Advice for Friends & Family
Okay, someone you love has just heard the dreaded words "It's Cancer". They feel terrified and you feel helpless. Stop right there. There is plenty you can do to help. Here are a few suggestions compiled from real life experiences of people in situations similar to yours. Please contact us if you have any comments or ideas to pass along.
- Start a fund
Start a fund where people can donate money to help defray the cost of the illness. The disease is devastating but the financial ramifications can make it even worse especially if an alternative care path is chosen. Most insurance plans pay nothing for alternative treatments. A $5 a week donation helps with a co-pay or to buy vitamin and mineral supplements. Someone other than the cancer patient should keep up with this as the patient's full attention should be on getting well. (Different ideas for fundraising include but are not limited to selling t-shirts, bake sales, golf tournaments, local band concerts, casino parties, etc…) Even something as simple as donating a calling card to help defray costs of long-distance calling when the patient is away for treatment. Donating frequent flyer miles is a good way to help pay for expensive flights to clinics and hospitals out of state.
- Find someone to handle paper work
Find someone to take the responsibility of filling out insurance forms and disability claims, checking on the status of claims, and organizing the medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits. The benefits of handing this task off to someone other than the cancer patient or family cannot be under estimated. This is a huge burden lifted from the family.
- Start a group of volunteers
Start a group of friends who will volunteer to help keep up with yard work and other maintenance and cleaning around the house. Remember, the entire family is dealing with the disease and mundane tasks get pushed aside. However, the patient feels worse if they come home to a dirty house or rundown yard. Don't forget babysitting small children or arranging out of house activities for older ones. Take care of errands such as banking, post office, dry cleaners, grocery shopping, recycling, etc. Don't forget about pet needs as well.
- Appoint someone to post updates on the patient
Have someone appointed to post periodic updates on the patient. Set up a voice mail message box that friends can call for an update or build an e-mail distribution list to send out updates. Start a web site where the patient can answer get well messages as they feel up to it. Cancer patients tend to sleep at odd hours and do not always feel up to taking every phone call. Explain to friends and well-wishers that the patient may or may not be able to return messages. This is not an affront to anyone but there is only so much time in a day and most of it is spent at doctor's offices and focusing on getting well.
- Appoint someone to schedule dinners
Appoint someone to make sure dinners are scheduled instead of five dinners arriving at once with some going to waste because there isn't room in the refrigerator or freezer. Also send food in disposable containers. It is very diff!icult to keep up with dishes and getting them returned to the right people. Make people aware of special diet needs, i.e. organic foods only, vegetarian meals, foods that combat cancer, low-fat and low-sugar foods only, etc. Also, gift certificates along with a menu to restaurants that deliver are a tremendous help as well to the family.
- Find volunteers to drive patient to appointments
Have a list of volunteers to drive the patient to appointments. There is only so much time off a spouse or parent can take from their own job. This is truly an enormous help.
- Stay spiritually-connected
If you are religiously inclined we recommend spiritual-prayer groups, church prayer lists, prayer vigils, a 24-hour prayer chain, etc....
- Be thoughtful
Don't ask - just do something thoughtful.