On Tuesday, we talked about how you can ask for help when you need it. But today, we’d like to come from the “helper’s” perspective and offer some suggestions on how to offer help.
If someone you love is in cancer treatment, offer to help them get organized. Email is a convenient, inexpensive way to keep in touch with friends and family. You can even create a web page or start a blog with updates and jobs that need to be done. Two popular options are Care Pages or Caring Bridge.
Many people find it incredibly helpful if you set up a dinner schedule and then manage it. There are even tools online to help with this. Ask how many meals a week will be needed. Often only two or three meals a week is a great help.
Offer to be the point person for phone calls: let friends and relatives call you with offers of help or for updates. Or offer to be in charge of transportation and arrange rides to treatments and doctors’ appointments.
Taking on these jobs is so great for the person in treatment. You’ve taken away one or more worries they no longer have to worry aboout! That’ll make you feel good, too.
Don’t forget the kids
Kids don’t understand cancer. They don’t like it when one of their parents is sick. You might want to offer to find a family therapist for the family to help the kids understand and cope with what’s going on. The advice you will get will probably include keeping your children’s lives as normal as possible. This means offering to take the kids to their usual activities, and providing extra playdates for them.
Keeping the family routines as normal as possible is reassuring to children. All the support and attention from friends and family during this family emergency also reassures them. Remember little things are great helps, too… Like helping with homework, or showing up to cheer at games and concerts.
Bald is beautiful
Most people who have chemotherapy lose their hair. Some even lose their hair from radiation treatment. One of the most upsetting things about cancer treatment is going bald. You can help by suggesting a hat-buying expedition, or by hosting a hat and scarf shower.
Offer to take someone in treatment to SCCA’s Shine specialty store in the South Lake Union neighborhood. They offer complementary head shaves and have beautiful wigs, hats, scarves, and all kinds of things to help everyone feel better by looking their best.
Help with paperwork
When the medical bills and insurance statements start coming in the mail, one incredibly helpful thing to do is offer to keep it all organized. There undoubtedly will be statements that arrive stating your patient friend owes thousands of dollars that the insurance company is not going to pay. These might actually be billing errors! In which case, offering to make phone calls and write letters to the insurance company and the healthcare providers to straighten it out will be helpful beyond measure. When somene is going through cancer treatment, they have little energy to deal with the complexities of our medical system.
If you’re a friend who has bookkeeping skills, take over the insurance paperwork. It will be an incredible gift to someone in cancer treatment. If you’re not a bookkeeper, consider helping your friend find someone who can help. Often people from work or church will step up to offer low-cost help, if not completely free help.
By hiring an insurance claims processor, a professional in this field who can really help, it may cost about $25 an hour but in the long run will offer all kinds of cost savings. You can expect these professionals to sort the paperwork and match statements from providers with explanations of benefits from the insurance company. They will fill out forms, send them in when necessary, check for errors, and make sure nothing has been duplicated. Deductible calculations can be tricky, and even insurance companies make mistakes. A hired professional can help by asking the insurance company to correct errors and recalculate payments to the doctors and the hospital.
In all actuality, the claims processor should contact all of your healthcare providers to establish a contact with each one, track correspondance and claims, and follow-up regularly with them. The processor will provide a list of bills to pay, complete with addressed, stamped envelopes, and a clear, brief status report.
Leave time for fun
While you’re busy helping with doctor’s appointments, housework, and bill paying, don’t forget to offer some fun things to do, too. Take them to the beach, a farmer’s market, or on a ferry ride. Read poetry to them. See a movie. Get your nails done. Visit a gallery. Listen to music. Enjoy the normal everyday fun things about life… Pretend cancer treatment is someone else’s problem for a few hours or a day.
Visit our website for more information about helping others going through cancer treatment. And don’t forget to take time to take care of yourself so that you can continue to support your friend or loved one to the best of your ability.