Advice for friends and family


Yes. What is helpful is specifics. Don’t say, “If you need me, call me,” because the caregiver probably will not call unless they’re older, and it’s not taken as a sincere invitation. It just isn’t. Calling up and saying, “I’m bringing dinner at 7 o’clock, let me know if it’s inconvenient?” Or before, as I said, my son… my husband was in the hospital in intensive care before my son’s wedding, and a friend came over—and I’ll never forget this—and said, “I’m not leaving until you give me a list of things to do. I know you must be going crazy for the wedding. You give me a list, and I will just take care of it.”

You need to be specific. Take the children out. We were a religious family, so we sit separate in synagogue. If my husband couldn’t go to synagogue, my son was alone. So unless somebody is there to be a pseudo parent, it’s horrendous, it’s horrendous for the child. If somebody isn’t willing to be a big brother, or “come with my family,” or whatever in terms of worship, in terms of the holidays. Be specific. Think of what’s not happening and offer that. You’re going grocery shopping; call up, “I’m at the store. What can I pick up for you?” “Can I do your car pool?” Or get together with a group if there are young children. That would have meant the world to me—that car pool on top of delivering my husband to work and getting myself to work. It doesn’t even have to be all the time, just once in a while. I remember once, I had gotten my husband in the car and I was struggling to get the wheelchair in the trunk before we had the accessible van, and a stranger came by and said, “Please let me do that for you.” No one had ever done that for me. I just stood there. The feeling, the euphoria I got because someone picked up this wheelchair. Just look and see what’s going on. Carry groceries into the house. There’s so many little ways you can help a family in this situation. You just have to look and think, “What would I do in this situation? What would I need in this situation?” But be specific and don’t give the onus to the caregiver. “Call me if you need something.” That’s horrendous.

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