Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Life has road bumps. They can be big, small, simple or serious, but they often interrupt routines and make daily tasks all the more challenging. A death in the family, illness, surgery or many other curveballs can be tough for those navigating them, and as a family member or friend, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. For the times when it’s better to “just do” than say “let me know what you need,” (asking for help is not always easy), here are ways to lift up loved ones in need of a little support.
Everybody eats. Bringing food has long been a beloved tradition during a time of need and can be extremely helpful when someone is short on time or has extra guests in town. Here are a few food tips:
• Kid snacks: If you’re helping a family, kid snacks can keep the wee ones happy, fed and occupied. Applesauce pouches, crackers, raisins, yogurt, animal crackers and fruit snacks are always a big hit. (Avoid peanut products just in case a family member has allergies you don’t know about.)
• Meal schedules: In times of crisis, meal schedules can be helpful for all involved. Check websites such as Mealtrain.com, TakeThemaMeal.com or CareCalendar.org to set up a schedule that works for everyone. (It’s good to have one point-person working with the family on what times, days and meals are best.)
• Help with breakfast and lunch, too: Dinners are probably the most common meal to offer, but others can be a big help. Consider bagels and cream cheese, donuts, fruit salad, chicken salad and rolls, or lunch meats and cheeses.
• Consider the containers: Try to bring food in disposable containers so no one has to worry about returning them afterward.
• Call the restaurant: Don’t have time to deliver a meal or send a gift card? Many restaurants will let you start a tab for someone over the phone. You can give your credit card number to pay for what they order or just let your friend know you’ve prepaid a certain amount in advance.
Food is helpful, but not if everyone is bringing/giving the same thing or if the recipient doesn’t have food storage space or mouths to feed. If that’s the case, consider these thoughtful ideas:
• Gift cards for the basics: Sometimes gift cards for stuff you need can be a huge help. Think: gas, groceries, travel, Amazon or just a Visa or Mastercard gift card.
• Babysitting or dog sitting: Pay for a few days at your friend’s doggie daycare or offer to watch their kids for an afternoon.
• Landscaping or cleaning services: Save your friend or loved one time by arranging for lawn care, snow removal or a house cleaner.
• Self-care: Is your friend or loved one having a hard time? Consider a gift certificate for a massage, pedicure, round of golf, the movies, tickets to a show, art museum or a favorite restaurant. And don’t forget the kids! Give the family a chance to have some fun with a gift card for ice cream, miniature golf or an arcade.
• Paper products: If your friend or loved one will have extra house guests, paper products can be a very thoughtful gift — paper plates, napkins, utensils, cups, plastic baggies, to-go containers, foil, plastic wrap, paper towels or even toilet paper. They will never go to waste with a house full of people.
More traditional, but always thoughtful
• Write: Hand-written notes and cards are always classy.
• Your time: Call the person you love and talk or see if they’re up for cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Sometimes just offering up an ear can be a wonderful and much-needed gift.
• Donations: Many families will ask for donations in lieu of flowers. Donate to their selected recipient or another nonprofit of your choice, and let your friend or family know about your gift.
• Memorial gifts: If the person you love has lost someone special, consider sending something that will spark a memory or create a pleasant experience. For example, wind chimes, a suncatcher, plants or a candle. If you think the person would appreciate it, send a tree through the Arbor Day Foundation that can be planted in honor of the loved one.
Mind your manners
1. Watch the time: If you’re making a visit, keep it short. Crises can be exhausting.
2. Don’t make more work: Don’t bring a meal they have to make or give a gift that needs too much fuss. The last thing you want to do is add to their burden.
3. Be considerate: Try to give them something they will actually use. Don’t bring a gift certificate for downhill skiing to a friend who just had a knee replacement.
• Don’t know what to say? Understandable. Some of these situations are hard. But usually it’s better to say or do something rather than nothing. The person you love will appreciate it.
• “Call me if you need anything” might sound sincere but usually it’s too vague to hold meaning. Be specific or just do. Chances are good your efforts will be appreciated.
• It’s never too late. Do you fear you’ve missed your window? Probably not. Grieving takes time, and life-changing events have lingering effects. You can always send a card or reach out to let the person know you care.