People, and groups of people such as faith communities, often ask how they can help an extreme caregiver. For many extreme caregivers simple tasks most of us take for granted, like showering, sleeping, and preparing and eating healthy meals, can range from difficult to downright impossible. When you cannot leave your child unsupervised for a moment cooking dinner can become a burdensome task. Many concerned communities cannot provide medically complex care, but preparing tasty and nutritious meals for an extreme caregiver is a tangible, immediate, and practical form of assistance that a concerned community can easily offer.
In my experience communities are often amazing at this form of support during a public crisis. When my son was in the NICU we had to discreetly ask our church to STOP dropping off food because we had run out of both fridge and freezer space. Unfortunately once the public event has passed many communities forget that extreme caregivers may quietly live lives bordering on the brink of personal crisis for years. Yes, years. And remember it is when the family member leaves the hospital and returns home that the caregiver is back on duty, often without significant support, and often in isolation. Ongoing assistance, such as meal provision, provides a clear message that a caring community is committed to journeying with, and supporting, a caregiver for the long haul. In short, meals feed more than just the body.
This past week I was invited to support a local caregiving family and in the process learned of a helpful and free app – http://www.mealtrain.com. Mealtrain allows communities to organize meal delivery, or other forms of instrumental support, for an individual or family who might appreciate support. Food preferences, allergies, family details, and an appropriate delivery address and time are all noted. The details are shared only among invited community members so the privacy of the caregiving family can be protected. A posted schedule of meals ensures that the recipient family doesn’t receive a week’s worth of lasagna! There is even a helpful section that covers basic etiquette for meal delivery, like reminding meal providers that the recipients may not be in position to entertain guests and meals should be dropped off with little fanfare.
I thought the app was brilliant! As a friend who wanted to help I was able to quickly find a vacant date and arrange to drop off a meal that I know will be suitable.