By Dorothy Meindok
The Post Newspaper Veterans Consultant
On Friday morning, I visited housebound individuals and their caregivers while engaging in the healing of group prayer. I’ve been talking to a lot of them lately to share information and find out what an average citizen and neighbor do to help. The answers were simple and spoke to basic human kindness, which got me thinking of how far many of us have gotten off track in this area.
One caregiver said that a simple and encouraging smile often does the trick for her. Another remarked that someone helping her get a loved one through a doorway by holding the door open while she pushes the wheelchair through is an enormous relief because it takes away from possibly injuring her loved one’s legs as the door closes. Another remarked that not parking in a handicapped zone (unless it is really needed) is helpful because people have told her that someone in a wheelchair doesn’t need to be so close. It is hard to push a wheelchair and a cart with grocery bags and possibly additional medical gear across a big parking lot.
One of the most remarkable comments I got was that people ignored her and her loved one in public, perhaps from fear of seeming rude or being accused of staring impolitely, but she said it feels lonely to not have people include her in simple greetings. With all of these things, anyone can strive to be better and more welcoming, and the cost is free and instant, benefitting the whole community.
While we all know caregivers work endlessly for others, we often forget that they need downtime, too. Some suggestions I received respecting ideas to engage further, and help is to visit and share a cup of coffee every now and then. Give the caregiver a reason to slow down and smell the flowers, or better yet, show up with some flowers to brighten their day.
Here are some other suggestions provided by the Alzheimer’s Association on ways to Share the Care:
Help out by running and errand or two: Pick-up/return library books • Pick up/drop off dry cleaning • Pick up firewood/gas for grill • Pack and mail packages to others • Vacuum/wash the car(s) • Bring car for repair/oil change • Go food shopping • Buy stamps • Pick up/drop off prescriptions
Provide emotional support by staying in touch, insist on getting out of the house every now and again, set up a game night, pray together, watch sports games together and make it fun, laugh together, cry together and sometimes, simply sit quietly together; there is much to be said about letting someone know they are not alone.
Help out in household duties by taking the family pet for a walk • Weed/mow/tend the yard • Fill the bird feeder • Set up and remove outdoor/indoor holiday decorations • Help clean out a closet or room • Help clean out the garage • Clean the bathroom(s) • Collect and drop off recyclables • Change the air filter on heater • Change batteries in smoke detectors • Frame favorite photos • Help create a photo album • Change the bed linens • Replace light bulbs • Address thank you notes • Throw out junk mail.
There are so many ways to show and give support to the caregivers of our disabled veterans and community members. My favorite is reading to people who love to read but can no longer see very well.
I hope you will find the time to give if you aren’t already, and if you are, THANK YOU!
To learn more about VA help for veterans caregivers application or support visit: https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/support_benefits.asp where you will find all of the details or if you prefer peaking to someone over reading online you may call VHA’s Caregiver Support Program (CSP) Teams/Caregiver Support Coordinators. You’ll find their direct contact information at https://www.caregiver.va.gov/support/New_CSC_Page.asp . or Caregivers can contact the Caregiver Support Line at 1-855-260-3274 (Toll Free Monday– Friday 8:00am to 8:00pm EST).
Be well and God Bless.
Dorothy Meindok is The Post Newspaper’s Veterans Consultant. Ms. Meindok served her nation in the United States Navy and is currently a practicing lawyer advocating for our nation’s veterans. Her column appears on Sundays.