Spread Holiday Joy to an Ill Friend
By Lisa M. Petsche
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The holiday season is a hectic time for many people, due to the preparations and festivities that typically take place. Staying sane, not to mention enjoying this time of the year, is even more of a challenge for those living with a long-term health condition that significantly affects their daily life.
The following are some suggestions for lightening the load of a chronically ill person in your life.
Lend a Hand
- Bake extra holiday treats to share with them.
- Let them know when you are heading out to the grocery store or on other errands, and ask if there's anything they need.
- Offer to help them decorate, wrap gifts or perform other seasonal tasks. If they enjoy these activities, ask what other tasks you can do to lighten their load so they have the time and energy for seasonal preparations.
- Offer to address greeting cards and take them to the post office, or assist the person in preparing and sending a newsletter to update family members and friends.
- If they plan to entertain, offer to help with preparations and cleanup, or to assist during the event itself so they can spend more time interacting with guests.
- If your friend doesn't drive, offer transportation to the mall, a church event or somewhere else that they would like to go.
- Encourage the person to practice self-care by eating nutritiously, exercising as appropriate and getting sufficient rest. Do whatever you can to help make this happen. For example, bring over a meal or offer to join them for a walk.
- Surprise your friend with a treat, such as a rented movie (perhaps a holiday classic) or a poinsettia plant or other seasonal decoration. If your income is limited, sign out magazines, books, movies or music CDs for them from the public library.
- Ask, rather than guess, what kind of practical help the person could use most; perhaps it's dusting and vacuuming or running errands. If they decline assistance, continue to express your desire to help. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to deliver a casserole or baked goods and, if you're a neighbor, to sweep both walks or bring in both sets of garbage cans. Encourage the person to ask for help if they are trying to manage alone.
- Keep in mind that emotional support and your time are the two most valuable gifts you can give someone living with a chronic illness.
- Booklet of IOUs for one or more of the following: home-cooked meals, baked goods, household chores or repairs, yard work, dog walking, chauffeuring, running errands.
- Answering machine or cordless phone.
- Wall calendar with plenty of space for noting appointments.
- Health binder for keeping records and organizing paperwork.
- Membership in the non-profit organization associated¬ with their disease (for example, the Multiple Sclerosis Association or Parkinson Foundation).
- Gift certificate for a home healthcare agency, medical supply store or cleaning service.
- Taxi gift voucher, or book of tickets for the local accessible transportation service if the person is unable to ride in a car.
- Inspirational collection of verses or short stories, or the latest book by their favorite author.
- Subscription to a magazine that reflects an interest (such as nature) or favorite pastime (gardening, for example).
- Hardcover journal for recording their experiences, thoughts and feelings.
- Relaxation CDs or miniature water fountain.
- Bird feeder and seed, or binoculars for bird watching.
- Hobby or craft supplies.
- Writing paper and envelopes, or a set of all-occasion note cards, along with stamps.
- Scented items: hand and body lotion, cologne, bar soap, bath salts or shower gel, drawer sachets, potpourri or votive candles.
- Basket of sweets, gourmet coffees and teas, jams and jellies or dried fruit and nuts.
- Gift certificate to a restaurant with takeout and delivery service, a dry cleaner with pickup service or a pharmacy or grocery store that delivers.
- Two tickets to a cultural event, so a friend can come along.
Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior issues.