Helping The Sick

20 12 2008

Jim and I have been home from the hospital for two months.   I remember being in a daze our first day home.  I knew that Jim could never eat foods that were high in sodium again.  I also knew that his fat intake had to be monitored.  It was not that we over indulged in eating unhealthy foods but sodium is sneaky.  For example one tablespoon of ketchup has 7% of one’s daily sodium needs.  Now who wants to waste 7% of one’s daily sodium on a tablespoon of ketchup.  Those were the issues that I had to become an expert at.  So I was very uptight that first day and was extremely happy when a friend brought over a nice hot lunch for us.  She was very attuned to Jim’s health needs and cooked accordingly.  The word “attuned” is key here to helping those who are sick.  The caregiver needs encouragement along the way and I want to share a few suggestions.

First of all,  I have had numerous phone calls from people who told me to just let them know how they could help.  I know that their intentions were good but I for one will never tell anyone what our needs are.  I would be hesitant to ask anyone for help–accept perhaps my own flesh and blood children.   I got very frustrated by those calls and notes in cards.  There are things people can do without asking the caregiver’s thoughts.

Very close friends will usually ask what type of food can be eaten. That is exactly what my friend Hope asked me about.  And Hope was also very sensitive to my need for time out at the hospital.  Twice she came and took me out for a meal.   If one is not that close to the family but still concerned–gift cards to grocery stores are greatly appreciated.  Also just gifts of cash go along way to help.  While Jim was at Vanderbilt–I received cash from several sources.  The cash was used to help with my meals and I also shared it with my adult children’s gas expenses in driving back and forth to Vanderbilt.  It doesn’t have to be a great deal of money.  A $20 dollar bill placed in one’s hand is greatly appreciated. 

Visiting the sick is also very important.  However, when one gets home from the hospital–one is very consumed with many details.  It is best not to call or visit until about 10:00 in the morning.  This gives the caregiver time to make sure the patient has been fed and bathed.  Also it gives the caregiver a little time to wash dishes , put a load of laundry in the washing machine and do a little straightening up around the house.  I well remember the pressure I felt when Vera, our daughter, was recovering from a bad fall.  It took a great deal of time to get her ready for the day.  We had a very rigid schedule all day and I was very grateful when people called first before a visit. 

In my situation now with Jim–I have the responsibility of taking care of our home and yard.  Jim will never be able to do any physical taxing home chores again.  In such situations as mine–a great gift would be an offer to rake leaves in the fall or cut the grass in the summer. Of course these would be one time gifts—as I would never expect any one to do these things on a regular basis.  However, just lifting the burden as a one time gift means a great deal to the caregiver.  Even though I’m not a widow–I’m a widow now in some ways.  Jim can never be the strong man of the house again.  Thus, thinking about the needs of widows and care givers of sick husbands in practical ways will be greatly appreciated.

Caregivers can use time out from their patients.  Offer to come sit with the patient so the caregiver can get out  for awhile.  In my case, Jim can be left alone now but in the beginning I would not have left hime home alone for anything.  Vera was a big help in being my co-caretaker.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

I’m also blessed with having my adult children who can step in and help in many situations.  For instance, our kitchen plumbing went bad.  We had an awful link under the sink.  Our son was able to put new plumbing in for us.  Not everyone has a son who can do those kinds of things.  Thus, asking if there are any household problems to be fixed is another kind thing to do for a home where a woman is taking care of a sick husband.

But let me not just dwell on the needs of the aging.  Children who are very sick especially with cancer–need all kinds of encouragement.  Gifts of stuffed animals, coloring books and crayons etc are always appreciated.  Again, gift cards to pizza or hamburger fast food restaurants are always exciting to a sick child.  If a child has a long lasting illness–again time out for the caregiver is a must.  Volunteer to take care of the sick child so that parents can have some time to relax. 

Be creative.  Think about things that you can do to help others.  The Bible teaches us that caring for the poor, the sick and the needy is the right thing to do.  The Holy Gospels are full of such admonitions.  When we learn to do for others–we grow out of our self serving habits. 

Jim and I have always enjoyed reaching out to others in their times of need.  In fact, during our two months home from the hospital–we have enjoyed reaching out to others who are in need.  It is just the right thing to do.  Do you have any other ideas about helping the sick?  I would love to read them.

God bless each of you!




2 responses

31 12 2008

I know what you mean about “Just let us know if there’s anything we can do…” I heard that many times during the three years my husband was in Kuwait and Iraq (as a Dept of Defense employee). It is a nice-sounding but nearly meaningless set of words. I would never have dreamed of calling 99% of those people to ask for help.

1 01 2009

I’m glad you agree with my thoughts about “empty words”. You could have used some very specific help when your husband was overseas. It is best not to say anything at all to people who need help unless our actions are behind them. Thanks for visiting my blog.


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