Support, Camaraderie and Books

By Hope Flammer, CEO of VoiceQuilt

If you’re visiting this blog, you know that Lotsa Helping Hands is a terrific resource for coordinating support for a loved one in a caregiving community.  When I first discovered Lotsa Helping Hands, I envisioned armies of volunteers delivering casseroles to families taking care of a loved one in the hospital.

books for caregivers

I’ve realized now that Lotsa communities do so much more than deliver food! I’ve been particularly touched by stories of community members who help in ways that are especially meaningful and thoughtful.

Two years ago, a close friend mentioned that her Lotsa Helping Hands community was reading aloud the last Harry Potter book to a friend named Louis.  Louis always looked forward to the story – as well as the companionship.  It was a welcome respite for him and his caregivers.

Last April, I became aware of “Team Julie”, a community created for a minister suffering from ALS. Over the past few months, this group has delivered meals, raised money for medical treatments and even helped find housing.  What struck me most, however, were the books that they read. Each month, Reverend Julie sends a list the books her team has read aloud to her. Here are a few:

Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

When ‘Spiritual but not Religious’ is Not Enough by Lillian Daniel

A Voluptuous God by Robert V.Thompson

Julie’s enthusiasm for her readers and reading list– as well as my friend’s story about Louis – suggest that reading aloud provides something extra: the gift of camaraderie.  An engaging narrative provides an escape from the day-to-day routine and an excuse to be together without the pressure of conversation.  In some cases, it might even trigger conversation about themes larger than ourselves.

Last month, a New York Times article described a variation on this theme.  It described how a daughter bonded with her mother, a patient with Advanced Alzheimer’s, by reading aloud picture books.

“…she and her daughter read from the very same books she had read her children: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the pacifist bull; ‘Mama, Do You Love Me?,’ a board book set in Alaska, about an Inuit mother’s unconditional love of her daughter; and ‘The Cat in the Hat’, ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and the Redwall series, about swashbuckling mice.”

In this case, memories of a favorite story help a daughter and her mother reminisce and spend meaningful time together.

Reading aloud is a meaningful yet easy volunteer task that provides the social connection a patient needs.  Recent research shared by the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) suggests that there are health benefits to social connectedness.

What’s more fun that sharing a good story?  Have you read to your friend or loved one in your Lotsa community? Share your stories and thoughts below!