If you are helping someone who’s recovering from an operation, stroke, heart attack or illness (such as Covid), this blog provides some tips for:

  • Supporting a recovering person
  • Deciding what to do
  • Making time for yourself

Supporting a recovering person

Recovery can be a time of great hope and yet, bound up with it, is the likelihood that you and the person recovering are still coming through a time of significant change. Perhaps what you’ve been through has caused levels of anxiety never previously experienced. Now, despite the relief of having come through the worst, both of you might be feeling somewhat emotional and low on energy reserves. With change, it’s not unusual to have ups and downs and setbacks until things properly settle down, so do what you can to be kind to yourselves.


The more you know about what you’re dealing with, the more likely you’ll be able to plan well to provide effective help. Compared to the recovering person’s previous abilities, it’s important to understand what level of recovery is expected and what’s a realistic pace for achieving it. So, if you have been given leaflets and a discharge letter, make time to read them as soon as possible. Reliable sites on the Internet are also a good source of information about medical conditions and medicines.

When supporting someone who’s recovering, a good place to start is by recognising and respecting that the two of you are likely to have different preferences. Even if you’ve known each other for years, there’ll probably be a few surprises ahead!

For example, the two of you will have differences in what you prefer when giving and receiving care. Many people have grown up with The Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you would like them to treat you”, but interestingly here, following The Platinum Rule generally brings happier results: "Treat others as they would like to be treated, not the way you would like them to treat you."

This means allowing enough time for good communication, with particular attention to properly listening to what the person you’re supporting would like you to do for them. This encourages them to be more involved in planning the care you’re providing, so as to find ways of recovery that best suit them. A person’s emotional balance can see-saw about during recovery. Not having been along this path before, it’s likely some unrealistic goals will be set and people will overstretch themselves as they experiment in their learning and relearning. Exhaustion, frustration, dejection and demotivation can follow. They may also feel guilty, and this can show itself in uncharacteristic rudeness and bad moods. Knowing how to support progress with motivating, appropriately-sized steps along the way to realistic goals is one of the many things covered in our online video courses.

People often start looking after someone because a family member, close friend or neighbour can’t manage by themselves and there’s no-one else who can help. This might happen without too much thought. It’s important to realise, though, that caring for someone through a recovery period (even if it is short) has the potential to change a relationship, for better or for worse. Fortunately resources are available to help strengthen relationships as they go through times of caring.

Providing care is kind and generous. However, it can easily expand to fill a lot of your time, so it’s worth setting some aside for deciding what to do.

Deciding what to do

Sometimes it can be difficult to know in what order to do things and how to accept offers of help. However, doing this successfully will make a big difference to your wellbeing. Taking time to consider how important or urgent each thing is helps you decide how to prioritise what needs doing.

A task is important if its happening (or not happening) makes a significant difference to what occurs next. In other words, in thinking about an activity’s importance, you’re considering its likely impact. Whereas a task is called urgent if its completion needs or needed to happen within a short time frame.

It’s all too easy to get into the way of thinking that all urgent things are important. However, when you realise that not all urgent tasks are important, you are able to prioritise things in a way that properly values your time – and that of others. We’ll look now at a great way to rate your different activities in terms of their relative importance and urgency.

This involves deciding where you would place each of your activities on a chart with two lines meeting in the middle at a neutral point; anything placed to the left of the vertical line is thought to be urgent with it becoming more urgent the further it is to the left, whereas things become less and less urgent the further they are to the right of the vertical line. Then the higher up the chart an activity is placed above the horizontal line, the more important it is; and lastly anything placed on the chart below the horizontal line is thought to be less and less important the lower down it is.

Drawing your own Time Quadrants on paper and deciding where to write your tasks on it can help you prioritise what to include on your ‘To do’ list.

Something placed in the top left of the chart is considered both urgent and important, such as a crisis or a pressing problem and this will need immediate attention.

For the tasks you’ve written in the top right quadrant, where possible, it’s good to tackle them before they become urgent. These important things can then be completed without time pressures, which generally leads to less stress and better results.

Things that you write in the bottom left are unimportant but for some reason they’re now urgent. For each of these things, it’s worth considering ‘What would happen if this was not done?’

And lastly, the bottom right quadrant has activities that are neither urgent nor seemingly important; however, before stopping the activities you list here, consider whether any of them are beneficial forms of relaxation that you want to keep.

As we are all different, there is the potential for two people to rate the same activity’s importance and urgency in very different ways. So when thinking about a change that could adversely affect others, consider including them in the decision making. The more you are able to gain other people’s agreement ahead when deciding what to do, the more likely you will be able to make time for the things you need to, and it’s good to start thinking about this earlier rather than later.

Making time for yourself

In order to maintain positive energy about caring, it’s vital to find repeatable ways that help you achieve proper breaks away from caring. As well as regularly having short amounts of time to yourself, if you’re providing long-term care, it’s important to give serious consideration as to how to have respite breaks. The aim of a respite break is to give a carer the opportunity to totally switch off from all their caring responsibilities and ideally, to do this successfully, it should be at least several days long. Though arranging respite can take a fair amount of work and determination in advance, once these breaks have become an established part of what’s expected, their beneficial effects are so worth the effort.

If you’re wanting to help somebody recover, but are finding it more difficult than expected, explore our website www.jugglingcare.com to discover how our online video courses and free resources have helped others enjoy providing this type of support.

This blog is also available as a YouTube video .

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