Throughout our lives and various encounters with others, there are people we meet who may benefit from informal support. A simple smile, friendly companionship, or an invitation to a social gathering. They could be close loved ones - family members or other relatives, or perhaps more casual acquaintances - neighbours, or members of a church or other religious or social group. Regardless of how you met, simple acts could make a considerable difference to these peoples' wellbeing.
It can be difficult to know what the people in your life may need. Even people in quite similar situations can have very different requirements and wishes. It helps to spend some quality time getting to know someone. Learn their personal history. Discover their dreams, desires and ambitions. Understand their immediate wants, and perhaps begin to anticipate future needs. By really getting to know someone, you'll have a better picture of how their current support network looks, and where you can start to contribute.
You can support or contribute to a person's wellbeing in natural or informal ways such as:
• Emotional support (listening, encouraging)
• Social contact (calling regularly, visiting, or organising social gatherings)
• Companionship (at home, or outings)
• Advocacy (assisting with enquiries)
• Problem solving (brainstorming)
As you can see, support differs from formal care as you are creating a network to assist and give someone the independence of doing routine tasks on their own terms and in their own time.
To truly support someone, it doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) a solo task. You would ideally become part of a network of family and friends a person can come to for assistance. Where appropriate, you may wish to discuss adding to this network by leveraging existing relationships that person has. The important thing however is to be consistent, so create regular opportunities for social contact.
If you'd like to learn more about adding formal care to the mix of supporters in a loved one's network, visit Home Carers Direct.