How to Use Tech to Support Loved Ones in Tough Times
“Processing events and receiving positive feedback from loved ones—even with just a response of an emoji—can make someone feel calmer, less anxious, and more supported during chaotic times,” Newcomer says.
Then the user can map out help requests on a calendar to get much-needed support from family and friends. They can choose the degree of privacy they are most comfortable with and can create requests for meals, transportation, errands, visits, childcare, and pet care.
There are direct links to sites like GoFundMe to raise money; Meal Train to create a calendar of meal deliveries from friends or other people willing to help; and Shipt, which coordinates shopping for groceries, household products, and other items.
Meal Train, created out of Burlington, Vermont, in 2010, organizes the delivery of meals for a friend or neighbor after a birth, surgery, or illness.
An online video tutorial takes the person setting up a page (usually a friend of the individual or family needing support) through the process. You can choose to block off dates when the recipient needs a fully prepared meal or groceries like milk, bread, and eggs—an option that would have been handy when my daughter needed snacks or milk and I was rushing back and forth to the NICU.
The creator of Meal Train, Michael Laramee, says, “It is so hard to ask for help, and culturally we want to show the world we are strong and resilient, so we turn down offers of support. By saying yes to just one offer of support (the organizer friend), you can then allow others to be there for you in the most helpful ways.”
Give InKind was created by Laura Malcolm and her husband James after their daughter Layla was stillborn and is designed to help others through challenging moments.
The service allows you, or an organizer on your behalf, to request meals, transportation, or childcare, and even lets you set up custom requests for help. You can also create a wish list for gift cards or other needed items or collect donations through GoFundMe or PayPal.
There are options to set up privacy preferences indicating whether you are accepting calls, texts, flowers, or visitors. I would have loved this function early on in my son’s life. It would have made it easier to slowly open up my world when my initial reaction was to push others away.
The site also makes it easy to include a link to an Amazon Wishlist or send a premade gift box.
Lotsa Helping Hands
Lotsa Helping Hands managing director Matt McCabe explains that “our health care system doesn’t survive without informal caregivers” or some way for them to coordinate. “Our site is a tool to help people organize care,” he continues. “You’re posting a need, and other people can raise their hands and offer a task.”
As on the other sites, there is a place for well-wishes, announcements, and a photo gallery, but the most useful feature is the care calendar. The caregiving community can easily see which tasks are unfulfilled and which a caregiver has signed up to complete. They can receive reminders in whatever method they prefer (email, text, etc.) so the job gets done.