How to Build a bridge

CaringBridge has identified these effective ways to reach out when someone you know is experiencing a health crisis.

Make a kind gesture. In a survey of those using CaringBridge, half of respondents said that while they would welcome assistance with food, chores, transportation and finances, they seldom asked for help. Instead of saying, "Let me know if you need anything," ask when you can pick up prescriptions or groceries, handle lawn chores or drop off a meal.

Stay in touch. Concerned friends and family who connect at the time of the diagnosis, surgery or treatment — or when things take a turn for the worse — often step back once the urgency has passed. Patients continue to appreciate support for weeks or months. Reach out with a "thinking of you" card, call or text.

But respect and recognize boundaries. How much space people need is personal and varies. Listen for cues to let you know if a patient is feeling overwhelmed by the attention they're receiving.

Don't forget the caregiver, the invisible person in the room. "The caregiver has to make sense of the chaos to help the patient move forward. We know that the act of taking care of someone puts caregivers at higher risk. If they don't get support, then they can become patients," said CaringBridge CEO Liwanag Ojala.

Kevyn Burger