Using CaringBridge

6 Ways to Help During a Health Crisis

ways to help

CaringBridge families confirm that one of the most well-intended but non-helpful phrases heard during a health crisis is: “If you need anything, just call me.”

“I appreciate the gesture, but I’m just too overwhelmed to respond,” said a Minnesota wife and working mom of teen-agers who added “primary caregiver” to her job description upon her husband’s diagnosis of ALS.

But knowing that family and friends truly wish to be helpful, patients and caregivers who have used CaringBridge over the years offer these recommendations:

  1. Show Support on CaringBridge. Sign up to follow websites, and regularly post Comments to Journal updates. Also, check out the Ways to Help page, which directs you to help the family has requested, which may even include personal fundraising campaigns. (If they haven’t identified any Ways to Help, maybe offer a gentle nudge to do so in a Comment, if appropriate.)
  2. Depending on the time of year, mow the lawn, rake leaves, or shovel snow. The advantage with this kind of gift is that you don’t necessarily have to get permission – show up with your own tools and get to work!
  3. Drive children to and from school and after-school activities. Offer to host the kids after school to do homework and hang out with your own kids.
  4. Walk the family dog. Or clean the kitty litter box.
  5. Find out about any food allergies before delivering casseroles, and then plan to divvy up the dish into single-serving portions that can be frozen. Include reheating instructions on the containers. Use disposable containers whenever possible.
  6. Consider foods that don’t need to be refrigerated and don’t involve a lot of prep work. A refrigerator can fill up pretty fast if everyone starts dropping off casseroles. Fresh fruit and bakery breads and pastries can be welcome alternatives.

What Help Have You Found to be Helpful?
Everyone has a different experience; we’d love to hear what kinds of things you have found to be most helpful during a health journey. Please add your thoughts in the “Comment” section directly below.

Comments (49)

