The holidays are just around the corner, if you believe the retailers. This is a wonderful time of the year. And for the caregiver and their charge it can be as well. As anyone will tell you there are many things to do when getting ready. Caregivers are stretched with so many things happening and adding the decorating, cooking, cleaning, cards or holiday letter, as well as shopping, add to this the confusion and stress of taking the patient with them.
There are many little ways we can all help. First if you are a neighbor or friend of the patient, offer to stay with them while the caregiver goes shopping. And please tell the caregiver to not worry about the time, you will be just fine. Giving the caregiver some uninterrupted time to shop is a blessing you may not have thought of. And allowing the caregiver not to feel they must rush or hurry back is so important to not adding stress to their already stressful life.
If the patient is a family member or friend and you want to provide a gift for them. Think this through very carefully, and don’t ask the caregiver (adding more stress should the patient not like it). One thing you might give is a small booklet that will give ‘Your” time to the patient. Maybe an hour or two each month for a year, the patient will be very happy to have company coming which has probably not happened much recently. Having people come to visit is a social aspect of life that is lost when a person is no longer able to activity pursue entertaining. These visits can be coffee and conversation or looking through photo albums, maybe just conversing about a topic or time you shared many years ago. In these times of economic downturn, giving some of your time is far less expensive, and for a person with an illness just having someone come over or take them to a club meeting or for ice cream, is so much more than you could ever buy for them.
If you are trying to decide what to do for the caregiver this holiday season taking time to go over and help with the decorating and/or cooking, maybe helping with the cards or letter. Be sure to ask for a time to come and help, and take some coffee and cookies or a sandwich to share. This caregiver is cutoff from most socializing due to the patient’s illness. You are providing a short respite. If you want to give a gift for the caregiver, again think about some of your time. Perhaps throw in a little relaxation at the same time; plan some time for getting a manicure, going to a play our ball game, going fishing or so many other activities.
The one activity or event that is quick to go away when a person is suffering from a disease or major illness is the ability to be with people. Even close friends frequently are so saddened by what is happening and feeling there is nothing they can do, so they stay away. Human beings are social animals and the need to be with other people is a craving that must be met. If not we will first see depression and then a lack of positive attitude toward getting well. Even for a person suffering from a terminal illness, social interaction is the best medicine we can provide. Remember you are giving the best gift in the world and the cost is financially very little but emotionally monumentous.