In his book on Christian caregiving "Don't Sing Songs To A Heavy Heart" Dr. Kenneth Haugk says that caring is action, not just good intentions. Caring happens when you express your good intentions through loving and appropriate acts. As a caregiver, you want to be helpful to suffering people, but being helpful depends on what you do. Effective caregiving brings hope and encouragement to a sufferer. Less effective caregiving may not be as helpful.
In the chapter entitled "For Better or for Worse" Dr. Haugk shares his feedback from research gathered from care receivers and the six caring actions they shared that were most helpful for them in their time of need. These practical principles are not meant to limit you in your caring but to free you to be more effective. The first two caring actions are as follows.
1. Sending Cards and Notes
People almost always like receiving a card or note. This is not as invasive as a ringing telephone and they can save it and read it more than once. Here are three principles to maximize the caring potential of cards and notes.
- Write a personal note. A card is good but adding a personal hand written note of a couple of sentences or paragraphs is much better than just a signature. These cards are often saved and reread later. The comfort lasts.
- Focus on the suffering person. This is not a time to share newsy tidbits about yourself and your family. Think when you write with something like, "I'm so sorry to hear about your..." or "Our hearts go out to you." or "This must be so difficult for you."
- Write from your heart. When you think about what to put in the space of your card write from your heart, not just your head. Don't hold back. Pour emotions on the paper in front of you with words like this, "My heart broke to hear that..." or "I was saddened to hear..."
To call or not to call, that is the question. Maybe you have been in the middle of a crisis and found a ringing telephone to add to the chaos. At other times the sound of a friendly voice is welcome. If you are not sure how a call would be received it might be better to put down the phone and pick up a pen. Here are some ways to make calls effective.
- The closer your relationship, the freer you can be to call. Those in need indicated they appreciated calls from those close to them. From others they appreciated written communications more. One caring action to offer is to answer phone calls for them.
- Gauge the time to call. You can't know what the situation is for the sick or suffering person, so be sensitive to when you call and how long you talk. If you leave a message just say you are sorry for whatever the situation is and say that it is not necessary to call you back.
- Ask whether it is a good time to talk. Give the other person permission to say, "No, this is not a particularly good time to talk."
- Don't talk on the phone; LISTEN on the phone. People often worry about what to say. The good news is you don't have to say much. Listening expresses care better than talking.