You don't have to be a medical expert to help your loved one going through leukemia. Here are some things you can do to provide support. It's the simple gesture that can make the greatest difference in someone's recovery. Do you know a family dealing with leukemia who you'd like to help? We have lots of suggestions for things you can offer to do for the patient and/or family, especially when the patient is an adult.
- Offer transportation to the patient if they are being treated as an out-patient as treatments can be tiring and patients often can't drive themselves. Sometimes family members can't take much time off work without losing salary to take a patient for treatments.
- Offer to organize a - “transportation pool” - setting up a schedule of who will drive when, so the family knows it will be handled. This is one less detail they have to worry about.
- Provide child care for other children at home when needed. Offer to call other friends of the family and organize a child care schedule.
- If other children are at home, offer to drive them to lessons, sports events, or other activities they usually go to, so that they don't miss out on their usual routines.
- Offer to go grocery shopping for the family, clean the house, do laundry, mow the lawn, take care of pets, or any of the numerous small things that are associated with running a household.
- Prepare meals for the family; whether you freeze them so the family has a convenient 'heat-'em-and-eat-'em" meal, or deliver them hot and ready to eat is always appreciated.
- Offer to run errands for the family.
- If the patient is in the hospital for any length of time, and the adult(s) in the house spend long days with him/her, pack a lunch or healthy snack for the adult.
- When appropriate, offer to drive children to the hospital to visit the patient.
- Organize a fund-raising event to help the family pay expenses not covered by insurance, or to compensate for lost income.
- Conduct research for the family to find other sources of financial assistance.
- Offer to organize a home 'wash-down' before the patient comes home from the hospital, following guidelines set by the hospital medical team. This will ensure a clean and safe environment.
- Find out what kinds of gifts the hospital will allow the patient to receive so you can ensure friends and family are sending the patient something special on a regular basis.
- Make a video with friends and family, in which everyone records a special message for the patient; deliver it to the family or directly to the patient, if allowed.
- Offer to set up a - “patient up-date” - web site or through social media (facebook/twitter) phone tree so the family has to contact only one person, rather than several, to keep everyone informed of the patient's progress.
- When appropriate, do something special for the spouse/partner of the patient to help him/her reduce stress. For example, take him/her out to dinner, arrange for a massage, or take an hour and go for a long walk outdoors.
Hearing the diagnosis that you or a loved one has leukemia can be devastating, and dealing well with the emotional aspect of the disease is an important aspect of treatment. Patients and families frequently feel that the only ones who understand what they are going through are those who have 'walked in their shoes.'
At The Rob Branham Foundation, we believe there are some basic steps everyone should take to deal with the emotional aspects of leukemia:
- Find someone who is in the same 'role' you are in to talk to: if you are the patient, find another patient who has the same type of leukemia yo have, or is undergoing the same type of treatment. If you are the spouse of the patient, find another spouse (preferably of the same gender, since wives and husbands often face different issues). If you are the child of a patient, get connected with another patient's child who is approximately the same age as you are.
- Don't be hesitant to ask questions of the doctor or medical team providing treatment....knowing the answers is the first step to dealing with issues that are frightening or confusing. Make lists of questions, and find out how, where, and when you can contact them. (Need some help with questions? Click here!)
- Find an outlet for your frustrations, fears, and other emotions. Talking is one such outlet, as is physical exercise or finding something positive to do that will help you confront and conquer the emotions.
- When people ask what they can do to help, tell them. Take advantage of the support network that can be developed. When friends or family members say "Call me if you need me," call them and tell them exactly what you need. This is the best way to find out to what degree people are ready and able to support you.