Who’s Going to Be There For You?

Posted in Caregiving, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Illness on May 11th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

It was just strange.  Today’s visits at the hospital had a theme — the support of family and friends is precious.

As I went from patient to patient, the theme just jumped out.

It started with a patient getting ready for a stem cell transplant talking about how important his support network of friends and family are.  When we got ready to pray, he asked me to pray specifically for them, because they were going to be doubly important to him in the coming weeks.

I visited with a woman struggling with cancer whose daughter and son-in-law had come in from out of town to be with her.  The woman was struggling with news of her condition, as was her daughter.  But they were together.

In another room, I visited with with a couple who had only been in the country a few months.  He was dying, and they had no family or friends in the country to provide support, only a fellow employee.  I was thankful for this man providing support to this couple during an incredibly difficult time.

Then as I was getting a glass of tea in the cafeteria, I ran into a couple I had visited with many times in the past.  He helped her with her food as we sat and visited.  And we talked about how important having each other is.

What I observed today is no surprise to anyone who has been through a tough time.  Family and friends play a valuable, supportive role.  And when they’re not available, or don’t exisit, things are just more difficult.

With this background, maybe there are a couple of points to think about:

1.  If you are currently estranged from family and/or friends, now is the time to heal those relationships.  There will come a time when they need you or you need them.

2.  Don’t wait to let your family and friends know what’s going on when you enter a difficult season.  Let them into your situation, and help them understand how they can provide the support you need.

3.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to provide support to those who may be without family and friends.

So, who’s going to be there for you?  And who are you going to be there for?  Two very important questions to consider as we experience life together.

Listening: Don’t Steal Someone’s Story!

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Illness on April 26th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 3 Comments

Mary DeMuth has a site called Family Secrets, and Friday there was a post by Jen that had a lot to say about listening.  Turns out that I was teaching in a seminar for  pastoral caregivers  at Lifeline Chaplaincy on Saturday, so I took special note of what Jen had to say.

Here’s part of the original post Jen was responding to:

I have never been able to go some place and talk about my childhood without being accused of feeling sorry for myself or using others to get therapy sessions; when all I really needed was a friendly shoulder and/or prayers for the new feelings and pain I was experiencing.

Now, here’s what Jen added to the conversation:

You’re stealing someone’s story by either telling something of your own that correlates (to you at least) in order to give it value, thus telling the Teller that their experiences have no value beyond what you have felt or known, OR you are stealing the validity of that person’s feelings by offering a “solution.”

Anytime we listen to someone tell a story, one of our stories that is stored in our memory banks is brought to consciousness.  And that forms the basis of a lot of social conversation — I tell my story, you tell a related story, and we enjoy the time together.  And in a casual social setting, that’s perfectly fine.

But when a friend begins to tell you a story of trauma or illness, then your role in the conversation changes.  It’s time for serious listening, not for chit-chat.  Your story will still come to consciousness, but instead of telling it, use it to help understand something of what the story teller is relating to you.  Because when you tell your story in this kind of situation, you’re devaluing their story, making them not feel heard.  And this advice goes double to those of us who hear such stories in a pastoral caregiving setting.

People who have suffered abuse, those who have suffered trauma, and those who are struggling with severe illness deserve to be heard and their stories valued.  And those of us they honor with their trust need to recognize that we’re on holy ground.

Will Facebook Replace CaringBridge and CarePages?

Posted in Caregiving, Illness on April 23rd, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 6 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about using web applications such as CaringBridge and CarePages to keep friends and relatives informed about serious illness or injuries.  I also recommended blogs.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long until one of my Facebook friends read the post and commented on Facebook that they used Facebook for that purpose.  I have in fact noticed a growing use of Facebook to do exactly that in my circle of friends.

In yesterday’s post, I didn’t mention Facebook primarily because people who are not your friends on Facebook don’t/can’t see the information.

But the likelihood that your friends and family are in fact on Facebook is  changing fast.  There are currently 200 million people who have a Facebook account, 60 million of them in the U.S.  That’s one out of every five Americans alive.  Further, the over 35 demographic of Facebook has doubled in the last two months.

That means that a lot of your friends and family who will be interested are on Facebook.   So, depending on your situation, it may be a very viable communication tool for this purpose.  And it’ll get better by the day.

In fact, within a year, I won’t be surprised to see it all but replace the specialized web applications like CaringBridge and CarePages.  Why?

  1. People are already using it for other communication with friends and family.  They’re all comfortable with it, it’s easy to use, and it’s rapidly becoming second nature.  Why use something else?
  2. I believe that within a year, most people that use the web at all will be using Facebook.  It is rapidly becoming THE communication tool that we all are on and using.

So, what’s your take.  Do you think Facebook will replace CaringBridge and CarePages?

Keeping Folks Informed About Chronic Illness

Posted in Caregiving, Illness on April 22nd, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

One of the important yet time-consuming parts of having someone in your family with a serious chronic illness is being able to keep other family members and friends informed about what is going on.

You’ll soon find that if you don’t have a good way to keep people informed that you’re going to spend a significant amount of your time telling and retelling the same information to folks that care and want to know.  And you’re also going to be spending time correcting incomplete or incorrect information as well.

So deciding on a good vehicle that allows you to provide the information once and yet keep everyone that wants to be informed up to date is valuable. There are several good ways to do that.

The first two are similar web-based products, CaringBridge and CarePages.  Both allow you to set up free webpages with photos, the background story, and updates, as well as providing a way for friends and family to provide messages in response.  Both also allow you to select from a variety of privacy levels, depending on your wishes.  Your friends and family can subscribe to email notices of updates.  These services are very easy to set up, requiring little if any tech knowledge.

Another good option is setting up a blog.  Blogger and WordPress are two leading services that provide free blogs, and both are relatively easy to set up and use.  The advantage of setting up your own blog is that you have more flexibility in design and how you use it.  A disadvantage can be that subscription by friends and family can be a little more challenging for those that are not tech savvy.  However, you can rather easily add the capability to subscribe by email to help them out.

I’m a big fan of all of these services, and currently I’m keeping up with a number of people through them.  If you’re not familiar with them, check them out.

No Place Like Home!

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, hospital visits, Illness on April 6th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

Maybe the most common desire I hear as I visit people in the hospital is, “I just want to go home.”

“I’ll be able to get better there.  I can eat what I want to eat when I want to eat.  I can sleep all night.  I’ll just feel better.”

For some of the people I visit, when they say home, they really mean home.  For many others, “home” means an apartment close to the hospital.  But for those folks, that temporary home is still home compared to the hospital.

It’s easy for me to believe them, because there’s no place I’d rather be than home.  I always feel better at home.  I feel more like me when I’m home.

So I’m pulling for all of them.  There’s no place like home.  Especially if you’re in a hospital.