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Angela Dec 13, 2018 9:01pm
A crisis is often not just the one moment, often things are going on for weeks before and/or after so things can pile-up. We had a late-term pregnancy loss and I was on bed rest for a while before, and was very weak for a while afterward from hemorrhaging during delivery. Being in crisis and healing mode for a few weeks, our lawn was badly in need of mowing. Our neighbor came over and mowed our yard...didn't ask, just came over and did it. I still cry thinking about how sweet that was of him.
Donna Peuster Snyder Dec 12, 2018 9:43pm
Offer laundry service. Put a container of dirty items on your porch, someone picks it up, then drops off clean clothes back in the container. Worked well for me when husband had cancer and night sweats and I had three children, one being an infant. One of the greatest helps ever!
Doris Dec 11, 2018 10:11pm
Drop off paper products to cut down on dishes - paper plates, cups, bowls, even toilet paper, garbage bags. Foil and ziplock baggies help with leftovers (include a marker for labeling). A gallon of milk and a box of cheerios will help with little ones.
Amy Dec 10, 2018 10:41am
My mom passed away recently and we were coming and going to the hospital. Meals were offered, but we all had different dietary restrictions. What we asked for that helped us the most was healthy snacks that we could take to go. Cuties, apples, nuts, and muffins were favorites.
Jayne Dec 09, 2018 1:27pm
When a parent is the one affected, the kids sometimes get lost in it all. Offer to take kids for a bit so partners can have special time together. Transport, attend, support the kids activities if neither parent can make it. Stay with the ill parent so the other may spend time with or attend the kids activities. Offer to video and photo so the ill parent may share in activities, even if not immediately.
Margaret flowers Dec 08, 2018 12:11pm
I have just come through such a crisis. I found the pudding packs and fruit cups are nice and I could put in the basket of my Walker without spilling.
I Bryan Dec 06, 2018 4:32pm
I take paper goods, paper plates, cups, napkins, plastic flatware, zip loc bags (for storing leftovers), paper towels, garbage bags, and yes, even toilet paper to ease their burden of doing dishes or having to run to the store for needed items.
Joyce Hayden Dec 06, 2018 3:29am
Gasoline cards. Sometimes all the travel to doctors just wreaks havoc with the budget.
VDavis Nov 30, 2018 3:36pm
Thank you it will come in handy for the next time!😇
Sue & Dan Lord Nov 26, 2018 6:55pm
A few hours of lite cleaning and doing some laundry. Changing the bed linens and bathroom towels.
Annye Nov 23, 2018 7:41am
Send them a housecleaning service for a single clean. It is especially helpful before a holiday or a sad occasion.
Nancy Hart Nov 22, 2018 9:57am
Writing in his journal and getting feedback/support have been crucial to my husband's ability to deal with his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Weekly meals have helped so much, and gift cards have been a plus. People taking our daughter on outings has been great for all of us. I don't feel like she's missing everything. Despite my experience, I have been tempted to ask others on our situation if there's anything I can do... It's hard not to say it! Instead, if you can't offer a specific task, offer to call if it's ok, or otherwise check in. Written notes or cards are wonderful, but texts or emails are also nice.
Janice Heine Nov 19, 2018 5:32pm
I have found that paper products are nice...paper plates, napkins, facial tissues, bathroom tissue, paper towels, etc.
Anne Nov 18, 2018 8:57pm
During my cancer treatment, some friends showed up with freezer-to-crockpot meals. No planning ahead to thaw, just throw the Frozen clock on the crock in the morning and a tummy meal was ready by dinner time. They included packages of Uncle Ben's precooked rice, nice because it didn't need to take up space in the refrigerator and only takes 90 seconds in the microwave. Also helpful was when someone would come and do a couple loads of laundry.
Charlotte Nov 17, 2018 7:03am
When my sister was spending a lot of time in the hospital due to cancer, friends gave us gift cards and money for buying food and parking. We found that very helpful. Later when my sister was on hospice care, friends would come stay with her for an hour or two so my parents could get out of the house, whether to grocery shop or enjoy a meal out. I found during that time they wanted to go to restaurants very close by. They didn't want to be away more than an hour or so, not knowing what would happen with my sister.
Jan Tucker Nov 17, 2018 6:51am
The “Meal Train” app and program saved my husband and me from starving last year! .Due to a freak accident, I broke both bones in my right fore arm in 7 places, had 3 surgeries and a steel plate inserted! Literally could not even brush my teeth or open a can of soup! ( yes I’m right handed). My friends signed up to being us meals twice a week for 6 weeeks..what a God send this program and my friends were!
Deb Nov 14, 2018 7:36pm
One thing I received during my 2 years of treatment for cancer was a themed gift bag. I received a “sunshine” bag - yellow bag with all yellow items. I was given a highlighter for when I was doing research, a yellow notepad, a pair of slippers, a yellow candle with a flowery scent: add anything you can think of. I also received an “I love you” bag with Hershey’s kisses and hugs (kids LOVED that part), a pr of fuzzy socks with hearts, and other odds and ends. I’ve now gifted this several times and it’s so much fun to do. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to put a smile on someone’s face!
Celeste Ruebl Nov 13, 2018 7:27pm
