Help Literacy Hub

How to provide the RIGHT help

Community support

AUTHOR: Dr Susan Palmer

When someone we know is going through a tough time, it is a natural response to want to offer some help.

Many of us show our desire to help by giving flowers or cooking a meal. And while these offers of support come from a place of love… there are also many other practical ways we can assist someone doing it tough.

Gather My Crew encourages people to think more broadly about the ways they can help someone in need. To think about what action will have the greatest impact. It does not need to be an act of huge sacrifice on the part of the support person – small actions can have a big impact if they are well considered and targeted to the specific needs of the person requiring the help.

Here are some of the ways you can have the greatest impact when providing help and support to someone you care about.

1. Think about what would help you in their situation

The first step towards making a real difference to someone needing support is to ‘put yourself in their shoes’.

  • If they social isolated – think about a visit for a cup of tea.
  • If they are needing medical care – offer to take them to an appointment.
  • If they have young kids – suggest a play date or sleepover at your place to give them a rest.
  • If they have older kids – think about how you can help with the logistics of activities.
  • If they live next door – take their weekly bins out.
  • If you are a close friend – offer to change the bed sheets, clean the bathroom or do the laundry.

2. Remember that everyone is different

It is important to be aware that the same offer of support will not be the best fit for everyone. What has worked for someone before, may not work for the next person.

People are different, their home situation is different, their capacity to do things will be different and the issue they are facing will be different. As part of their support Crew, we all need to be mindful of these differences when we are trying to target the best possible way we can help. We want to have IMPACT not just ‘tick a box’.

3. Things change

Many people going through something difficult are in it for a period of time. Throughout this time, things will change for them. Support that was essential early on may no longer be as pressing. Other new and different needs may pop up along the way that need to be addressed. It is important to remember that things do change throughout this journey and it is recommended that you check in with the person along the way. You want to avoid the situation where a family has 3 months’ worth of lasagna in the freezer but no one to take the kids to footy training that started 2 weeks ago.

4. Talk to family and close friends

People can be very uncomfortable about asking for help or identifying the help they really need. We find that people are often more comfortable accepting specific help if it has been suggested by someone close to them. Friends and family are very good at identifying what would make the biggest difference to the person in need. So, if you are unsure what the best way to help is, get the input from the family and their close friends to target the help needed. Ask family and friends what help they think would have the biggest impact and offer up some of your own ideas for feedback.

5. Normalise the offer of help

People often feel uncomfortable asking for help so it is important to normalize this process as much as possible. Help the person in need understand that this is just a normal way that community works. It is not a sign that people think they are not coping. It is how community used to operate in previous generations and we are bringing it back in a digital context. It is important to remember that everyone will need help at some point in their lives and this is just their turn to be on the receiving end. Make the offer to help really low key and simple.

6. Don’t say ‘let me know how I can help’

How often have you said that to someone going through a tough time? We have too – before thinking about the impact it has. When we say “Let me know how I can help”, we put all of the responsibility to request help back on the person who is in total chaos and distress.

When you really think about it, in order for them to turn that offer into something useful to them, they will need to…

  • Realise that we genuinely mean it
  • Identify what help they actually need
  • Work out who the best person is to ask for this help
  • Find the courage to contact this person and ask
  • Find the same courage to ask the next person when the first person was not available…
  • And then find the energy to do all of this again and again…

In many ways, saying “let me know if I can help” is a way to make the person doing the offering feel better that they have said something – without really thinking about what is best for the person in need. If you REALLY want to help – you need to find a way to make it easier for the person in need to actually take you up on your offer.

7. Talk to the person (or their family) about setting up a Gather My Crew account

To get the most out of the help that is on offer a simple way to pull it all together is essential. Gather My Crew allows people to select the help they need, invite friends and family to lend a hand, and then coordinates it all via a shared calendar. Friends can be a great source of support in setting up and administering a Gather My Crew account – but it is important that the family is aware of the Crew so make sure you get their permission first.

So – once all of those things have been considered, here are the top 10 help requests from Gather My Crew…

  • Cook dinner
  • Do the laundry
  • Come for a visit
  • Bake lunch snacks
  • Transport to an appointment
  • Take kids to school
  • Walk the dog
  • Make lunchboxes
  • Take carer out
  • Arrange a playdate

8. When offering help make sure you are CLEAR, SPECIFIC and CHECK IN on them throughout their journey to see if anything has changed for them

It can be hard to know what to do when someone you care about is doing it tough but we hope with these tips, you feel more confident about where to start. ❤

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