In bad times and in good, loved ones’ thoughtfulness is a lifesaver

KEARNEYSVILLE – Faced with an illness, accident or death in the family, many of us are fortunate enough to get a hand from relatives, neighbors and friends. Even in happier times such as the arrival of a baby, families often find themselves in need of a hand.

A number of months ago, I underwent major surgery and then faced two more operations during my rehab time. My family and friends went out of their way to help with meals, cleaning and errands. I was also grateful to those who made time to visit with me for a while.

It is in our character to want to provide assistance in some way, but there are strategies that deliver the most good without creating any stress on the person in need.

As someone who’s “been there,” I’d like to offer some thoughts to consider before you act:

 

Sitting with the sick

Hospitals and care homes typically have rules and restrictions for visitors. It would be wise to check with family or the hospital before you go.

A card is one way to bring joy, whether your loved one is in the hospital, nursing home or some assisted-living situation. Many times, family members like to display cards, photos and drawings on the wall or over the bed for others to enjoy.

Whether your loved one is in a facility or at home, it’s helpful when visitors take care not to stay too long. Many patients grow tired quickly, feel overwhelmed by too many visitors or too much noise or simply need to concentrate on resting and getting well. Keep in touch with the family about the patient’s ongoing needs.

Take a vase or a container of fresh flowers to brighten up a room.

Offer to run errands and or pick up supplies, do some light cleaning or read to your loved one as he or she rests.

If you’d like to bring food, find out from family members the patient’s likes and dislikes. The patient may also be on restricted diet.

When taking food items, use disposable containers so the recipient wont’ have to wash or worry about returning dishes.

 

Welcoming baby

A new baby in the house brings joy to everyone. When Mom and baby first come home, both need their rest. Never visit if you have a cold or other ailment.

When baby is sleeping, offer to sit with baby for Mom to get some rest.

If taking gifts, find out from other family members what is needed. It’s thoughtful to remember not only the baby but other family members too. Perhaps bring the new mother a soothing lotion, some candy or a gift certificate to use later for a manicure or a day at the salon. I know most new moms would appreciate that. It’s kind also to acknowledge siblings with small gifts.

 

When the worst happens

In the case of a loved one’s death, those left behind are hit with a range of emotions and almost always need help in dealing with the loss.

Help someone who has recently suffered a devastating loss by making yourself available. Just talking to someone who cares can help make the transition back to normalcy easier.

Call the person immediately upon hearing about the loss of their loved one. Understand the person may not be able to or wish to speak with anyone. However, leave a message so he is aware you called. Offer support and comfort.

Many of us want to help out by taking the family food. Sometimes, though, the family ends up with more than they can use – or with multiple desserts but nothing for dinner.

Maybe take rolls and some sandwich meats or wait until later and take the family a complete meal.

You could inquire about the family’s specific needs and ask if anyone has food allergies and then prepare accordingly.

Bring the food in disposable containers and add a label with information on temperature settings and instructions on heating up the prepared dish.

Or in place of food, consider taking paper products such as cups, plates, napkins and utensils, drinks, even a bag of ice to benefit the family when others come to call and so the family needn’t spend time washing dishes.

You could offer to do a load of dishes or laundry or to housesit while family heads out of town for the funeral, for instance. It might also be thoughtful to offer to take care of pets, drive family members to an airport or other destination or take on any number of other tasks. You know your loved ones; think about their needs and be available in whatever ways might ease the strain.

We can all do our part in helping in a small way. I know I was so appreciative of my family, friends and co-workers. I couldn’t have made it through these past months without them.

 

– Send feedback on this column at pwelsh@shepherd.edu

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