During my cancer journey, the connections with family and friends through comments on CaringBridge, phone calls, emails, greeting cards has helped me heal the most. Knowing that so many are thinking of me and praying for me has been extremely powerful. When I was still in the hospital, some couples came to visit; the gals stayed with me and the guys took my husband out for a burger and some beers. Giving a break to the primary caregiver is very much appreciated! There have been gift cards for groceries, restaurants, gas, book stores, and massages. I couldn't drive for awhile so friends would take me to my hair appointment and the library. Some stopped by with coffee and a visit. All the love and kindness has been the best medicine ever.
Jane williams Nov 13, 2018 1:28pm
And health crisis could also be emotional or mental health. I live in rural county where garbage pickup is unavailable. I Have a friend whose husband was dying of brain tumor and bed bound. I rented her a small dumpster to help with not just garbage but bed pads, etc. she’s mentioned many times how it was probably the most thoughtful “gift” she received.
Joy Nov 13, 2018 12:20am
Sounds silly, but oh so awesome: wash the sheets and M as ke up fresh beds, Aldo launder the sneakers in the house
Cathy Nov 12, 2018 11:59am
If there are extra people in and out of the home, consider dropping off paper products. A bag of paper towels or toilet paper, paper plates and paper bowls. Anything you might use to make daily life easier. If there are young children, disposable diapers and wipes is one less thing for the family to keep up with.
Jan Nov 12, 2018 6:24am
Drop off a basket of paper products....toilet paper, trash bags, paper plates, napkins, Kleenex, paper cups
Julie Nov 11, 2018 10:17pm
I recently was on the receiving end of a meal train while visiting my sister who is ill. While we very much appreciate it all the donations, much of the food was tomato-based such as lasagna and spaghetti. They didn’t always set while on her stomach. I realize everyone’s “comfort food “ is different, but a chicken pot pie from Costco really hit the mark for her. Not spicy but still very flavorful and easy to warm leftovers in the microwave
Becky Wilson Nov 10, 2018 10:59pm
Food! Sandwich fixings, a cooler to keep them, snacks, drinks, Reiki massages, all prayers. Stamps were a wonderful gift after my Mom passed, for thank you notes!
N Dague Nov 10, 2018 10:36pm
Run errands, do grocery shopping, pick up RX, or give ride to appts.
Trish Weis Nov 09, 2018 5:24pm
I have hosted a ‘pampering party’ / ‘pink ribbon shower’ 2 different times for loved ones w breast cancer. Pulled together quickly, prior to their surgeries, to gather the live & encouragement of their women tribe in one place. Served cosmos, snacks & showered the newly diagnosed with lotions, gift certificates, blankness, pjs, mani/pedi appointments, journals, etc. ! It was a touching celebration of tender friendships each time!
Marcy Nov 09, 2018 5:17pm
When it's on chemo, friends would come over and clean bathrooms, floors, Kitchen and dust every other week. It was awesome They also made sandwiches I could freeze and brought individually wrapped snacks, chips and drinks for my kids lunch each week.
Di Robb Nov 08, 2018 11:32am
You don't know me yet. I am new at Grace Community Church in Hillsboro. I choose to be praying for you and your family often. I hope to attend the Food Truck Fundraiser on Nov. 18th in Hillsboro. I think it's ok to not be ok once in a while. Jesus notices every little thing and is working to make things better. He loves you and your family so. There are a lot of people at my new church that love you too. The picture in our directory of you and your family is beautiful! I plan to meet you all face to face real soon.
Susan Wansbrough Nov 06, 2018 6:51am
Bring a few DVDs and let the “patient” choose one you can watch together. The caregiver can watch, too, or use the time to get out of the house for errands, a couple hours respite, or both. DVDs provide companionship without either the patient or visitor having to come up with small talk for two hours.
Barbara King Nov 02, 2018 10:21am
Instant oatmeal pack with variety flavors, water, dry roasted nuts if no peanut allgeries-makes a great protein snack, good quality tissues, plastic silverware-just toss don't have to wash, pack of Jello with fruit, puddings, cinnamon applesauce, g off cards for grocery store( great if they have a deli) favorite restaurant
Bobbie Murphy Lyon Oct 12, 2018 8:30am
My husband's best friend would visit him at home. They would talk and laugh while I did housework. Hearing them made me feel relaxed and cheerful.
MOM Oct 07, 2018 8:04pm
C.J. Pete Pedersen Aug 25, 2018 3:27am
The thoughts than run through my head about CARING BRIDGE, simply enforce the healing process for one's motivation for recovering. The personality of a person caring too share with another; is truly a reflection n of love for one another. I know; just sitting here at 4 am in the morning and making this journal entry makes me feel better to know someone else can use it maybe no w or later. God Speed Pete
Maureen Biggar Jun 06, 2018 1:31pm
