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Caring for Caregivers During Medical Crises

Posted on April 17, 2019 by Ann

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One of the most difficult times a caregiver can experience is having to admit a child into a hospital due to a medical crisis. This is the time when support from friends and other family members is essential.

However, as friends and family members, we sometimes do not know what we can do. This article provides some suggestions on how you can help a caregiver during this period.

What You Can Do For a Caregiver

1. Put Together a Sweet Care Package

Show your support for your friend or family member who is handling a medical crisis at a hospital by putting together a sweet care package.

2. Help with Errands

  1. If there are other children in the family, babysit or drop off or pick up the children at school. In the same vein, if there are pets in the family, you may want to offer to pet sit.
  2. Volunteer to help with the housework, if appropriate.
  3. Pick up groceries for the family.

3. Be Present and Give Your Emotional Support

  1. Offer a sympathetic ear and encouragement to the caregiver.
  2. Send the caregiver encouraging texts every now and then.
  3. Watch for signs of trouble. If the caregiver exhibits signs of anxiety or being overwhelmed, encourage them to take a break or seek help.
  4. Surprise the caregiver with flowers, gift certificates or delivery service.
  5. Be understanding if the caregiver is short-tempered, distracted or forgetful.

4. After the Crisis

The story does not end after the patient is discharged. Chances are that the caregiver will have to continue dealing with countless issues, from medication to finances. Here are some ways you can continue supporting the caregiver immediately after the discharge.

  1. Continue with the errands.
  2. Bring the caregiver and family a meal.
  3. Keep in touch with the caregiver.

When Offering Your Help or Support …

 As a medical crisis is a difficult time for the family, you would want to avoid causing more work or stress for the caregiver by being over-enthusiastic.

If you know the caregiver well enough to know that your help is indeed welcomed, then here are some tips in expressing your support.

 1.     Do take the initiative and be specific about the help you can give.

It is very natural for those of us who want to help a friend in need to express our support in the following ways:

“What can I do to help?”

“Let me know if there is any way I can help.”

“I’m here if you want to talk.”

It is also very common to not receive any reply or to receive a polite rejection.

This is because during a medical crisis, a caregiver’s main focus will be on caring for the child. Some caregivers may feel overwhelmed and too stressed to ask for help. They may not have the energy or time to deal with other people. They may also feel reluctant or shy about asking for help.

One way to help them is to be as specific as you can about the support you can give:

“I will bring lunch over later.”

“Don’t worry about the kids. I can pick up them up from school later if you like.”

 2. Do take the burden of unimportant decision-making off them.

If we do not know the caregiver very well, it is also very natural to check with them before we act:

 “Should I bring the kids back at 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock?”

“What do you want for dinner?”

In a crisis situation, such decisions unnecessarily take up the caregiver’s attention.

For relatively less important matters, it may be better for you to ask in a way that allows them to answer with a simple “okay”, “yes” or “no”.

“I will bring the kids back at 6 o’clock. Is that okay?”

“Any dietary restrictions or preferences? If none, I will bring some chicken rice over for you and Jimmy.”

 If you know the caregiver well enough, then the caregiver may feel relieved if you just do it.

When Providing a Sympathetic Ear …

Oftentimes, what the caregiver needs is a listening ear, encouragement and emotional support.

Listen to the caregiver attentively and respond gently with short encouraging words.

At the same time, you may want to avoid the following:

  1. Avoid giving unsolicited advice.
  2. Avoid sharing negative stories. This will only cause anxiety and guilt.
  3. Avoid second guessing the caregiver’s decisions. He or she is doing the best he/she can.
  4. Avoid being over-solicitous. Some caregivers do not wish to talk, but need time alone instead. If so, just give the caregiver some space.

This article was written with the invaluable inputs from Ms Gwen Chan.


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