When it was learned that Lisa had the disease Moya Moya, her mother knew that their lifestyle would change.  Born with Down’s syndrome, this single mother and her daughter had lived 30 years together.  Much of their time was spent seeking ways to make Lisa’s life easier.  Now they stood at a cross roads again.

When a person with disabilities slowly declines, family members adjust their lives in minute increments.  It is when the effected person plummets downward quickly that the family and caregivers are thrown into a cross roads situation. 

There are no easy or pat answers.  Each family unit must find their own solutions.  However, there are some things that you can do which will help.  Here are some of them.

  1. Allow the caregiver to vent without trying to give easy answers.  Slowly, give them time to debrief.  Even with close friends, the family will assume that you aren’t truly interested in hearing about their fear, needs and concerns.  They will not open to you quickly.
  2. When the caregiver gives you a flippant answer with a big smile and you know that the caregiver is facing a crisis, don’t allow the facade of happy contentment  bluff you. 
  3. Probe a bit.  Ask questions. 
  4. Show genuine concern; and the person will respond to your inquiries.
  5. Expect and extend yourself beyond the self-pity of the caregiver.  There are many conflicting emotions that a caregiver is wading through.  Self-pity is one of the least attractive ones.  She knows it; but self-pity will rear its ugly head when you scratch beneath the tough exterior of the caregiver.
  6. After a time of listening, don’t be afraid to give answers.   However, you should assume that the caregiver has probably already exhausted most of the obvious avenues.
  7. If you have a contact person or organization that you believe will help, look up the phone number yourself, write it down and give the caregiver the number.  If you merely, drop the information (even extremely valuable)  in his lap, it will seem like just ONE MORE THING he must do.  Even a small task–like looking up a phone number–can seem like an insurmountable effort to a person who is drowning in other details.
  8. Don’t offer to do something unless you really mean it. 
  9. Realize, if you offer your help, that you will be needed at the most inconvenient time.  Therefore, be careful how you offer your help.
  10. Don’t be disappointed if your advice is not followed.  If it is sandwiched between genuine concern and love, it will be appreciated. 
  11. Pray for the family as often as you remember them.  Prayer is the one sure answer to this perplexing concern.

No one likes standing at a cross roads without a road map to follow.  Yet, most caregivers don’t have anything to guide them.  One of my favorite teacher, Os Hillman wrote recently, “The way of the cross is not paved with lilies; it is paved with grace.”   As you extend God’s grace with your understanding, help and prayer, your goodness and love helps to give a family or caregiver the ability to see the direction God desires for them to go.