bowls, cups, disposable utensils.

2) Anticipate needs you can meet, and bring what you need to meet them.

3) Take your "mess" with you. Don't leave anything extra for the caregiver to clean up afterwards. (Everyone has done this and it has been a HUGE help.)

4) Ask about the "to-do" list. Pick one thing on the list that you can do, and do it.  

5) Read Scripture. Simply reading thorough a book of the Bible, one chapter at a time, is a great blessing. It tells the caregiver (and the patient) that you'll be back, and it blesses them because Scripture never goes forth without doing a work of some kind.

6) Sing. You don't have to be a concert-quality singer. Bring a CD you enjoy (and a player) and sing along. Familiar hymns are especially appreciated. 

7) Take the entire burden off the caregiver for a few minutes. Thirty minutes to sit on the porch and read a book is a rare luxury for a caregiver, and a priceless gift. 

8) Hugs and encouragement. "You're doing a good job." "I'm proud of you." "I'll be back to help again." Those are words caregivers hear all too seldom. 

9) Be lavish with love. Caregivers are hands-on people. Be generous with hugs.

10) PRAY.This is the most important thing of all. Pray for strength, patience, rest, and whatever else you can think of. Be sure to let the caregiver (and the patient) know you're praying. 

Several people emailed, texted, or messaged me yesterday to let me know they were praying. It was a huge encouragement. After two very hard days, I dreaded yesterday. When it was an easier day, I felt like their prayers had been answered. 

There are people all around us who are caring for loved ones in short-term and long-term situations. They need our help. Body of Christ, Jesus expected us to love each other so lavishly that the world would stand in awe. They'd see our love and say, "I want some of that." 

If we do our part like we're supposed to, onlookers will be drawn to Christ by what they see. If you're not a caregiver, help someone who is, and do it with love.

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: When the Caregiver Needs Some Care Given 

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Middle East, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

Or you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line