Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A List of Nice Things You Can Do For Someone With a Chronic Illness

Ok, this isn't a hint that I want people to give me presents or send flowers or do anything for me. But the folks at ButYouDon' put together such a great list that I couldn't resist sharing the link here.

Everyone has people in their life with chronic health problems -- or perhaps it's someone who's normally very healthy but is having a rough pregnancy and was put on bed rest. And you want to help, or just do something nice for them, but it's hard to know what to do.

This list is great.

And I guess I do have to admit that I somewhat identified with the intro about feeling forgotten about sometimes. I am lucky to have several friends who make a point of keeping me up on their lives and continue to reach out to me. But most of the folks I used to spend a lot of mommy-and-kid time with have moved on with their lives and I don't see or hear from them anymore. Of course, it's my own fault mostly -- I don't reach out as much as I should either, because I feel like I don't have much to share other than my medical stuff, and who wants to hear about that all the time? I sure don't! But it's also made me more aware that people's illnesses and problems didn't necessarily go away just because you stopped hearing about them when they got out of crisis mode.

When I was in the hospital, and just home from it, some of my favorite gifts that weren't mentioned on the list I linked to above were gossipy celeb magazines. Especially when I was in the hospital and on mega doses of steroids, I had a lot of trouble focusing and the short "articles" -- can you really call it an article if it's only a paragraph or two long? -- were exactly right for my attention span. Plus, those kinds of magazines are a guilty pleasure for me that I rarely indulge so they were a special treat.

One friend showed up at the hospital with several magazines, a puzzle book (which I didn't do but it kept my mom busy when she visited a few weeks later! A double gift!), fuzzy socks and great lotion that I'm still using a year later. That was a great bag of gifts, and someone who clearly ignored me when I said she didn't need to bring anything but I'd sure appreciate a visit.

So many people were generous enough to bring us meals. But I have to admit that my favorites were the ones who included dessert. One friend brought a delicious chocolate-swirl banana bread that was so good that I begged for the recipe and we still make it once a month or so! (And hey, it turned out to be a Cooking Light recipe so we can pretend it's healthy for us too! :)

I did learn from my experience that it's much more helpful to offer to do a specific task than to say, "Do you need anything? Is there anything I can do for you?" Because when you feel like crap and your brain is barely working, it's easier to just say "No but thanks for asking!" than to actually come up with a list of things that need doing. And sometimes it's best of all to just say, "I'm going to do XYZ for you, ok?" and not give the person a chance to say no.

For me, one of the biggest and best gifts was from the people -- especially busy moms -- who made time to visit me periodically but also kept the visits brief because they were aware of how much they tired me out. That might not sound like much, but when you have to shlep around a 2- or 3-year-old, sometimes with an infant too, it's a lot of work to pack them up, load them in the car, go somewhere and get them unloaded, and then turn around in an hour or less and pack them back up again. Especially when the older child starts whining about not being ready leave, that they just found the good toys and why can't they stay longer? :) And yet, so many mommy friends did that for me in the early weeks of my illness. It was huge. And I liked seeing the kids because I was missing Ellie so much when she first started daycare fulltime.


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Anonymous said...

I got some great ideas for my step mother who lives 2 states from me. I want her to know she is on my mind everyday and the sugesstions will make me feel safe to say she will know I will be thinking of her. Thanks for the Ideas.
The one ideas I would like to throw out there is: I was given a book to give to her called HOPE. While I was visiting I could tell she had been overwhelmed with the positive self help books, so I am going to take quotes from the book and mail her one out everyday. I can do a bunch at one time and send one everyday. I got my time with her and she got her time with me. We have OUR TIME TOGETHER everyday.

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