Share the Care Mobilizes Volunteers to Assist with Patient's Needs

October 15, 2013 Providence Regional Cancer Partnership

Your best friend has been diagnosed with cancer. Or, maybe it’s your spouse, neighbor, co-worker, classmate or someone from church. Maybe it’s someone you barely know.

The needs of a person with cancer can be varied: transportation to and from treatment, meal preparation, getting the kids to school and soccer practice, doing the laundry, walking the dog, updating friends and family and so on. For some, it’s really hard to ask for help. The patient relies on their family to provide assistance. Caregivers get burned out. Patients feel like a burden. And, what happens if they don’t have family close by?

Imagine a scenario where ordinary people pool their efforts – and share their time and talents – to help ease the burden on family caregivers or help patients facing their cancer journey alone. You’re imagining “Share the Care.”

Team of Volunteers Steps into Action

Share the Care is an innovative care model where the needs of a patient and family are delegated to friends, neighbors, co-workers and volunteers. It works like this: the patient and family compile a list of people who’ve offered to help. They also compile a list of projects and needs. A facilitator – either a friend or a volunteer from a local cancer treatment center – organizes a meeting of the patient, family and the team of helpers. Before the meeting, each team member jots down the ways they can help and the days and times they’re available for the coming week.

At the meeting, everyone shares how they know the person with cancer and what gift of service they’re able to provide. The facilitator helps match the patient’s needs to the willing volunteers. Then, the volunteering begins. The team elects a captain, who organizes the volunteers for the coming week – or maybe two. One volunteer might do the grocery shopping. Another might vacuum the house. Someone might drive the patient to a doctor’s appointment. And, someone might spend a few hours visiting the patient so the family caregivers can take a break.

The team also decides how to delegate the captain’s responsibilities over the coming weeks and months. Generally, after that first week, coordination and “assignments” can happen via phone or email. No need for regular meetings. The team’s time is better spent helping the person with cancer.

A Win for All

Hopefully, this teamwork and delegation will allow the patient to relax, live in the moment and concentrate on healing – and not feel like a burden to their spouse or children. And, the spouse and children can get a breather and recharge, too.

It’s a win-win-win, really. The patient wins. The primary caregiver wins. And, the Share the Care team wins. They build a community of love and support. They learn it’s okay to ask for help. They share their gifts. They receive gifts, too: genuine gratitude, the reward of giving to others and so much more.

Organize, Facilitate, Volunteer

If you’re interested in learning more about the Share the Care model, visit their website. Or, read Share the Care: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who is Seriously Ill. Or, check with the support services staff at your local cancer treatment center.

If you’re in Northwest Washington (the general Everett area) and you’d like to form a group, be trained as a facilitator or volunteer, contact Mary Gallagher at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership.

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