Call ahead to stop by for a visit. Then bring a warm meal; chicken noodle soup and corn bread is a good start. Be prepared with pen & paper to find out what tasks are needed: appt times that you could drive them, food preferences, car wash, oil change, car repairs, house cleaning, window washing, laundry, grocery shopping, a meal out, painting, hedge cutting, lawn mowing, shoveling, garden planting, tending, harvesting, errands. Ask them what THEY would like done first, then be there once a week continuously rather than just one time. Bring your own tools & cleaning supplies so they don't have to scrounge around for them. If they only want a cup of coffee, to visit & reminisce or have you read to them, go through old family photos, that's okay too. If they want to discuss end of life issues, will or estate planning, what they want for funeral prep, their obituary, listen & write and contact family with this info. If you can't do all of what's needed, collect a pool of willing people to rotate helping & call them yourself to organize and maintain a regular caring chain. This is what friendship is about. Schedule time in your day to pray for them, write little encouraging notes ( not just email or text; REAL NOTES THAT YOU MAIL-Everyone likes snail mail that is not an ad or a bill). Organize a card shower. Surprise them with a balloon bouquet or a fruit bouquet/basket, a sweater, bed jacket, lap quilt, new slippers, a music CD, carpet shampoo gift certificate, babysitter for a meal out or even an overnight repreave, a foot massage or pedicure. Soo many ways to be a friend: use your imagination, then carve out the time & DO IT. Don't wait for others to take up the slack. I admit that I am better at suggesting than doing, but these are things that I have appreciated in my own life, so I offer them as suggestions. God bless you.
Inga Carmack Mar 27, 2018 1:37pm
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a couple of well wishers sent me headcovers and a wig. I had not even thought about planning that far ahead but it was a very good idea to do so. Their foresight was very helpful.
Adrienne Courtois Mar 18, 2018 12:49am
This is great thank you
Deb Macks Mar 14, 2018 2:47pm
I have a couple of friends that just say ‘I’m coming over to clean your house.’ One has a key and will just come and doit while I’m at work. That helps a lot, especially when my energy is really low.
bj Mar 08, 2018 8:09am
re: Providing Meals Best advice I've seen! Multiple allergens and thoughtless packaging (glass/ceramic casseroles, etc) made it impossible for me and my family to eat what well-meaning people brought to our house. Such a waste of time and effort. Thank you for giving sound advice.
Cindy Mar 03, 2018 2:45pm
When the sick person or care giver asks you to do something, say yes. Following up on a "let me know what I can" offer, I asked a friend to change the batteries in the smoke detectors. It very quickly turned into her asking me to make a honey do list that could be tackled. Honestly, I didn't have the time or energy two weeks after my husband died, I just needed the batteries changed. I asked someone else who arrived with batteries in hand.
Suzette Feb 22, 2018 1:00pm
Matt, I'm praying for you and your family. Thanks for your book suggestion.
barbara Loh Feb 10, 2018 1:48pm
Offer to run errands. post office, dry cleaners, drug store grocery store, etc.
Keith Feb 07, 2018 12:53pm
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago, and our support system of friends has been nothing short of wonderful. Yes, meals help. Sometimes we do run out of space in our refrigerator and freezer. Several people brought us restaurant gift cards that we can use for takeout. That has been so helpful, as well. I would say the most important thing is to keep in contact. Everyone has said ‘call us if you need us.’ And they mean it. But my wife and I are just not up to calling people and asking for help out of the blue, except for emergencies. That’s why our friends text us, call us, and email us with specific offers. Simply texting support helps more than they know. Be adaptable to their needs and philosophical/religious beliefs. Some people find great comfort in religion, while others do not. Emily McDowell created some very appropriate cards (available on the internet) that word things well for cancer patients who are not religious. Though religious or predestination justification of the cancer may be very well-intentioned, some may not be comforted by comments like “everything happens for a reason,” or “this is part of God’s plan.” Also though various supportive comments are helpful, be careful not to word them in such a way that seem to dismiss the difficulty of chemotherapy or our very realistic fears that cancer could one day take my wife from me. Be very well aware of your own health. If you suspect you have a cold, please do not make meals or come over. Chemotherapy crushes one’s immune system. That also means, as her caregiver, my getting an infectious illness is the next worst thing to happen. Finally, be adaptable to our mood changes. There are days we go to work, when we’re happy to provide updates to well-meaning enquirers. But there are also times when we just don’t have the emotional energy to talk about it. Please respect our space when we ask for it. Most people are really good about that. But a few just don’t seem to have a lot of tact. “Check out our CaringBridge site” is the best answer for those who are constantly wanting more information, even when you just don’t feel like giving it at that moment.
Kathy Smith Feb 07, 2018 10:57am
Contacting me and saying your grass will be cut indefinitely. Don’t worry about it. Also saying can I take Kirk to one of his appointments this week. What day is good? Or let us make arrangements to take him this week and you take care of things at home. Then contacting me and telling me who is driving him what days. It was often very early appointments and living fifty miles away and with Atlanta traffic that was a huge gift. Just people taking charge (with my permission) and getting things done and giving me a desperately needed break. Huge.
Annette Feb 07, 2018 12:43am
As well as posting comments to Caring Bridge or writing emails, a friend who's been very ill has enjoyed simply having me call her on the phone now and then, and have short (short is important) chats with her to ask how she is doing. There's something about hearing the human voice that remains quite powerful. Also, she has appreciated rides offered by myself and other friends to doctor appointments or, when she started feeling better, to class which we both attend.
