Saturday, July 16, 2011

How to Respond when you learn that someone is ill or injured


                                                   Updated September 2016

At a party in July 2011, a group of us were talking about gift cards and how we used them. I was saying about how helpful they were when someone was sick or injured. One of the women said, “can you put this in writing and e-mail it around? This is something we all experience at some time or another.” So below is my response to that request that I continue to update. Please note that if you are the person responsible for someone who is injured/ill, there is a special post for such situations at  When You’re Responsible for Someone Who has been Injured or Diagnosed.


Gift Cards: If someone has been newly diagnosed with a very serious illness or is injured, this can be a difficult time for the person and those closest to them. Whether they are a close friend, a work colleague,  a friend’s parent or sibling, or even a neighbor, sending a card with a gift card enclosed is very helpful. You don’t have to write an elaborate note. Just saying “thinking of you” with the gift card speaks volumes. As one person at the party pointed out,  “cash can just get spent so quickly, that it’s sometimes better to give a gift card for something you know they’re going to need.”

Types of Gift Cards to Enclose:
• Gas: Traveling back and forth for hospital visits, doctor’s appointments etc. can be very costly.

• Local Pharmacy: Most likely medications and other items will be needed.

• Food Store: People do have different tastes, so giving them a card for their local grocery store lets them make the choice. Besides, many stores have “to go” departments.

• Restaurants: Select ones that the person likes, they can access easily and have a “to go” menu.

• Master/Visa Cards: You can purchase these type of cards for selected amounts.

Please be advised that gift card fraud is on the rise so be sure to purchase them from a reputable dealer. For other safety tips, go to Gift Cards Safety.

Helping out at Home: There are many things you can do to help out at home. Saying “call me if you need me” isn’t sufficient. People can be very overwhelmed so provide specifics of what you can do and when. There are a variety of these types of tasks that can be done, such as
- mow the lawn, tend the garden, stack wood and other yard work and outdoor chores
- plow the drive and walk after a snow
- clean the house
- household repairs
- take out garbage, recycling
- childcare/elder care
- transportation-driving kids to school, hospital etc.
- run errands
- pick up mail and the newspaper
- laundry
- keep an eye on the house

Keep in mind there are cleaning services and a gift certificate might be appropriate.

When it’s a work colleague: If this is someone you work with, in addition to the various suggestions in this post, consider donating vacation and leave time to help offset the time they are missing at work.

Unique Situations: Certain situations have unique requests, such as donating blood or signing up as a bone marrow donor. You may not be in a position to donate, but you can help make donations possible, by helping to organize blood and donor drives, providing transportation to those who need rides and/or making food for the events.

Finding Out How They are Doing: Then there is the question of stopping by, calling or e-mailing to find out how the person is doing. There are no rules on this score, but everyone seems to have an opinion about it. Some people want to be left alone, and for others, they gain support from each person that calls or stops by. What you may think you would want in a particular situation may not be right for them. Use your best judgment. You can try contacting people closer to the situation than you are and ask if they are taking phone calls or want visitors.

Organize a Response: One of the most helpful things a community can do in these situations is organize their response. This can now be done for free and quite simply by creating a Lotsa Helping Hands website. With the approval of the family and/or person injured or ill, a site can be established very quickly, ?” Lotsa Helping Hands is a private, web-based caregiving coordination service that allows family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to create a community to assist a family caregiver with the daily tasks that become a challenge during times of medical crisis, caregiver exhaustion, or when caring for an elderly parent. Each community includes an intuitive group calendar for scheduling tasks such as meals delivery and rides, a platform for securely sharing vital medical, financial, and legal information with designated family members, and customizable sections for posting photos, well wishes, blogs, journals, and messages. 

For the person who is injured/ill: Check out Unique Gifts for Hospitalized Patients. 

Learn more ways to help:  If you are a good friend or family member, learn more about what the person(s) directly responsible for the person who is ill/injured needs to do- WhenYou’re Responsible for Someone Who has been Injured or Diagnosed and don't ignore the financial strain brought about by the event-In Lieu of Flowers: Help with Finances Please!

Be realistic in your expectations: This is an extremely stressful time, so don't expect thank you notes, cards etc.

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