What Should I Say When Family and Friends Want To Help?

Question: What should I say when family and friends want to help?

Answer: It's easy to become overwhelmed at first particularly by the support that family and friends will offer. Visitors can be parading through your house at an increasingly frequent rate and actually turn into a stressor, rather than a support.

I think it's important to designate someone in the family as the gatekeeper. What I mean by that is that to assign one person the responsibility for assigning tasks to those who can help. And these tasks can range from the mundane to the more critical. And, indeed, all tasks are important at this point: Who will pick up a child after school? Who will do the shopping this week? Who can pick up the dry cleaning? All of those are important characteristics of helping.

Having a person designated to keep track of these things is critical, and it's also important that it not be the patient. The patient has other things to worry about and focus on at this point. And if you can designate a gatekeeper to assign tasks and to give people the feeling that they're participating in the care and helping in some way, that goes a long way toward smoothing the process and involving all members of the family in this common goal.

Michael Zevon, MDPlay

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