neighbors helping heighbors

Watching each other’s backs.

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I found myself walking with horse blinders on my head at a grocery store the other day.  I was on a mission – picking up a few items and moving on to the next errand on my list.

Huell's image on a milk bottle
Image via Wikipedia

As I passed a woman in a wheelchair, I thought I might have heard her say something but I moved on a couple steps until she repeated herself: “Excuse me, could you help me?”  I then turned around to find that she couldn’t reach the half gallon of milk that she needed because it was on a shelf 8 feet off the ground.  Unless someone helped her she would have to cross milk off her shopping list.  My 6 feet of deaf human self easily grabbed the milk off the shelf.  I only wish I had been tuned in to someone other than ME so I had responded immediately instead of being asked twice.

Was I a BAD person for not responding quicker?  No – but I sure wasn’t watching my neighbor’s back.

Seattle actor, Brian Sutherland was watching his neighbor’s back as told in the Seattle Times article, “A bad guy on the screen becomes a real-life hero.”    This 27-year old man saw a suspected purse snatcher steal a 69-year old woman’s purse and chased him down – managing to retrieve part of her purse’s contents and return them to her.  But that’s not all!  Once he returned the items to the woman he decided to go after the thief!!!  Read the linked article I’ve provided and you’ll think Brian was doing some stunts in a movie in which he might have acted: leaping over fences, darting through alleyways – he was amazing!!!

I’m not saying that the average Joe, or Jill, should attempt what he did but what I am saying is that we should have the same commitment to others as Brian has.  Brian is quoted as saying, “We need to be watching each other’s backs and standing up for each other.  There’s no good reason why somebody who’s lived to 60 or 70 should be jacked on the street in broad daylight.  Our society should just not work that way.”

I agree Brian.  And there’s no good reason why someone in a wheelchair should have to ask for help twice.  I blew it the other day because my selfishness initially made me deaf and blind to a woman who simply needed a half gallon of milk.

I’ll do better next time.

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Solo Caregiving.

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My recent blog, “Caregiving: The Ultimate Team Sport” assumes the person providing care for a loved one has a wealth of family members upon which to draw for support.  When that is not the case it can be difficult to find willing team members to provide that support. This article provides advice to the solo caregiver and to his/her friends, business associates, neighbors, and community contacts.

Garage Sale fundraiser for the local Alzheimer's Association.
Garage Sale fundraiser for the local Alzheimer’s Association.

CAREGIVER: BE BOLD – ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Those people with whom you have contact probably know that you’re the only one carrying the ball when it comes to caregiving but they can’t possibly understand the degree of difficulty you’re experiencing.  Assuming that to be the case, your friends, business associates, and neighbors may not feel the need to reach out to you with assistance.  Now is the time to be very transparent with them and tell them what you need.

Having dinner with my dad and his late-in-life Bride.

DINING ALONE IS A DRAG – NOW’S THE TIME TO ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT.

There is no shame in inviting yourself to dinner.  If these are true friends/acquaintances of yours, they will welcome you into their home.  Once you’ve invited yourself a couple times, true friends and valuable neighbors will start to invite you into their dining room on an ongoing basis.  Besides, they’ve probably been wondering what they could possibly do to help you out in your situation and you’ve just presented a very easy way in which they can do so.  Heck – they’re going to cook dinner for themselves anyway; one or two extra people aren’t going to throw a huge wrench into their meal plans.

My wonderful Dad, circa 1960’s, being a jokester.

ATTENTION WELL-MEANING FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!

I think the rule of thumb in these situations is to assume that your friend the solo caregiver needs a hand with something, so ask him what he needs.  Let’s look at the difference between the following offers of assistance.

  1. “Hey Sam, call me if you ever need some help.”
  2. “Hey Sam, could you use a little extra help around the garden?  I’m all caught up with my yard work and would like to help you in any way I can.”
  3. Hey Sam, we always cook for a crowd and always have some leftovers.  I’d like to give you some leftovers in disposable containers that you can freeze and use any time you don’t feel like cooking for yourself.”

In the 1st example, you’re leaving it up to Sam to feel comfortable enough to inconvenience you (in his mind) with a request for help.  You’re basically forcing him to ask for help.  In the 2nd and 3rd examples, you’ve given Sam an offer of tangible, definable assistance that shows that you really mean it when you say you’re willing to help out.  If neither of those offers fit within Sam’s current needs, you’re still making it easier for him to ask for help with something else: “Wow Larry, thanks so much for your offers but what I could really use is help figuring out the health insurance issues that have kept me awake at night.  How about having a beer with me, and between the two of us, maybe we can make some sense of this mess in which I find myself.”

Friends, work associates and neighbors – your solo caregiver friend needs help and you could be just the right person with the skill that he needs.  Some day you may find yourself in a similar situation and will know first hand how difficult it is to be a solo caregiver.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it must take at least that to help someone with the burden of being a solo caregiver.