15 Useful Ways To Help the Homebound & Their Caregiver Today
Ways to Help the Homebound: Not too long ago, we all learned what it was like to be homebound. The COVID-19 pandemic was our school. For many of us, it was fine at first. But for some of us, we went stir-crazy. We needed to be out, enjoying the outdoors. Spending time with friends. Doing sports. Going to the movies. All those things we had taken for granted prior to the pandemic.
I am so glad the restrictions have lifted and we are able to go back to our somewhat new “normal” lives. But that isn’t the reality for our homebound family members, friends, and neighbors. What we felt during the pandemic, they feel and live every day. Being home is their norm. Having limited contact with the outside world is normal for them.
I think this is one of the most extraordinary things the pandemic has shown us, how the homebound feel every day. It has helped us have more compassion, more empathy for their normal day-to-day life.
Don’t Wait for the Homebound to Ask for Help
For 30 days, I had to travel an hour and a half each way Monday thru Friday to take my husband to his appointment. The appointment lasted around two hours. People approached us and offered to help, but I never took them up because I didn’t want to impose on anyone. I felt caring for my husband was my responsibility and I couldn’t make anyone go thru what I was going thru.
But one day, a friend called and said that he was available on Tuesday and Thursday of the following week to take my husband to his appointment. And asked which day I preferred. I didn’t know how to respond, but I needed a day off. I accepted his offer and I was able to get some much-needed rest that day.
How We Offer Help is Important
Why did I accept this offer of help and not the other ones? I think it’s because of his approach to helping. He was specific about how he was able to help. I knew when he was able to help. And he insisted that he would take advantage of this time to meet up with a friend for coffee while my husband was in therapy.
Many people want to help. I had many call me and offer it. But he was the first that gave me specifics on how and when he was available to help. I think that was key for me.
How we offer our help is essential. It makes the job of the homebound or the caregiver easier because they don’t have to think about how they can take you up on your offer. They don’t have to worry if they are imposing on you.
Useful Ways to Help the Homebound
So, here’s a list of how you can be specific in your offer to help a homebound person and their caregiver. Please don’t forget the caregiver!
1. Offer to pick up grocery items when you go grocery shopping
Call and let the caregiver know which day of the week you go to the supermarket and tell them that you would be happy to pick up a few things for them while there. Ask them to create a list of items for you to pick up for them. A day or so before going, send them a reminder that you would be happy to pick up a list of grocery items for them. Before leaving for the supermarket, call or text and ask them for the list.
This may seem overkill at first, but it shows the caregiver and the homebound that you are serious about your offer. Eventually, you don’t need to insist so much because they know you are willing to do this for them.
2. Pick up meds at the Pharmacy
When you call to offer help, specify that you could pick up medication at the pharmacy for them. That way, they have that offer on the back of their mind when they need to pick up their prescription. Call and ask every week or two if they need any medication picked up.
If you can create a meds management sheet for them, that would be very helpful. Here is a link to a meds management sheet you can download and give them to fill out. It’s a handy tool for taking to doctors’ appointments.
3. Take to medical appointments
Being as specific as possible makes it so much easier for the homebound. Specify which days and times you are available to take the person to medical appointments. For example, you can state something like, “If you have any appointments on Wednesday or Thursday, I can take you. I am available on those days for you. It would be great to spend that time with you.”
4. Remove weeds from the garden
When caregiving, the garden is probably not a top priority and can become filled with weeds. If you have a green thumb, this is a perfect way to help the homebound. Why not offer to help keep the garden up to date and do it? There is nothing as nice as being able to enjoy a well-kept garden.
5. Care of pets
Faithful companions need care, too. And they offer so much love and joy to their owners. But the homebound suffer if they cannot care for their pet as they used to. Offer to walk their dog. Take them to the groomers. Bathe them. Take them to the vet. When their pet is well cared for, they are happy.
6. Provide coverage for caregivers. Another useful way to help the homebound.
Most of our offers for help are for the homebound. Yet there is a population that is working behind the scenes that could use our help. That person is the caregiver. If you can provide coverage so they can take some time off, let them know in advance. Give them the day and times you are available and let them know you can stay with the patient.
Offer to cover for them while they do something they enjoy doing like going to church, attending an event, going to the movies, etc. It doesn’t have to be an all-day thing. A few hours is always a great help!
