Often, when informed that a friend or loved one is ill, people respond with, “If there’s anything I can do to help, just ask.” The presence of a caring, dedicated support team can greatly improve the quality of life for terminally ill patients and their immediate families, so sincere offers of help are perhaps the kindest expressions of love.
Determining NeedEach patient is likely to have needs unique to their specific illness, living situation, stage of disease, personality, and comfort level in accepting help from others. At diagnosis, it can be enormously helpful to prepare plans of action for both immediate needs and those anticipated as the illness progresses, although future plans may have to be adjusted to accommodate unexpected changes.
Initially, a simple list of the types of assistance needed can suffice, with volunteers then accepting responsibility for whichever tasks that they feel qualified to handle. A chore list might include:
- Grocery shopping and meal preparation.
- Transportation to medical appointments.
- Child care.
- Arranging for delivery of specialised equipment.
- Filing insurance claims.
- Research for alternative and complementary treatment options.
Getting OrganisedWhen a number of people volunteer, each can offer their help without the burden of providing constant care, which can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Having a network of potential carers available is a blessing, but the group must be organised to best meet the needs of the patient while avoiding unneeded double coverage for the same tasks.
If one member has exceptional organisational skills, they may be asked to work with the others to create schedules so that all of the necessary chores get completed. For example, one friend may agree to provide meals a few days a week and make themselves available on alternate days to pick up the patient’s children from school and care for them until it is time for the evening meal.
A second carer may be engaged on an opposite schedule so that every day has reliable coverage.