When friends cancel plans due to the flu, a neighbor falls and breaks a bone, or a family member is undergoing medical treatment, it can be hard to know what to do. Rather than using the well-meaning but generally unhelpful words, “Let me know if you need anything,” take action! Step up and serve those you love in the ways they need most using these ideas for what you can do to help sick friends and family.
1. Care packages and gifts
Whether your loved one is near or far, a care package or thoughtful gift like a book or music is a great way to show you care. Drop them at the house or send them in the mail whenever you want to let your friend know you’re thinking of him or her. Moorea Seal has some great ideas for a cancer treatment care package.
2. Make a commitment
If an illness or injury is long-term, offering to walk the dog, make sure the trash cans are curbside, water the flowers, mow the lawn, or complete other daily or weekly tasks can be a real help. Mark them down on a calendar so that your loved one knows they can rely on you.
Babysitting a child (or a pet!) might be one of the most valuable services you can offer. Babysitters may be needed during doctor’s appointments or when illness takes a toll. A friend might even appreciate having someone around to sit with their little one while he/she showers or naps. Children with a sick parent will benefit from regular interactions with familiar people, and a parent gains peace of mind when a babysitter can be found in a hurry.
4. Run errands
The burden of an illness or injury can make the normal parts of life difficult. Offer to run errands for your loved one or call while doing your own grocery shopping and ask what they need. You may be able to pick up their medications, take their dog to the groomer’s, or return the neighbor’s tupperware.
5. Be a chauffeur
A sick friend may need someone to help them to and from doctor visits or may just need someone to take their kids to school or activities. Rather than saying “call if you need me,” be specific about which days you can drive and perhaps offer to do so regularly.
6. Make meals happen
Meals are always needed when a person cannot care for themselves or their family. You may want to make a meal yourself or set up a meal service with friends or family using a site or app like Meal Train that makes it easy to see what and when meals will be taken care of.
7. Offer distractions and entertainment
Living with an illness or injury can be isolating and depressing. Call your loved one for a random movie night, to take a walk, to go out for pedicures, read a book to them, or just spend a night sharing snacks and conversation.
8. Clean the house
Cleaning can be one of the best gifts, particularly for someone who needs a sanitary environment during illness. Friends can sometimes be self-conscious about this, and it may be more thoughtful to hire a cleaning service for them if you think this may be the case.
9. Be a listening ear
Sometimes a sick friend may just need someone to talk to. Be the person you’ve always been. Listen to their fears and hopes or just talk about something besides the illness, if that’s what they need!
10. Learn what to say — and what not to say
There are a lot of ways to stick your foot in your mouth when someone close to you is suffering. Educate yourself about their illness and how to talk to them about it. Read up on what things are helpful and encouraging to say and which cliché sayings you should avoid.
11. Put together activity kits for their kids
A parent who has to spend a lot of time at rest may struggle with keeping their children entertained and content. Put together simple activity kits like these from B-Inspired Mama and give them to your loved one’s kids.
12. Help them keep a schedule and remember events
Illnesses and injuries can be distressing enough to make a person forgetful. Offer to call and remind them of special events or help them make a calendar that lays things out clearly. You may also want to help them remember doctor appointments and when to take medications.
13. Make videos and take photos
If a person is homebound, they may be missing out on neighborhood events or even their children’s activities at school and want to be included in some way. Offer to make videos or bring photos to their home and talk about the things that are going on outside of the house.
14. Help decorate and make arrangements for holidays
Don’t let a sick friend miss out on all of the joys of the holidays simply because they don’t have the energy to decorate or plan parties. Bring a few friends over and spend an evening decorating a Christmas tree or coloring Easter eggs. Help them bake, shop for gifts, and participate in community events they might otherwise miss.
Kayla Lilly is a photographer, writer, wife, and mama making a house a home in eastern Idaho. She met her mister while working at an amusement park and married him a year later after deciding there was no way to live without him. The amusement has continued as they’ve added three kids and a passel of pets to their lives while finishing college and starting a photography business. Drawing inspiration from the whirlwinds of marriage, parenthood, and the media, Kayla blogs at Utterly Inexperienced, and spends the rest of her time chasing chickens, organizing junk drawers, diapering toddlers, and photographing everyone willing to step in front of her lens.
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