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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Asking for Help

A diagnosis of childhood cancer can turn a family’s life upside down.

But relatives, friends, coworkers, and community members can serve as a port during this storm.

Sometimes figuring out what you need and how to organize offers of help can seem a little overwhelming.

Consider these ideas:

  • Appoint someone to help organize.
  • Prioritize needs.
  • Make a list.
  • Identify who can help.
  • Consider using websites to help. 

Appoint a Coordinator

A friend or family member can serve as a point person. You will have one less thing to manage. The coordinator should be:

  • Trustworthy
  • Organized and easy to reach
  • Knowledgeable of the family's personal, social, and professional networks
  • Technology-savvy enough to e-mail, text, and navigate websites

The coordinator can also screen visitors to know if it’s a good time to stop by. People’s intentions are good. But there can be so many people coming in and out, especially during the first weeks. It can be overwhelming. 

Prioritize What You Need

You may need assistance at different stages throughout your journey.

  1. When your child is newly diagnosed, consider asking for:

    • Emotional support
    • Help that gives you the time alone, with your spouse, or with your other children
    • Help keeping others informed
    • Help with household duties
  2. When your child is in the hospital, you or your child might need:

    • Help with siblings or others you care for
    • Help taking care of your home and yard
    • A video chat with your child’s closest friend
    • Help updating people with information
    • A foldable cot to sleep in the hospital room if allowed
    • Blankets and socks
    • Small, easy activities such as cards and coloring
  3. When your child is in outpatient treatment, consider asking for:

    • Rides to treatment when you need to tend to your child during the drive
    • Help updating people on how treatments are going
    • Tutoring help for what your child misses at school
    • Emotional support
    • Help with siblings and household needs
    • Help with meals and grocery shopping

Determine Specific Needs

Talk with others who have been through similar experiences. They can help you anticipate specific needs.

These may include:

Meals

  • Gift cards for a grocery store, restaurant, or delivery service
  • Sign-up list for people to bring meals
  • Help shopping for groceries
  • Grab-and-go snack bags

Chores

  • Lawn-mowing and other yard work
  • House cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Pet care
  • Collecting the mail
  • Watering plants

Financial Assistance

  • Starting a fund that helps cover expenses
  • Gift cards to help with daily needs, including ones for gas.
  • Professional advice and services to address financial needs
  • Organizing and monitoring household and medical bills
  • Phone calls and help with challenges with the hospital or insurance company

Help for Parents

  • Regular phone or video calls with family and friends
  • Visits from family and friends
  • Lunch, dinner, movie, or other social activity for time away
  • Personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, meet a repairman, take the car in for an oil change)
  • Managing updates to keep others informed
  • Rides to and from treatment so the parent can care for and focus on the child's needs

Help with Siblings

  • Babysitting
  • Transportation to and from school or other activities
  • Help with homework, supplies, lunches, and other daily needs
  • Social outings to offer support and recreation

Help for the Child/ Teen

  • Care packages
  • Pictures and cards from friends
  • Help with schoolwork
  • Phone and video calls from friends
  • Gift cards for special activities or outings

Work

  • Donation of vacation days or leave from fellow employees
  • Updates on workplace or project developments when you are away
  • Asking co-workers to take on additional tasks
  • Looking at telecommuting options and support
  • Appointment to speak with your employer about time off provided through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Pediatric cancer patient smiles at his mom while she holds him

As people learn about your child's illness, many will offer help. Keep a list of people who offer help. Even if you do not have a specific need at that moment, you can reach out later when you have a clearer idea of what might help.

Identify People Who Can Help

As people learn about your child's illness, some may offer help. Keep a list. Even if you do not have a specific need at that moment, you can reach out later.

Match People to Tasks

Put together a list of the people who have already offered their help and others who can be asked. Match them with your needs.

It can help to think of people in different areas of life:

  • School, including teachers, parents, and students
  • Faith-based and community organizations
  • Work and professional organizations

Websites to Coordinate Help

Websites and apps can help families manage and update friends and volunteers easily. These include:

CaringBridge

CaringBridge is a personal health journal. It helps patients communicate with friends and family, receive support, and coordinate tasks.

Lotsa Helping Hands

Lotsa Helping Hands is a care calendar website. It provides a way to organize meals and other help.

Take Them a Meal and Meal Train

Take Them a Meal and Meal Train are both online tools for coordinating the delivery of meals to loved ones. They each allow meal providers to sign up for day(s) to deliver food.


Together
does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.


Reviewed: September 2019