Serving others for some is daily 24/7 to those with special needs; for others serving family (kids and grandkids) as needed; but what about when the caregiver can’t give care and is out of commission?
That happened to me last month. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital with immobility from a back issue that has interrupted life and caregiving from time to time over 42 years. Upon dressing to be discharged from overnight observation and the staff getting me out of pain and walking again, I suddenly found myself out of breath far differently than the 4 mile walks Joe and I usually take. Knowing something wasn’t quite right, I pushed the button calling upon a nurse. (As God would have it….it was someone I knew; not in the usual place she worked, but this divine appointment calmed me and I knew I was in good hands.) This nurse lowered her mask, briefly showing me her face so I knew who she was in my distress. She told me she called Joe, and that there would be about 10 people in the room soon, not to be afraid, she would oversee everything, and everything was going to be OK. OK…….the rest went down for 5 days in ICU, total hospital stay a week, and home with a list of doctors with which to follow up, medicines, and work to do in the health department to get me up and running and serving again! Nothing could have shocked us or others more by my numerous diagnosis’s, as we walk a lot, eat healthy, are always on the move, and were on no medications. Life took a drastic turn!
Let’s not park here (I’m on the mend) but look to some things that really stood out to me as the one needing care in a weakened state and needing attention.
Joe and I have written blogs and articles (and through our books) about ways people can help those of us as we care for someone. They still stand true. I’d much rather be the giver than the receiver, but when we found ourselves in the place of needing care, these are a few things that helped from what we’ve previously shared in writings:
- Don’t ask, “What can I do?” Make a call or text and say, “I am available to cut your grass this week. What day can I come?” “I would love to cook you a meal. What day is your greatest need and what do you have a taste for?” (Sometimes people get different versions of the same dish so asking what sounds good to them can be nice!) “I’d be glad to watch the children at your house or mine (give a date or suggest times) and bring lunch for us all.” “I can drive the kids to practice.” Now these are just ideas. What can you do? What can you provide? Do it within your abilities; yet be willing to work outside the box when there is need.
- Repeat your help. Sometimes a one and done is all you can do but for the one needing care it might be nice if you can offer more as you’re able. I’m not trying to guilt you just have you look a little deeper.
- Take meals in disposable containers. It is hard to track down people to return things when you’re not well. Additionally, some people aren’t close-by. (I like to add plastic eating utensils, paper plates, cups, and even a drink so it’s a one stop shop for delivery and enjoyment!)
Now, let’s investigate what some people did for me that has me wanting to add to the usual list. Some were, well, brilliant!
- Bring a large meat (like ham) and buns. When my dear friend showed up with ½ of a honey-baked spiral cut ham my first thought was, “There are 3 of us. We will never eat all this.” But each of our daughters and their families wanted to see me/us and those 2 families total 10. Joe brought out the ham, buns, snacks (chips), and beverages and it was amazing. I’ve not thought about “drop in” company, but this friend took care of that. Brilliant!
- Have ONE person in charge of meals. It was nice to have one person designated to arrange meals, check in with me, and thus not waste food, nor have meals beyond what was needed in terms of my recovery. I was so grateful for help and meals, but also didn’t want to take advantage. It was nice to have one person with whom to be in touch. As a result, one week (plus see next point) was a help over my hurdles!
- Bring a meal “freezer” ready. One friends, not in the loop of meal preps called and said, “I heard about your hospital stay. I just made a big batch of homemade chicken soup; I packaged 6 serving that are freezer ready for whenever you need them! The beauty: it was lunchtime so we each had a nice bowl of soup, and we froze the other 3.
- Be generous. Each meal was just that. A friend of my daughter’s brought a delicious Mexican meal. We cut it into 6 parts, had one for dinner (3 of us) and froze the other 3 pieces. Doing this allowed me to freeze for the following week, not be wasteful, and not extend meal service beyond what was needed. That was such a tasty dish, too!
- When you have needs being met and others offer to help graciously let them know that your needs are currently being met, but “may I put you on a list should we need help?” List “offers to provide meals”; “offers to help”; “offers to watch Joey”; etc. I made sure Joe knew where the list was just in case help was needed and I wasn’t able to ask for it.
- If you visit – keep it short. My friend who brought the soup didn’t want to come in (to not over-stay a visit) but I really wanted to visit with her (and did try to great each person when they came!) so she told Joe to set a timer! HAHA! That is what we did. It was perfect, especially since I really did need rest; but I loved the visit with my friend!
- Little ones are the sweetest, but consider just a grown up visit. (UNLESS it’s the grand kids….then visit!) I loved getting to see our grandsons, but I also needed to be obedient to not lift the little ones. Both daughters knew my limitations, so a visit was pleasant and something I really looked forward to, wanted, and enjoyed; but if the recovering person or family has to “pick up” afterwards, or clean up the destruction…well…consider a drop off of food (not the kids!) and visit another time!
Recovery and recuperation carry with it various stages. For me:
WEEK ONE: sleeping 12 hours at night; two 1-2 hour naps daily.
WEEK TWO: sleeping 10 hours at night; one 1-2 hour nap daily.
WEEK THREE: sleeping 8 hours at night; a 30 minutes rest mid-day.
Having never been through something like this, it was interesting to see the progression to health as well as physically feel the blessing of not having to think about and prepare a meal(s).
The help, the well wishes, the prayers, and people checking in to see if more help was needed helped me along my recovery. I hope these pointers are helpful in your ministry and/or in your life. It’s wonderful when we can help each other out…and I am most thankful, grateful, and blessed! BUT….
…as one who prefers to give than to receive….all those reusable containers that were easily put in the dishwasher are saved…..and I will re-use when I’m better to offer others’ meals when they are in need; and I look forward to serving that way again very soon! Catch you next month….as I’m on the road to recovery……
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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Joe and Cindi have been married since 1979, have 3 grown children, grandchildren, and enjoy speaking together on topics of marriage, parenting (including special needs), leadership, and time and life management. They have written articles and blogs for Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Family Matters, and others. Together they authored: Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course. Cindi has written time management and organizational materials as well. They LOVE what they GET to do….