COLUMN: Tips to assist a homebound friend

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By Theresa Howard

 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. Some local resources are: Senior Citizen center - meals on wheels; Community Action - TACK transportation program; and Sunrise Manor - adult day care program.