Winter is coming: How to support a home bound friend

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People can become confined to their home for many reasons—sickness, recovery from surgery, chronic illness, disability and even weather.  With limited access to the outside, a person’s world can shrink considerably and create a disconnect from people and the community.  To help a homebound friend or relative stay engaged in life, you can:

•Plan to call or visit when you are not rushed for time

•Arrange a regular date to get together

•Encourage the person to express emotions and to listen

•Encourage self-care (adequate nutrition, rest, medical appointments) and help when you can (bring over a meal, drive to an appointment)

•Ask, don’t guess, what kind of help will be most valuable (dust, vacuum, laundry).  If your assistance is declined, continue to express your desire to help

•When appropriate, take it upon yourself to shovel the driveway, rake leaves, bring in the garbage cans or bring over dinner

•Deliver a surprise gift (flowers, a favorite movie, a gift certificate to a take-out restaurant, books from the library)

•Help a female friend or relative feel good about her appearance (offer to paint her nails, comb her hair or bring a new accessory)

•Encourage stimulating pastimes (word puzzles, journaling, drawing, crafting, reading) that bring pleasure and mental activity

•Facilitate connections with the outside world by sharing news about family, friends and current events.  Share the newspaper and current magazines

•Encourage your friend or relative to get a computer and help the person connect to the world through the internet (social networks, online education courses, current events, shopping, health-related information)

•Help make sure the home is a safe environment (free of fall risk factors, clean, sanitary, functional)

•If mobility issues are preventing the person from leaving, encourage the purchase and use of mobility aides.  Help the person connect with a physical therapist and public transportation.

•Offer to get information on community services and resources (meals on wheels, healthcare services, friendly visiting programs, shopping services, accessible recreation and leisure programs)

Reference:  Petsche, L. M. (2010).  A dozen ways to support a home-bound friend: Caring actions can cheer up a confined person.  Living Well 50+, 6(1), 23.

Source:  Amy Hosier, Extension Specialist for Family Life, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Jane Proctor is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for family and consumer services.