Thea Spatz Feb 06, 2018 6:35pm
When I started chemotherapy, a friend showed up with disinfectant hand sprays and wipes, and paper towels to be used instead of hand towels for the bath rooms and kitchen towels plus a couple of boxes of tissues. Oh, yes, germ patrol! Another friend left items at our door. There were notes, quotes and other items that made us smile when we found them.
Merthi Keeney Jan 30, 2018 6:50pm
Other helpful things could be Vacuuming, doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom. or store runs. Good article.
jk Jan 28, 2018 7:25pm
I have Stage IV breast cancer, which means that the cancer has spread to other parts of my body. In my case, to the lymph nodes, a small bump near my clavicle and a small spot behind my lung and chest plate. One of the MOST CRUCIAL things is that there is NO ONE one my team that knows ANYTHING about nutrition and how to get my immune system up and running! I talked to the nutritionist at the hospital (in her late 70s, about to retire) and when I asked about what I should do with my diet to help my immune system, she printed out a paper from the American Cancer Society - at least half of the foods were foods that would cause inflammation and feed the cancer and NOTHING that talked about eating ORGANIC. GMO foods have been proven, through research, to cause cancer and a myriad of diseases. (The research, requested by Monsanto, was done in England in the 80s. The doctor in charge of the research did NOT know that it was a secret research and talked about his findings at a seminar where he was speaking. His wife called him after the seminar and told him that the company that he worked for had sent people over to their home and confiscated all of his research and all of their computers - and that he had been FIRED! He had not been told that his finding were to kept secret. He honestly thought that Monsanto wanted to know the information so that they did not harm the people in the United States. No! Monsanto then planted GMO crops here so that we could become ill and need their pharmaceuticals and become RICH.) The importance of eating organic should be at the TOP of the list of things to do - for anyone with an illness, especially if that person has cancer. The synthetic pesticides are cancer causing as well. So, even if a plant is non-gmo, it can still be, and probably is being sprayed with chemicals that will cause cancer. No amount of washing can get rid of this, it has penetrated the food itself. GMO means genetically modified organism. It means that two of the sugar molecules have been spliced together to create a poison. This makes the plant undesirable to insects that might plague the plants. It also makes it poison to us humans. There are MANY kinds of alternative therapies to cure cancer. Just go to YouTube and look at The Truth About Cancer. You will be amazed!! Hypothermia clinics (using heat treatments and low dose radiation, can cure people in about 4-7 sessions. Price is prohibitive $1400/session, if you are on Medicare it is MUCH CHEAPER as Medicare has to pay for your drugs, not sell you drugs. So, it is in their best interest to cure you. The hypothermia clinic in the Los Angeles area told me that if I was on Medicare the cost would be 20% of what Medicare would allow. They would not tell me how much that was, but I know it was NOT $1400. So, let's say it was $800. That would be $160/session. Now that IS doable! And you do NOT have to be 65 to get Medicare. You can get on Medicare if you have a life threatening illness. It takes about two years, maybe less with a special attorney. You can be Dr. Veronique Desaulniers cured her breast cancer with black paste. She is also on YouTube. She even has a video that is pictures of her applying the black paste over the course of 45 days. The cancer tumor was about the size of a golf ball. She said that black paste, which has been used for hundreds of years, draws out the bad stuff in the body - and this can be painful. She said that hers was very painful - and should only be used as a last resort. She was under care of a doctor who prescribed pain medication for her. The pictures are not at all graphic, but they are very informative.
Lesley (the wife!!!!) Jan 18, 2018 10:16pm
David was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus on Dec. 7, 2017. He began his Treatments today, 1/18/18. He will have Chemo one day a week for six weeks and Radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks. He had his first treatments today. His Chemo didn't bother him at all so far!!! and he fell asleep during the Radiation!?!?!?! Thank you for your caring and support. We appreciate all the prayers and support!
Kathleen Kenworthy Jan 15, 2018 6:19pm
I have stage IV breast cancer and right now I am physically doing pretty well. I was diagnosed about six months and during the initial phase a friend set up a Meal Train which was extremely helpful for my husband and me. What I find most helpful right now is when friends and family let me know they are thinking of me with a card, text, call, email. And I appreciate the comments on Caring Bridge when I post. Feeling forgotten by a few friends is very painful. Don’t wait for your ill friend or family member to ask for help - just get in there and do something! The sick person does not have the mental energy to orchestrate what to do. And keep in touch, that kind of support is extremely helpful to me. Be empathetic and think what you would like if it happened to you and then do it! I am extremely grateful for love and support I have received.