My neighbor Debbie was ill, and I wanted to care for her, but I didn’t know what to do.  It would be so helpful if individuals would just tell me how to help them. But that isn’t always practical, because when someone is ill, it can be difficult for them to make decisions.  What should I do when I don’t know how to help?

Here’s how I solved the problem: by sending Debbie a “Multiple Choice Caregiving Email.”  In this email I wrote: 

Debbie, I am so sorry to hear that you are ill. I would really like to do something for you.  Today and tomorrow, I have extra time. May I do any of the following for you?  (Check your choices.)

___ do some errands today or tomorrow
___ bring you some cider and donuts
___ grocery shop
___ bring you and Jim soup and salad from Panera Bread (indicate your choice of soup and salad.)
___ bring you a blueberry smoothie

___ bring you homemade chocolate chip cookies or ice cream (indicate your favorite flavor).
___ bring you some Sloppy Joes and buns. (I have some already made in the freezer.)
___ or bring you whatever sounds good to you.

Surely, you can find something in this list which sounds good?

Within minutes, Debbie emailed me with her response: “Karen, what a list! You are so sweet with all your suggestions and so many good ones! What I would like is for you to share some of your favorite books–ones that have impacted your life.” Immediately, I delivered three of my favorite books and some clementines to Debbie.

What’s so wonderful about this form of caregiving is you can modify the list to fit your friend’s particular situation. For example, if your friend has children, you can offer to pick them up from or drop them off at their after-school activities. Multiple Choice Caregiving answers that reoccurring question, “What can I do to help someone who is suffering?” Try it.

Post updated 2024

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.


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