Call me if you need anything
When I was first diagnosed with ALS, I had an influx of “call me if you need anything” offers. I took these as genuine offers because I extended these words many times to people who have had babies, illnesses, loss of a family member or other hardships. But when I received these offers, I was so overwhelmed I had not a clue what I needed and I usually didn’t know what gift or support the person could offer. Lots of offers of service and help come shortly after diagnosis, but the need becomes even greater each day as the disease progresses. Over the last 27 months, we have been fortunate to have people put their faith into action sharing gifts and talents, and lifting burdens to continue to support our family. Whether you are near or far, know the family or not, I created a list of support ideas that people can offer for ALS patients more specific than, “call me if you need anything” — and I’m sure many of these apply to other illnesses as well.
1. Offer to bring a meal, or organize a meal schedule.
2. If you have a specialized trade to share (photography, haircuts, electric, home repair), offer your service when needed. Add “feel free to take me up on this offer when you’re ready.”
3. If you’re a near neighbor, send a text the next time you’re at Kroger, Sam’s, Costco, Target, to see if they have any needs.
4. Hire a housekeeper to help clean the home. (This is a great gift for a group of friends to go in together.)
5. Send a quick hello text and offer to help on a weekly basis.
6. Offer a ride to doctors appointments. ( It gave me something to look forward to rather than dread.) Be willing to take the handicapped van!
7. Offer to take them out for coffee, or bring a coffeehouse visit to the home.
8. Send a masseuse to the home for a gift massage.
9. Send a flower delivery. It’s nice for a patient to enjoy the flowers while we’re living.
10. If you have a book you want the patient to read, don’t give them the title, just order it and send it. Better yet if their arms don’t work, buy the audio version.
11. Order take out and have it delivered. Or send them a gift card to a nearby restaurant for easy take out.
12. Let them know you want to be on their on-call list for emergencies, and mean it. ALS emergencies happen with no warning.
13. Offer to take your male or female friend out for a manicure or pedicure, considering he or she can’t maintain their own nails anymore. If the patient can’t go out, provide an in-home simple manicure and/or pedicure.
14. Help the family pack for travel or help pack the kids for camp.
15. If you have sky mile points to share, help subsidize the cost of travel for medical visits or family trips.
16. Offer to be the point person to help manage care and visitors.
17. If you have a talent to decorate, offer to wrap up any loose ends.
18. Offer to help with yard work, trimming bushes, raking leaves, pulling weeds, planting flowers, offer to grow a garden, or help maintain an existing garden.
19. Offer to sift through and sort emails, return text messages and update Facebook. These daily tasks we take for granted become challenging or impossible when your hands are weak or don’t work at all.
20. If you can, contribute to medical expenses, or better yet, set up a fund raiser. Unfortunately, most ALS patients need a medical fund because of the unrealistic medical expenses that come along with an ALS diagnosis and are not covered by insurance.
21. Gift a fun and cozy blanket. (Matilda Jane😊)
22. Gift a fun or cute hat or hair accessory. Not being able to wash your own hair means it usually needs to be covered or pulled back.
23. If the patient can still swallow bring them smoothies from the juice bar, or milk shakes. Eating becomes exhausting and eventually dangerous. Losing weight is detrimental.
24. If you are a close friend, offer to help with laundry or dishes.
25. If you have a talent of organizing, offer to come help organize a closet, room or cabinet. When an ALS patient is no longer able to use their arms, looking at cluttered messes can be overwhelming.
26. Plow the driveway and sidewalk when it snows.
27. Offer to help decorate and take down for Christmas or other change of season decor.
28. If you have a connection to help make a memory for the family, help set up that memorable experience. (Hot air ballon ride, inside connection to Santa Claus, concert tickets, share a vacation home).
29. If the patient is homebound, offer to bring communion to the home.
30. If you have a resource, idea, or product that could help the family, don’t just think about it, execute it.
31. If you have a favorite of something you love, send one to your friend (cookies, candy, chap stick, dry shampoo).
32. If the patient’s immune system is compromised, send a delivery of hand soap and hand sanitizer.
33. Offer to help with any home remodeling projects that will help the patient transition into their home.
34. Offer to bring a meal outside of dinner, such as a bagels or donuts for breakfast or salads, soup, and sandwiches for lunch.
35. Have a point person to help research clinical trials, grants or specific medical interventions.
36. If you have an accounting background, financial background, or healthcare billing background, help manage medical bills. The mailbox stays full with medical bills that can become quite overwhelming to keep track of them all.
37. Provide respite care. (This has been a huge help when people offer Eric golfing or my sister and brother in law a night out).
38. Gift them with a nice adult bib or apron. When someone else feeds you there are always spills
39. Offer legal services to help final documents be completed.
40. If you know of someone who is finished with their medical equipment please pass it on to another ALS patient. We were gifted with a stairlift chair and a 5ft portable ramp that would have been out of pocket expenses.
41. If you have carpentry experience offer to build a ramp. This was a beautiful gift.
42. If you are a physical therapist or occupational therapist offer range of motion visits.
43. If you or someone you know has a discount or an inside track to companies that are helpful, please share. .
*If the family has children…
44. Offer to help with transportation of the kids. Invite the children on a fun outing, include the patient if they’re able to go. If you sign up for an extracurricular class or summer camp, share the details and the dates and invite their children to go. That was helpful.
45. If you have a really good gift idea for their children for Christmas or birthdays, share the ideas and offer to help pick it up if they want it.
46. Offer to come in and do a project with the kids, such as cook dinner with them, make a canvas painting, or a craft project or drop off all the toppings for an ice cream sundae bar.
47. Offer to help with birthday party planning or help running a birthday party.
48. Offer to take the kids for a night out so the patient and spouse can have an evening to themselves.
49. Offer to help children with a school project or costume whether you are a parent in the same class or just really good at doing school projects.
50. Offer to help with children’s scrapbooks. This is a great task for someone who knows the kids well.
(Feel free to share additional ideas in the comments😀)