I lost my mother about a year after she was diagnosed with leukemia. My sister is now being treated for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We had and have many offers of help that can sometimes be overwhelming. Here are a couple of links with ways to help manage offers of help that I have been told about and thought I’d share with my readers.
One of the many difficult aspects of dealing with cancer or other long term illnesses is that, often, when the person is first diagnosed, there is almost too much support, so overwhelming for the sick person, it’s just easier for them to say they don’t need anything when in fact they truly do, and then, as the treatment continues for many months thereafter, the offers for support dwindles, while the person is left to cope with the emotional, logistical and physical effects of the disease and treatment.
Lots a Helping Hands is a site that helps to coordinate the welcome, but overwhelming and time-consuming onslaught of offers to help someone deal with a long-term illness.
Processing these offers can often be as time-consuming as a part-time job, an added burden for the person with cancer and his or her family.
They allow a person to become a coordinator, who can transform the people asking “how can I help?” and offering “call me if you need ANYTHING!” into actual meals, rides, babysitting, etc that meet the family’s needs and schedule, without requiring the family to deal with the logistics.
The family gives the coordinator the guidelines, kind of like a “gift registry” of help that would be welcome. Then, when people want to help, they are given the website, and can choose to offer something specific from the list of available needs. Details can be provided, such as dietary requirements, travel issues, whatever.
The list can be kept private, and shared only with those that have been invited.
It allows people from all the different social circles of a family’s life to work together with minimal overhead. This tool prevents the typical situations of 14 meals on Monday, with no meals for the rest of the week; or a beautiful gift waiting on the front step when the family planned to be away, just that one evening.
This way, when someone asks, “How can I help?” they can be thanked, and directed to the website for follow-up. The person offering can then later look for something that meets his or her schedule and ability.
If it seems like too much for one person, it is also possible to have one person coordinate for meals, another for rides, another for babysitting, etc. These co-coordinators must all be able to communicate well with one another because there will be inevitable crossover of offers.
Chemo Angels targets both those actively undergoing Chemotherapy or radiation and those who are elderly and shut-in and matches them with a committed person, who sends letters, cards, gifts, trinkets, and cheer in the mail. Nothing is expected of the recipient in terms of communication, none of the gifts or cards need be acknowledged or reciprocated.
The recipient has to sign up for this. Once signed up, the recipient fills out a form indicating personal preferences.
It might seem cheesy to get support from strangers, but by all accounts, it really works. Many of those who sign up to become Chemo Angles are cancer survivors or family members of a cancer survivor. Often, when a patient stops being a recipient, they sign up to become a Chemo Angel for someone else.
Even if this program isn’t for you, you can find some great material on the site that offers suggestions about how to be helpful and supportive to someone undergoing a long-term illness.