It’s been a while since I was an active caregiver. In December of 2010, Mom and Dad moved from my home to an assisted living facility near my brother in Conway, Arkansas. Since David and I moved back to Texas the next month, I was a caregiving assistant/consultant for the next eighteen months, and then with Mom and Dad both gone, I retired. But once a caregiver … last week at the Senior Center I found myself cutting up the meat on the tray of “John,” one of my friends.
I didn’t just reach over and start cutting; I was invited. John has developed some health issues in the past year or so. He doesn’t get around as well is he once did, he has lost strength in his hands, and he has lost some weight. Of course I’ve been concerned, but at our age these things become the new normal, so you carry on.
On the day in question, the menu was St. Louis chicken, a couple of sides, and a roll. Everything was pretty good, and the conversation around the table was lively, so I didn’t notice what was going on at John’s place until I finished eating. I gathered my plate and utensils and glanced around to see if there were other empty plates I could take to the trash. John’s plate was almost empty; the only thing that was left was the chicken breast. He was picking at it with his fork, and I thought he was trying to remove the mushrooms and cheese. He looked up and smiled.
“Would you get my wife’s attention and ask her to come over here and cut this up for me?”
She had eaten quickly so she could join the ever-present domino game.
“I can do it for you. Would that be okay?”
He indicated that it was okay, and I set to work.
Once the chicken was gone, he looked up and smiled again.
“Thank you so much. You don’t know how many pieces of meat I’ve thrown away because I couldn’t cut them up.”
In recent years it has become popular to do random acts of kindness for strangers, but as I thought about John and his chicken, I wondered how many opportunities we miss for performing random acts of caregiving for people we know because we’re not paying attention. I made a list of things I’ve done for my parents and for others and things I’ve seen others do for friends and family members in need.
- Offer a friendly arm to support someone to a chair or to a car.
- Fill a plate for someone at a buffet or potluck dinner and carry it to the table.
- Be aware of struggles he or she might be having: opening a bottle of water, opening a can of soda, opening the plastic wrap on a fortune cookie.
- Send a card or note to someone who needs encouragement.
- Make a phone call to check on someone.
- Pay a visit to someone who might be lonely.
- Take a meal to someone who might not feel like cooking.
- Build a ramp for someone who has become dependent on a wheel chair.
- Add grab bars and a hand held shower to a bath room for someone who needs a little extra support.
- Pray for all your friends and family.
Some of these things are obvious, but sometimes we focus on random acts for strangers and forget to look closer to home. What random acts of caregiving would you add to the list?
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