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Call to Care: For Better or For Worse (part 2)

March 25, 2014

Today’s post is from Concordia Chaplain Rev. Roger Nuerge and is part 11 of the “Call to Care” series. Concordia’s Chaplaincy Department actively contributes to our residents’ well being.

Pastor NuergeDr. Kenneth Haugk, in his Christian caregiving book entitled Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart, says that caring is action, not just good intention. 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 the sufferer. Less effective caring may not be as helpful.

In the chapter “For Better or for Worse,” Dr. Haugk shares feedback from research gathered from care receivers who shared actions that they found helpful during their time of need. He lists six caring actions. In the last “Call to Care” blog post we shared the acts of 1) sending cards and notes and 2) making phone calls. In this post we share two more.

3. Asking Questions

Ask Questions, and Then Listen – Ask a question and then be patient. Give the person a chance to respond. Don’t let silence make you anxious to ask another question or even try to answer the question for them. Give the person time to think before responding. Suffering people will often talk about their situation and feelings if we let them. Good questions can help people heal when they get people to talk and you are listening.

Curb your curiosity – Before asking a question of someone who is suffering ask yourself, “Will knowing the answer help me be a better caregiver?” A suffering person once mentioned how inappropriate questions disturbed her: “Probing questions were unwelcome when the questioner seemed more interested in the information than in me.” For example:

1. Questions seeking information not related to the hurting person’s pain are better.  For example: A coworker’s husband has just died. Don’t ask, “Are you going to sell your big house?”

2. Also avoid questions that sound as if you are suggesting blame. For example: A friend’s brother is diagnosed with lung cancer. Don’t ask, “Is he a smoker?”

Ask Open-Ended Questions – Knowing how to ask questions is as important as knowing what to ask. Open-ended questions give the opportunity for more than a yes or no answer. Here are examples of both types of questions:

Closed: Are you angry? Open: How did you feel?

Closed: Do you need help? Open: How can I help you?

4. Using Humor

Be sensitive when considering whether to use humor with someone who is suffering. Humor can lift the spirits or it can be a severe blow to an already heavy heart. Consider these four principles:

Wait! – This is the first and most important principle in using humor. Humor can help, but not at first. The initial shock has to wear off and some healing needs to occur before hurting people can benefit from humor. After that the next principles apply.

Allow Humor to Develop Naturally – When with a hurting person, you are there to care, not to be funny. Don’t plan to use humor in your visit, let it develop naturally. Sometimes people are uncomfortable in a serious situation and try to force a joke to break the tension. This is rarely well received.

Use Humor More Freely with Those You Know Well – The closer your relationship with a hurting person, the more likely it will be appropriate and appreciated. Even then it is best to consider the last principle before attempting humor.

Follow the Sufferer’s Lead – Take cues from the person suffering pain. If he or she uses some humor to lighten the situation, it’s probably all right for you to respond in kind. Even then humor that lifts the spirits of a suffering person is usually best dispensed in small doses.

More caring actions next time…

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For more information on the spiritual care services offered at Concordia, visit us on the Web, e-mail here or call 724-352-1571.

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