Well, this is going to sound harsh but ringing up someone who is reeling from an operation and a cocktail of drugs and asking "Is there anything I can do?" is not a good question. This puts the onus on the invalid to think of something for you to do, calculate whether they know you well enough to ask and then default to "Oh, thank you so much. No, I'm OK.".
What can you do physically?
- Bring food for the deep freeze, wrapped, labelled and dated. Leave on doorstep. Toot horn and leave. This is not about you needing praise. This is about being a good friend.
- Arrive with old clothes and send patient to bed, whilst you mop floors, load dishwashers and wipe down kitchen.
- Take dog for a walk.
- Take away their ironing and bring it back the next day - done.
- Make their bed up with clean sheets.
- Say "I am going to the supermarket - a quick trip. What do you need me to get you or would you like to come too?" (Supermarket shopping in very tiring in the early stages)
- Fill up the car with petrol/gas.
- Tell them you are picking up their children from school/party/tennis match - asking them if they would like you to immediately invokes guilt.
- Send a stupid funny card in the post. It is lovely to get a letter.
- Cleaning loos is optional. Cleaning baths is not.
How can you help emotionally?
- Understand that this is really, really scary, however much the invalid tries to convince you it's not
- Understand that the invalid's sense of smell is heightened so too much CK1 can make them gag.
- Understand that this is bone-crunchingly tiring - falling asleep in the middle of a conversation is not rudeness or finding you boring. It's just falling asleep.
- Listen (without feeling the need to comment).
- Understand that losing your hair hurts - a lot.
- Understand that this is not your drama. Crying is NOT an option in the presence of the invalid.
- Understand that the rest of the family is feeling tired, anxious and angry too - caring for someone is extremely stressful - especially if the invalid is a bad patient.
- Know when it's time to go. Keep it short and sweet.