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It can be difficult to know how to reach out when someone you care about hits hard times. Most people, myself included, would usually call or send a message with condolences and end off with an offer of: If you need anything just let me know... and then step back and wait to see if they need anything.

But that is not the most effective way to offer help.

Here’s what I learnt about offering help after being on the receiving end following Bob’s stroke.

The affected person is likely to be emotionally upset, or in shock, or both. They’re not going to have a pre-planned roster of the jobs that need doing and it’s unlikely that they’ll be in a position to say could you do XYZ for me? At least not straight away. So make your offer more than once.

It’s natural to want to give the person space to come to terms with whatever has happened, but if you really want to help – ask again when they have a better idea of what needs to be done and where they could do with a helping hand.

It’s also hard for the person to know what kind of help you are willing to offer – so offer specific help.

Offer to collect the children from school every day, or to drop of ready-to-eat meals on certain days, or to help walk the dog, mow the lawn, or keep the weeds under control. Whatever you are willing and happy to do – offer that specific help. It will be easier for the person to accept help if you volunteer to do specific things.

Take responsibility for that area. If you offer to fetch the children after school make it clear that you are taking responsibility for that task. Don’t worry about stepping on toes. If the person knows that task is reliably taken care of that frees them up to focus on other areas that need their attention.

Check in, but get on with it. By all means, check in with the person to see if they have any specific requirements, but understand their focus will be elsewhere and they’d probably rather you just got on with the job without too much involvement from their part.

One wonderful couple, who love gardening, offered to help keep our garden under control after Bob’s stroke. They popped in when it suited them and got on with the job – and occasionally asked if there is anything specific that we would like them to do. It was a generous offer and placed no burden of involvement or interaction on us - which is just what I needed.

And last, but not least, when you check in with the person, don’t ask if they still need your help. It will be fairly obvious when they are back on their feet so you don’t need to ask – and if you do ask, they will assume you’re asking as a polite way to withdraw. Their response will be that they can manage fine from here, thank you very much. I can assure you that If the couple helping in our garden had asked if I still needed help I would have been trying to manage the garden on top of everything else. much sooner than I could have managed.


If you'd like to support Bob and Shaz in their rehab journey you can do so below. Thanks for reading.

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