Shut In, NOT Shut Out: How can I help a shut in person?

(If you haven't already read the first post in this series you can do so now by clicking here. It may help you identify someone in your life you may not have associated as a shut in person before.)

So, you know a shut in and you want to help. How? You want to be supportive and care for them but you just don't know what would be helpful versus hurtful or where to begin. I hope to provide some ideas and get you moving in the right direction towards being an amazing source of support and joy in this post.

1. Empathize, not sympathize. 

It’s easy for someone who doesn't understand or has never experienced a chronic illness or a hardship that would have you stuck at home to get frustrated with someone who won’t or cannot leave their home, so try looking at things from their perspective. I can guarantee you it's not the life they exactly planned. Think about how they feel looking out the window to see others walking down the street laughing, enjoying outings with their families, traveling and having a blast. Being isolated is like prison. Don't be dripping with sympathy, however. There's a difference between having the "oh, I'm so sorry" sentiment and actually taking the time to try to gain perspective and understanding. Grief, self-pity, depression, a cycle of negative thoughts is already a daily battle for many so combating that by trying to help us find the silver lining and being positive is incredibly helpful.

2. Small gestures of kindness.

While there are larger needs that must be met, we will get to that later. You don't have to stress about grandeur. The tiniest gestures can be a big difference maker. A card in the mail, a phone call just to check in, stopping by for a few moments to say hello, a small gift left at the door or an inexpensive gift. Does the shut in you know enjoy word puzzles? Snip out the puzzles from the newspapers and include them in a mailed card. If it's a child/teen, maybe drop a couple puzzles or a new video game at the door. A nice bouquet of flowers or a small houseplant would be a lovely idea for anyone.

3. Meet a need.

Imagine not being able to run to the grocery store at will, struggling to take your trash out, needing someone there with you at all times and you'll get s glimpse of the dependency a shut in person may be having to deal with. It's hard on them as well as their caregivers. Offering to grocery shop for them, do some lawn maintenance or chores or even just come sit with them while their caregiver gets out of the house for awhile would be an amazing gift. A shut in may be missing getting to go to church services and someone committing to coming and doing bible study with them would be incredibly beneficial. Bring copies of sermons, books, pray with them and if you can find a ministry they could help with from home (provided they are able) it could remind them how valuable they are! Social visits to play games, visit, have a meal together are wonderful but be sure to assure your loved one that they need not worry about having the house clean or how they look as trying to get the house "company clean" and themselves all dolled up may exhaust them too much to even be able to enjoy the visit. If they have a pet, offering to vet them or take them for a walk could be helpful. If they have a hobby, bringing them supplies to continue doing that would be incredibly kind (knitting, crocheting, painting... just a few common ones that are easy to find supplies for).

Think inside and outside of the "box". Spend a few moments thinking about the personality of the shut in person you know. If you really cannot figure out the best way to be helpful- ASK! Let them know you want to be supportive and do something nice for them. You may be met with hesitance because it's hard to depend on others and accept so much help but you may also uncover a need you hadn't thought of.

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