It can be hard to know how to help during a time of desperate need.
Here are some supportive ideas for that family member, friend or over-extended caregiver:
- Bare Basics. Grocery Shopping. Think paper towels, laundry detergent, bread, juice, eggs, bananas. Shop in-store or online, and have the order shipped to their home. Forget about brands, specific tastes or questioning whether it is something your loved one would like. Indecisiveness like that prevents your follow-through. When a family caregiver can’t be away long enough to run out an purchase toilet paper or milk to settle a patient’s queasy stomach, they will kiss you for bringing it to their door.
- Offer Rides to Treatment. Many caregivers juggle full-time jobs and have added hurdles, such as busy meeting or travel schedules. Receiving the gift of transportation on a hectic day brings a huge sigh of relief.
- Bring a Meal. Basic dishes that are easy to freeze and reheat become lifesavers. Recyclable aluminum pans or reusable plastic containers that don’t need to be returned are a plus. Since even well-meaning visitors can tire out a patient, and germs are a factor, offer to leave meals in a cooler outsider their door.
- Pet-Sit or Plant-Water. It is expensive to board pets in a kennel. So if you know that a loved one has to go out of town for a procedure or appointment, offer to care for their furry family member. And should you be one of the green thumbs of the world wishing to help, volunteer to water interior or exterior plants.
- Text an Inspiring Quote. We warriors need all the encouragement we can get, and hearing from you means the world to us. A few kind words—especially question-free messages not requiring a response—breaks up the day and lets us know that we are loved.
- Consider the Caregivers. Their lives have dramatically changed, too. Invite them to a game, a car show, a round of golf, a cup of coffee, or a simple Sunday after-noon drive, just as you did before. Even if their patient is not feeling up to leaving the house, a short break means a lot to a caregiver. If it is not a good time for a break, they will let you know. They will appreciate the gesture and the glimpse of normalcy.
- Mail a Gift Card. Unexpected expenses—extra gas for treatment travel, extra meals out, astronomical medical bills—take a huge toll on every patient’s budget. A gift card for gas, groceries, restaurants, hardware stores or hobby/craft stores is a welcome surprise. If your loved one appreciates reading or music, and Amazon or iTunes card could provide new entertainment to get them through long treatment sessions. A prepaid Visa gift card could be perfect for helping out with medical co-pays.
- Take on Some Chores. Pay for a one-time service, or volunteer a few hours to help with cleaning, moving, snow-shoveling, washing windows or holiday decorating. This also could be a perfect service opportunity for a teen-ager. If the kids have adult supervision, the chores could be done while the patients and caregivers are at the hospital or clinic or out of town.
- Donate Some Vacation. Unpaid leave from work is sure to cause additional financial hardship. If donating a vacation day or two is an option for you, ask some other co-workers if they also might be willing to donate time, too. This could be a huge help to a patient or a caregiver who has to be away from work.
- Think Soft and Cuddly. If knitting is your thing, consider making a prayer shawl, soft cap or socks. Thoughtful gifts like a new set of slippers, pajamas, pull-on pants or v-neck shirts that allow chemo-port access would be a definite plus. Pamper your loved ones with items that are cozy and comfortable.
- Send Snail Mail. Nothing brightens a day more than finding a hand-addressed note in the mailbox, among the medical bills. Recognizing the handwriting and return address will instantly bring you to your loved ones’ hearts.
- Donate Blood in Their Name. Cancer and other illnesses prohibit patients from donating, so we appreciate those of you who donate in our honor.
- Host a Scarf and Hat Party. If chemo is going to bring about hair loss or someone you love, bring together some close friends, serve some light refreshments and shower your patient with a variety of headwear options. It is sure to make the transition easier.
- Help With the Kids. Taking the kids for an impromptu sleepover or a Saturday-morning outing may give your struggling loved one a little bit of rest and quiet that they desperately need.