How To Help Someone Healing From Injury, Surgery, or Illness
I want to offer you advice on how to help someone healing from surgery, injury, or illness. There are many ways you can help someone during their recovery. There are some obvious ways you can do this, and there are less obvious things to consider as well. I’d like to give you suggestions and insight into how to best serve those you care about during this difficult season in their lives.
Below I will list three main areas of service for you to consider, along with important insights to make your help the best possible care you can give.
These are always the first things we think about when someone is down for the count. How will they eat? How will they feed their family? How will they manage the laundry, the housecleaning, the lawn? And they are probably asking the same questions, so they need you to help them stay nourished and keep up with the housework!
- Designate someone in charge of organizing the menu, meal delivery, and days/times for meals. Create this according to the patient and family’s needs. It should be designed with respect to the family’s daily schedule. Ask the caretaker/husband/wife/parent/partner of the patient for a list of the following:
Their favorite meals.
Number of people eating.
Any allergies/foods they don’t eat.
Best times/days they would like the meals delivered.
(Make sure to have these clear instructions sent to anyone making and delivering the meals.)
- General grocery items are always necessary and wanted. Fresh produce, milk, eggs, various drinks, veggies, paper goods, hygiene products, etc. Ask the caregiver or patient for a weekly list of these and have someone be in charge of the basics.
- Always have a contact person (if not the person in need) to set up drop off times. Suggest leaving the food at the doorstep, in case they are not comfortable with guests coming into the house.
- Prepare meals in containers that are disposable, with no need for return. It’s too much work to clean and keep track of different containers belonging to different people.
- House cleaning, laundry, and lawn are three areas to tackle with a group of friends. Get together and designate each person with these regular duties, (Laundry can be picked up and then dropped off at the door, lawn care/ snow shoveled etc, when needed, house cleaned wherever they are comfortable having you clean) Then contact the patient or caregiver with the services you want to offer and ask for times and days that are convenient to do these services.
- Make sure to check on the products the family uses to clean and care for the home and the laundry. This is very important to the health of the patient.
If the person needing help is a parent, this would be a huge help to the family. With one parent down, it can be very difficult for the other parent to take care of the kids and the parent in need.
- Offering rides for kids to and from school, activities, sports, etc. would be a great help.
- Also offering to take the kids on a regular basis (weekly, daily, when you can) can be a wonderful service to the family.
- You could also plan a special outing with their kids for the day. Remember they are going through a difficult season too and they could use something special to do.
- If there are little ones, consider buying diapers, formula, and other necessary items they may need for their care. Special gifts to help keep them distracted and busy are such a wonderful idea! (New videos, games, toys they will enjoy.)
- Offer to come over and help watch the kids. This may be the most convenient for the family, depending on the kids’ ages and needs.
Caring for the patient.
Often, the one you are wanting to serve will be left home alone while the spouse works, kids are at school, or perhaps the person lives alone. If the patient is limited by the illness, injury or surgery- there will be many needs you can meet depending on the condition they are in.
- You can offer to come by to check on the patient at specific times, that way the person is aware of your arrival. If they are up for visitors, ask when they would like you to come by- but make sure to be cognizant of their need for rest. Don’t stay long! You may want to check in before you come, to make sure they remember you are coming and are still comfortable with the visit.
- If you are close to the patient, you can offer to help them with hygiene, cleaning sheets, caring for wounds etc. This can be very uncomfortable for the patient, but necessary. Make sure you treat them with respect and preserve their dignity as best as you can. Assure them that you love them and value who they are. Affirm their strength and do everything you can to make them feel dignified.
- Make calls, send texts, send emails and cards. Having contact with the patient is so important. Often they will feel isolated at home and they will probably be experiencing great pain. Any time you reach out to them, they will feel they are not alone- and this is HUGE. Send regular texts checking on them- this is the easiest way to connect because they won’t have to talk or come to the door. Send encouraging or hilarious cards in the mail. It will make their day to open them and know you are thinking of them!
- Pick up books, movies, or flowers and drop them on their doorstep, then text them that there is a gift waiting for them outside the door. If they aren’t mobile, see if you can bring the gift inside to share with them. (Always be vigilant of the duration of your stay. The patient may appear happy to see you and you may think to stay longer might be helpful, but anyone who is healing needs rest, and visits are wonderful but exhausting so don’t stay long.)
- Get the patient out of the house! (If it’s possible.) There is nothing more isolating than being stuck inside all day every day for long periods of time. Any change of scenery is healthy and so important for the patient’s mental health. When the patient is able to move around, try to take them out for a simple outing. Where you go, depends on their limitations. Something as easy as a drive out around town will make a huge difference in their wellness. It may take hours to mobilize them and prepare for any outing- but it’s SO WORTH IT. Encourage them to do this, if they are able. Often patients have no motivation for anything challenging because they are already so challenged! Gently encourage them and make their transition out of the house as comfortable as possible. They will thank you afterward!
- Help with rides to Doctor appointments, Physical Therapy, etc. Everyone who has been ill, injured, or has had any surgery knows that there are many doctor appointments that fill this difficult healing season. If there was an injury or surgery, there could be Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy. If there was an illness, there could be a slew of checkups, tests, medications, specialists, etc. The patient will often be unable to drive and he/she will need rides to all of them! And even if the patient can drive, having you with them will be a great source of support. Find out the times/days of these appointments and pick what days you would be able to drive. This will be a huge help!
- Be ever so tender with the patient’s progress. This is crucial. Healing has its own timeline, and often it doesn’t remotely resemble the expectations of the medical team treating the patient. Recovery from any illness, injury, or surgery can take much more time than initially planned. This is SO hard for the patient, so they need your patience and encouragement. They would much rather be healed and healthy than be sick and limited. Be compassionate. They are frustrated and unhappy with their bodies and need your love and care now more than ever. Offer help with what they still cannot do. Keep checking in with them. Keep asking what you can do to help them. Don’t give up on them when they want to give up on themselves. Stick with them through to the end. And tell them over and over again that you will.
- And finally, you can gift them with my book. I wrote it from that place- that difficult, grueling, painful, place they are in now. I truly believe it will offer them the comfort and encouragement they so desperately need.