Articles for Our Patients ~ Anna Pavlov, PhD

Who Doesn't Need an Extra Hand

Author: Anna Pavlov, PhD • Language: ENG

I recently learned about a community resource that I wanted to share with you. It’s a web-based service called “Lotsa Helping Hands.” I know first hand how confusing and overwhelming (both physically and
emotionally) it can be when a loved one is ill or recovering from an illness and needs help. Family members and friends want to help and offer support but may not know exactly how to do that, what’s needed and/or how to coordinate timing so that duplication does not occur. At the same time, patients and family caregivers may have difficulty asking for help. As families may be a distance away or involved with their own challenges, community centers and religious communities have come to serve as one’s primary social support network. Many of these community members may want to lend an extra hand.
Patient needs vary greatly. However, one thing is certain: A patient undergoing cancer treatment will need transportation to multiple doctor/treatment appointments. Even if there are several people available to provide it, rides need to be coordinated for different days and times. The same is true for meals and other tasks of daily living.
Planning and organizing is typically done by one caregiver, sometimes two, and can feel like a part-time job. Keeping in touch with well-wishers, both near and far is also time-consuming and often exhausting when emotional reserves are stretched. What if there was a way to coordinate care and keep friends and family updated on the patient’s situation? Remarkably, Lotsa Helping Hands does just that.  
According to their website at, “in literally minutes,” a “Coordinator” can create, free-of-charge, a private and secure Lotsa Helping Hands web community, define volunteer activities using the supplied templates, and begin inviting members of the community. Through an intuitive interface that requires no training, volunteers can then easily view and sign up for any number of available tasks, review their current commitments, and be confident that they won’t forget any assignment as the system automatically sends out email reminders of upcoming obligations. Community members also have access to the community’s private message boards, photo galleries, and resource sections for sharing relevant web links and documents. There is even a Well Wishes wall.
The coordinator referenced above can be anyone in the patient’s life who takes the initiative to create the community via the web and then provide periodic updates. The lead coordinator adds members and can designate other members as coordinators and defines the volunteer activities needed. Coordinators are most likely to be the people who would otherwise be arranging these same activities by hand with lots of email and phone tag.                            
If you’re like me and sometimes computer-challenged, you may wonder how you can take advantage of this resource. Yet most of us have someone around who is skilled with computers and using web programs that we may call on. Assistance is also available from the site.  
While “Lotsa Helping Hands” is ideal for patients undergoing cancer treatment and recovery, the organization can help in other medical situations such as a complicated pregnancy requiring weeks or months of
bed rest. For more information, visit   
Thanks to Dr. Emily Culpepper for telling me about this creative and useful resource.
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