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How to help in times of crisis

If there is anything I can do ...

We have all said it. I am as guilty as anyone. I have said those words and done nothing. Not for lack of desire, but for lack of any idea of how to be helpful.

When my husband suffered a massive stroke, I learned firsthand what it is like to be in crisis and on the receiving end of that comment. What can you do? Here are some practical, specific ways you can support someone who is suffering and help ease their burden:

1. Set up a communication device for friends and family to keep up with what is going on. Retelling the day’s events on the phone is exhausting. Consider caringbridge.org or another communication site.

2. Are there children at home? Offer to talk to the principal at their school to alert them to the crisis. If the child is going to miss school, establish a method of communication for homework. Are your kids on teams together? Take them to practices and games. Crises are hard on kids— maybe offer a play date to give kids a break from the stress at home.

3. Disability insurance can take months to commence payments. Establish a bank account and spread the word that donations are welcome.

4. Establish a yard work schedule. If the grass is growing, it still needs mowing. Let the caregiver know that you will handle the yard for a specific number of weeks/months.

5. Establish a housecleaning schedule. For us, a group of families got together and paid for a housekeeper to come to our house several times. Fantastic!

6. Offer to run errands if needed. Be specific! “I can run your errands on ______ days.”

7. Establish a meal schedule. Popping over randomly with this or that to eat is disruptive and generally wasteful. We kept a cooler by our door and people put the food in the cooler between 5 and 6 p.m. No one knocked on the door unless I left a note asking them to knock so we could talk. Are groceries or toiletries what he/she needs instead? Establish a list and a delivery plan.

8. Do you have some handyman skills? Depending on the crisis, there may need to be some alterations at the house, such as installing grab bars, moving furniture, etc. If this is a long-term crisis, your skills may be greatly appreciated with general maintenance as time goes on.

9. Do you have some items to lend that might be helpful? An extra wheelchair? How about a shower chair or a cane or even a baby monitor?

To be truly helpful during a crisis, do what you say you are going to do with no surprises. Random acts of kindness are lovely, but in the middle of a life-changing event, help that is reliable and practical is essential. Knowing that the day-to-day details are covered allows the caregiver to focus on the major issues at hand.

Keep in mind that this is about helping people get through a difficult time, not about receiving a formal thank you note or getting upset because you don’t think your efforts were appreciated. It isn’t about you at this time. The person you are helping appreciates you and your generosity — they are just overwhelmed at the moment. Be assured, you are doing a good thing.

Jill Viggiano is a resident of Lake Oswego. She has published “Painful Blessing: A Story of Loss, Recovery, Hope and Faith, available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and createspace.com.




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