Caregiving

Pitching In When Caregivers Need Help

Caregiving Web sites can help a caregiver coordinate assistance from family and friends.

When you're caring for a sick spouse or parent, it can be difficult to find time to enjoy hobbies, exercise or even schedule routine appointments such as dental checkups. As a result, caregivers sometimes suffer from depression, increased anxiety and deteriorating health.

Diane Everett figured out a way to free up her time and reduce her stress. Her husband, Tom, was diagnosed in 2007 with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. A few years ago, Everett, 61, who lives in Fredonia, N.Y., started using Lotsa Helping Hands (www.lotsahelpinghands.com) to streamline her communication with family and friends and to tap into her social network for help.

Caregivers can use Lotsa Helping Hands to create personalized Web sites where they can post updates about a loved one's medical condition and request assistance with tasks such as driving to medical appointments or mowing the lawn. "Sometimes I will say, 'I need a couple of meals this week, and Tom doesn't eat onions and he's having trouble chewing red meat,' " Everett says.

When Everett posts a request for help, all of the members of her Lotsa Helping Hands community receive an e-mail alert. Community members must be specifically invited by the caregiver, to ensure users' privacy. If Everett's family and friends can help with a specific task, they simply click a link to sign up. That lets the other community members know the request is fulfilled. "Now, I don't have to make a million phone calls or leave messages," Everett says. "It's the most amazing time saver."

Lotsa Helping Hands is one of several sites that help caregivers coordinate care. Brooks Kenny, the site's executive vice-president, says 76,000 "caring communities" of family and friends lend help to caregivers. One reason the site is catching on, Kenny says, is that it enables caregivers to turn vague offers of help into practical, tangible assistance. When a well-meaning friend offers to help, most caregivers are reluctant to follow up. But a caregiver who uses Lotsa Helping Hands can refer friends and relatives to her Web site.

Kenny says the most common requests are for meal drop-off and transportation. Caregivers might ask for someone to walk the dog or shovel snow. Or the caregiver could ask for people to take turns visiting with the person who is ill so that the caregiver can attend her book club or hit the gym. "The caregivers we work with say, 'I had no idea so many people cared,' or 'I had no idea it wouldn't feel funny to have someone drop off a meal,' " Kenny says.

Offering Help—and Comfort

CareFlash (www.careflash.com) is similar to Lotsa Helping Hands. Founder Jay Drayer created the site in 2006 after his own caregiving experience. In addition to a calendar function where caregivers can ask for help, CareFlash includes a "social storytelling" module where family, friends and the ill person can upload photos and record audio stories in their own voices.

Drayer says that it can be comforting for the sick person to listen to the stories, and the family can keep the module when the person dies. It's also a way to preserve family history. "It's a collaborative way to tell the story of someone's life," Drayer says.

CaringBridge (www.caringbridge.org) is another popular site for caregivers. It was launched in 1997 primarily as a tool for people to update friends and family about a loved one's illness or recovery. In 2012, CaringBridge added SupportPlanner, where caregivers can request assistance with chores.

Many caregivers use CaringBridge to post medical updates and read well wishes from friends and family members, says Sona Mehring, the Web site's founder and chief executive officer. "It's a great communication tool to let people know what's going on," Mehring says. "Friends can leave messages to show their support as well as sign up for tasks. Being able to connect is very therapeutic for caregivers."

Haven’t yet filed for Social Security? Create a personalized strategy to maximize your lifetime income from Social Security. Order Kiplinger’s Social Security Solutions today.

Most Popular

Tax Wrinkles for Work-at-Home Employees During COVID-19
taxes

Tax Wrinkles for Work-at-Home Employees During COVID-19

Are your home office expenses deductible? How does going out of state to work for a while affect your tax picture? There are some interesting wrinkles…
November 9, 2020
Retirement: It All Starts with a Budget
personal finance

Retirement: It All Starts with a Budget

When you’re meeting with your financial planner, do you talk about your budget? If not, you should.
November 10, 2020
Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?
taxes

Will Joe Biden Raise YOUR Taxes?

During the campaign, Joe Biden promised that he would raise taxes for some people. Will you be one of them?
November 10, 2020

Recommended

Retirees, Declutter for a Profit
Making Your Money Last

Retirees, Declutter for a Profit

There are a surprising number of online sites to sell your unwanted or little-used items to make some serious side money and downsize your stash.
November 23, 2020
When Only One Spouse Retires
Making Your Money Last

When Only One Spouse Retires

Retirement in any form can upend a couple’s relationship, but when both spouses used to work full-time and only one retires, that reconfiguration rais…
November 20, 2020
Early Retirement Means Finding Health Insurance Before Medicare
Making Your Money Last

Early Retirement Means Finding Health Insurance Before Medicare

Cover the gap with health insurance before you're eligible for Medicare enrollment.
November 20, 2020
Social Security Recipients, Veterans Must Act Now to Get Extra $500 Stimulus Check
Coronavirus and Your Money

Social Security Recipients, Veterans Must Act Now to Get Extra $500 Stimulus Check

The deadline for seniors and veterans to request an additional $500 stimulus check for a dependent child is almost here. Here's how you can claim your…
November 18, 2020