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Most of us like to lend aid when someone we know is in a crisis. Yet wanting to help and not knowing what to do is an exercise in frustration and feeling helpless.
A recent health crisis of a friend of mine has brought this back to the forefront of my mind. Still, I myself didn’t know what to do until I was on the receiving end of such help when my husband had a near-fatal fall from a 20 foot ladder a few years ago.
Here is a brief guide of how to assist and support someone in a crisis.
If the person in question has small children, it is a great relief to have someone help with the kids. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even taking the child out to an afternoon movie so the parents can rest is good.
Children love routine, and if a routine is upset on top of other stresses at home, things can be very scary to the child. Giving a child a ride to and from a usual activity is a good way to help make sure the child’s schedule is disrupted as little as possible.
When my husband was in the hospital, neighbors with similarly-aged children pitched in to make sure that my daughter was able to play while I made the trip to the ICU. A former nanny helped out by picking her up from her after-school program a couple days so that I could go to medical appointments. And one of the neighbors even volunteered to take my daughter to piano lessons so that she would have that continuity.
This is a standard way to help out – make food. Having pre-made meals that just need to be heated up is a great help. Making meals is simple – double whatever it is you a making for yourself and deliver it. Also include any side dishes to make the meal complete. Vegetables, side dishes, even dessert can make a big difference in the receiver’s outlook.
If you are able to, making a meal that can be frozen and used at a later date is also very good. That will give the recipient the opportunity to choose when to use it.
During my husband’s recovery time, I was deluged with food. Casseroles came pouring in from members of our church, as well as the people at my workplace. Some brought dishes ready to be eaten right then, and others stocked my freezer. I truly appreciated all the food, because that was one less thing I had to worry about. The most memorable meal was a complete one: lasagna, salad, veggie and dessert all delivered to my door fresh and ready to eat.
Most people dealing with a crisis do not have the time or energy to get to the store. While the casserole patrol may be providing meals, fresh fruit, veggies and milk are really nice to have on hand. If you can’t cook, offer to pick things up at the store. It doesn’t take much effort to pick up a bag of apples and gallon of milk, and these things are very welcome.
Sometimes caregivers just need to get out of the house. Offering to come over and stay in the house with a recovering patient can give the caregiver time to run out. The patient minder doesn’t necessarily have to do anything other than sit. One of my husband’s minders brought her knitting, and another brought a book and read while my husband was sleeping.
Offering to come over and sit for an hour or so can really give some relief.
If there are things you can do, such as mow a lawn, pull weeds or do dishes, offer to do them. Sometimes the people in crisis are so overwhelmed that simple upkeep seems like too much. It doesn’t take long, and necessary tasks get done. It is always good to ask, but if the tasks are outside the house, you may just want to go ahead and do them. (See below on “insisting”)
If you are in a position to distribute news, it saves the people in crisis having to answer dozens of phone calls. It also means that only one or two people have to be informed, and others can get their news from the sources.
This came in handy during my husband’s recovery. I was getting 20 to 30 calls a day. They were truly welcome, but it began to be overwhelming. I was talking to the church secretary one afternoon and asked her to relay the news to the minister. She promptly volunteered to be the center of news, and I was able to put a message on the answering machine to call the church for updates and needs. That meant I had to make one phone call a day, and not have to worry about returning calls.
A Word About Hesitation And Insisting
I have to throw this in, because I have been on both sides of this issue. When someone is having a crisis, sometimes they are afraid to accept offers of help from others because they don’t want to be beholden, or because they think they can do it on their own.
Accepting help isn’t about the person in crisis. Accepting help is about letting others feel better. It is OK to not take no for an answer if you see that there is a real need.
I learned this when one good friend put me on the spot and told me that she needed to feel useful during my husband’s crisis. She told me how helpless she felt, and that my letting her bring me some food was letting her feel like she was doing something to help us.
Sometimes the person in crisis isn’t able to ask for what they truly want, afraid of being a bother; it is OK to insist on helping more, as long as you are not adding to their burden.
I truly hope that none of you have to deal with a major crisis. However, I know this is not possible and you will all at some point be near someone who has a family member die, has a health crisis, or is in an accident. By providing food, entertaining children, doing household tasks, distributing news, or going shopping, you can have a lasting positive impact on the situation.
Photo by c3lsius_bb