Keep in mind that the caregiver may have a difficult time accepting your offer. Be patient. Be kind. Insist.
7. Provide nighttime care
When my mother was in hospice care at home, she needed care at all times. There were many consecutive nights that I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because she slept during the day and was awake all night.
That’s when a family member offered to cover nighttime care a few nights a week. That was a great help. Being able to sleep my 8 hours gave me the rest I needed to provide care for the other 16 hours of the day.
8. Cook a warm meal.
Being able to come home to a warm meal after spending the day at a doctor’s appointment is priceless. If this is how you can help, then coordinate it a day or two in advance. Call and let them know you will be cooking for them on Wednesday, for example, and don’t forget to ask about allergies or dietary restrictions.
There were many days of going daily to the hospital when I did not have the energy to put a healthy meal on the table. When a friend called and stated that she would be cooking for us, it was such a relief.
9. Drop off snacks
Create a little care package with some healthy and why not, some unhealthy snacks, too. We all have a need for grabbing a snack when days get hectic. It’s nice to have several options on hand.
If the person is diabetic, here is a nice list of snack ideas they can have. This is a perfect way to help the homebound. They can just look at the list and decide what they want.
10. Offer to drop off / pick up mail
If you live close by, pick up their mail from their mailbox when you pick yours up and drop it off at their door. Ask if they have any mail they need to take to the post office and take it for them.
More Useful Ways to Help the Homebound
11. Clean their home, mow the lawn, and water their plants/garden.
People with recent mobility issues have a difficult time doing things they used to be able to do without help. It becomes harder to keep up with household chores. Offer to help them with this.
For example, let them know that you would love to help them with some household chores. Be specific about which ones. Let them know which day you can come over to help with it.
Can you make it a regular thing? Let them know that as well.
12. Prepare a freezer meal and drop it off
When you are cooking for your family, why not add extra portions that you can pack up for a freezer meal? Don’t forget to label and date the meal. If there are special heating instructions, include those as well. Also, ask about any allergies.
Is your loved one a new mom? Here are some ideas for freezer meals for her.
Need ideas for freezer meals? Karrie, from Happy Money Saver, has ideas for breakfast, main meals, and even desserts in this blog post.
13. Think about what special abilities or talents you have and in what ways you can help the homebound.
Do you bake? Cook? Garden? Beauty? Hair? Nails?
Do you know how difficult it is to find a hairdresser that goes to people’s homes to cut hair? If this is a talent you have, why not offer your services to the home-bound? This was so helpful when my mom was in hospice and had very limited mobility.
Do you specialize in massage therapy? Offer a 15-minute massage. Don’t forget about the caregiver.
Do you bake? How about taking some goodies over?
Use your skills and bless someone with them.
14. Do not ask for health updates too frequently.
Caregivers may not have the time for this. Do not get angry or upset about this.
Here is the first DO NOT DO of this list. When caregiving, it is difficult to provide updates to so many people at the same time. There just isn’t enough time. When my husband was very sick, I would create an Update Message in text and send it to the family and friends who wanted updates. But I couldn’t send updates at all times and at different times of the day.
So, it’s heartwarming to want to know how your loved ones are doing, but do not ask for updates so frequently that you place added stress on the caregiver.
15. Schedule a regular day and time to spend time with the patient.
Make a weekly game time or watch your favorite sitcom. Here are some additional ideas of things you can do together. Maybe you can just catch up on what is happening with loved ones.
Let the caregiver know when you can do this. This can give the caregiver some much-needed time off to recharge.
Can you care for the loved one on a specific day, all day? Let the caregiver know.
It isn’t enough to just offer to help without specifics. Most caregivers and patients will not know when to call you and for what.
Be as specific as possible about the type of help you can provide. Also, let them know the days and times that you are available for them.
For example, I can cover caregiver duties on Wednesday from 3 – 6 pm. Is that something that you can use help with?
Another example… I’d like to make a few freezer meals for you. Would that be something that I can help you with? If so, are there any allergies or food that you don’t like?
Follow-up on your offer to help. Actions speak WAY LOUDER than words.
Take Action Today
What other actionable ways can you think of to help a homebound loved one or a caregiver?
Did any of these tips surprise you?
Will you be applying any of these soon? Keep me posted. I’d love to read your story.
Written by Carmen
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