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Special Needs Planning Newsletter: We Can All Help a Friend in Need

Chambliss Law Firm Monthly Editorial – October 2016

We Can All Help a Friend in Need
by Amy Boulware, Elder Care Planning Manager, (LAP MSW)
“How are you doing?”– a simple somewhat innocuous question we have all been asked countless times. The typical answer is “fine” whether that is true or not. In most instances, the question is asked as a nicety that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the questioner really wants to know the answer. What would people say if they really answered honestly? Perhaps–
“I’m completely stressed.”
“I can’t keep up with all of the things on my to-do list.”
“hanging in there, barely”
“I wish I had someone who would handle the kids' homework, meals, cleaning, and washing so that I could have 10 minutes of alone time.”
Last week, I was swapping stories with a childhood friend. She and I have both experienced the life of a parent who has had too much drama surrounding our lives. The drama was not self-created or in any way wanted. The drama has been the result of having endured multiple family medical crises and at the same time trying to raise a child with a disability. There have been times when I didn’t want to answer the question “how are you?” with anything more than a fine because the true answer was so complicated and exhausting that even I was sick of my own situation and didn’t really want to have to force it on anyone else. 
The true answer behind the “fine” is that we both spend every day advocating and worrying about our children with special needs and managing medical crises, while at the same time trying to do the everyday things that are required of working moms and wives. One thing I have learned as a social worker is that nobody’s life is uncomplicated. We all have twists and turns in our daily lives, but it is how we embrace those challenges that really makes a difference. My friend told me she sometimes questioned why she had so many things happen in her family and really wondered if she could take on any more. We all have heard the saying about not being given more than you can handle, but heck, enough is enough sometimes. Why us? Why anyone? These are questions that cannot be answered in any appropriate way. The answer is because
What I do know is that both of us have chosen to take these adversities and use them to help others. I believe that each step in my journey of life has given me insight that allows me to guide my clients as they face their own paths. So what are some things that you can do when you know that a friend is facing a difficult time and likely that the answer of fine is not really true?  
How to Help a Caregiver or Loved One in Difficult Times:
  1. Instead of asking “how are you,” express understanding or willingness to help. For example, you could say, “I know this is a really difficult time for you and your family right now. Would it be helpful if I run some errands for you? Sit with your mom while you get some rest?"
  2. Listen to the story. Set aside time to actually listen to what is going on, and don’t offer unsolicited advice. Just be there to sympathize and empathize.
  3. Be patient and rally support around your friend. Crisis comes with lots of emotions, and knowing which friends are really there for you is a gift. 
  4. Many times people are “all in” to help right when a crisis happens, but as time goes on, the support fades.  People get on with their lives. Realize this, and be the friend who keeps checking in even when the caring bridge and Facebook posts stop.
  5. Recognize your own limitations, and don’t commit to more than you can really do. The worst thing is to offer to help and then renege on that offer because you realize you can’t actually fit it into your schedule. 
My best friend of over 25 years has weathered many family crises with me. She is the type of friend who makes meals and puts them in my freezer without me having to ask her. She is the friend who drove my eldest daughter 10 hours to college while my husband and I were sitting in an intensive care unit praying our younger daughter would wake up. She even cleaned my house when she knew it was driving me crazy, but I didn’t have the energy to do it. Each and every one of us has the power to be that kind of friend. We just have to decide it is important to us and act!  

If you have any questions about special needs planning, please reach out to Amy or a member of the Special Needs Planning Team. We are just a call or email away.