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How to Offer Help to Families Facing Medical Challenges

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“Do you need anything?”

It is common to offer to help others. Someone you know is ill, had a death in the family, an injury, and many of us naturally want to help. Here’s an example: My husband, who has chronic illnesses, was in the hospital recently. It was just an overnight stay, but I had multiple people ask, “Do you need anything?” I don’t like to put people out, nor do I want people to go out of their way to help me. There were things that would have helped me, but I wouldn’t ask. Yes, it is a flaw of mine, but I’ve found many people think this way.

I’ve found the best way to help people is not to ask if they need anything, but to say what you are willing to do to help them. Be specific; say, “I’m going to bring you dinner, which night would be best?” or “I’m going to the store. Can I pick you up some bread, milk or anything else?” These statements can tell the person you are offering to help that you plan to help and they are not putting you out to do so. If they don’t need bread or milk, they may say an item or two they would need picked up. They are probably less likely to come right out and say to you, “Can you go to the store and get me…” or “Will you bring me dinner?” Think of what you are willing to do, or something that would be helpful to you if the roles were reversed, and offer to do specifically that.

After my husband’s hospital stay, I was playing catch up. It was a few days before school started for the kids, and we were in the middle of an unexpected bathroom remodel. I was unbelievably busy! My neighbor stopped by and brought us dinner. She had not asked me if we needed anything; I would have said no anyway. She just said, “I know you are busy, and with his hospital stay I figured you could use a break from cooking.” She was right! I did need the break. It was such a blessing to have dinner made. That can be a great way to help someone. It would have been so helpful if someone picked my kids up from the hospital and taken them home. I could have stayed longer with my husband. I was not about to ask anyone to go out of their way to come up to the hospital to pick up my children. However, if someone had said, “Can I take your kids anywhere?” or “Can I pick up your kids for you?” I would have said, “Yes, can you take them home for me?”

After hearing about my husband, one sweet lady, who I don’t know all that well, contacted me. She wanted to help! She offered to have my youngest (our boys know each other) over to play, take him somewhere if I needed that, and she offered to help with my husband’s eating issues. She gave him gift cards to get smoothies when he wasn’t able to eat from the pain. This way, he would possibly be able to drink a smoothie and get some nutrition. That was a very specific way she offered to help. I would have never known to ask for that. We appreciate it more than I think she even realizes.

Next time you are tempted to say “Need anything?” ask yourself, “How specifically can I offer to help?” You may have the best intentions and really want to help, but people often say they don’t need anything. They just may not know how to answer that question. Be intentional with your offer. Don’t let your help go to waste!

Image via Contributor.

A version of this post originally appeared on Dad Has a Headache.

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Originally published: November 22, 2016
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