How to Help a Friend in Need
“No man is an island, / Entire of itself. / Every man is a piece of the continent, / A part of the main.”—John Donne
Perhaps you’ve read this poem excerpt, written by British metaphysical poet John Donne, before. It takes on a very personal meaning if you’re trying to help a friend deal with the reality of being a caregiver to someone with cerebral palsy.
One of the hardest aspects of being a caregiver is how isolating it can be. The demands on time and on emotional and financial resources are huge, and often it is difficult to figure out what the best thing is that you can do. Ideally, you’ll find something concrete, an action that in some small way eases the load. Here are some suggestions and a list of resources so you can create and nurture your own supportive community for your friend and his/her family.
- Always focus on the person with cerebral palsy as an individual first and someone with special needs second. It’s amazing how many people forget to do this.
- Offer your friend help with specific chores, such as doing the laundry, cleaning the house, doing yard work, or cooking a meal.
- Offer to watch the kids for your friend, either the child with cerebral palsy if you are comfortable doing so or his/her sibling(s), so your friend can have a little bit of time to him- or herself.
- Invite your friend to talk. Don’t be offended if the answer is no, but if it’s yes, focus on listening without judgment.
- If the person with CP is undergoing a treatment such as surgery that will have the family staying at a hospital, put together a care package that they can take, filled with small snacks, water bottles, books or magazines, games, and any other, similar things that you think the family would like to have with them during their time away from home.
- Again, if the person with CP is in the hospital and if you can afford it, gift cards or even cash gifts are very helpful. Travel to the hospital may be expensive, and even things like hospital parking fees add up. Anything that helps offset the financial strain even a little bit will give your friend one less thing to worry about.
Resources That Make Helping Easier
Band Back Together—This website is amazing. Founded by veteran blogger Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka, its purpose is to create an online community where people feel comfortable sharing their most personal and difficult stories and seeking help as they need it. The site has lists of resources for cerebral palsy and special needs parenting, as well as a list of dos and don’ts for helping the parents of special needs or sick children (or what to do if you are that parent).
Take Them A Meal—Begun by several friends when one of them fell ill and they wanted to pitch in caring for her family, this website takes all of the confusion out of taking someone dinner. One person needs to set up the customizable online meal schedule and serve as meal coordinator, and then Take Them a Meal does the rest, from sending invitations to other friends to suggesting recipes to supplying automated email reminders the day your meal is due.
Sign Up Genius—Sign Up Genius can be used in a similar capacity to Take Them a Meal, but it has wider applications, too. It is your go-to website for organizing a group of volunteers to do just about anything for your friend. In addition to meals, you can plan carpools and kids’ outings or track appointments in a customized calendar.
Care Pages—Care Pages is the perfect place to go if your friend could use help setting up a blog for family and friends so they can track what is happening during a hospital stay or a special treatment, or even just in everyday life. The website offers the ability to communicate in a secure and private environment while still staying connected to your chosen community.
Caring Bridge—Caring Bridge is similar to Care Pages in that you use it to set up a blog, but it also has a Support Planner, which lets you coordinate all volunteer activities, like cooking a meal or doing chores for your friend, in one place. If you want to have everything in one location, this is probably the best website to use.