"The Daily Routine: Making It Work" is a model of how a caring group of family members, friends, neighbors, and others can be organized to help maintain the daily life routine of patients and families during treatment for cancer.
The Basic Elements
The basic elements needed to create this caring community include a volunteer coordinator, the use of a master calendar, and, of course, all those thoughtful, concerned, wonderful people who have offered help during this time.
Many people are very willing to come together to help others, and those who have used this type of system have found it is easy to set up and workable for many types of situations and needs. This is one general way to organize support; you may think of others. Whatever you do, we hope you will get the help you need to meet the daily challenges of managing and maintaining your life while you are dealing with cancer treatment.
The Role of the Coordinator
The coordinator meets with the patient and family to find out specific needs and organizes the support system during treatment. The coordinator oversees the calendar of needs and tracks which helpers are taking on certain responsibilities. Some patients have also used the coordinator to serve as a central communicator who provides limited medical updates to others.
Choosing the Coordinator
The coordinator needs to be someone who is reliable, committed to making this system work, good at organization, and clear in how he/she communicates.
What Assistance Is Needed
This is a checklist of some common needs. Mark off those needs you have, and review the specific items with your coordinator.
Who Can Assist
Here is a template for identifying possible helpers. You can fill in the information, or start with names, and ask the coordinator to complete the sheet with you. This sheet will help you identify both those who are offering help, and what kind of help they can give (e.g. transportation, making dinner, child care, etc.). You may also specify to your coordinator whom you do not want to perform certain tasks. For example, you may have a dear friend who is great for walking the dog or making a dinner, but who is not a good driver for your children.
Creating the System to Meet Your Needs
Attached below is a sample of a communication from the coordinator that would be sent to your helpers. This letter may be mailed or e-mailed. Some people prefer to organize by using the phone. The coordinator is making it clear what the patient and family need, and will help him or her learn what the individual helpers can do (i.e., who can drive, who can cook, who can babysit, etc.).
Sample Master Calendar
The document attached here is a sample of a master calendar that a coordinator may use to track who is doing what task and when they are doing it. Some people use a key or different colors to identify different categories of tasks. The coordinator writes dates for dinners, transportation, or other assistance needed, and gives a copy of the master calendar to the patient. This copy can also be e-mailed as an attachment.
The coordinator will follow up with a phone call to the assigned helper a few days ahead of the day the task (a ride to treatment, for example) is to be completed to be sure plans are clear and confirmed. If changes need to be made or last-minute issues arise, the coordinator will help work these out. Other helpers on the list may be able to step in to fill the gap.
Coordinator's Follow-Up: What plans are made?
The coordinator will let the patient know the plans for assistance by e-mail, phone, or in person based on what is the most effective way to communicate. This document is a sample of a coordinator's follow-up sheet sent by e-mail.
How long does coordination continue?
The system, once it is in place, varies depending on patient and family needs. The coordination may end when treatment ends, or could continue, depending on individual situations. Coordination is a resource that can end for a period, and then restart, if needed.
How has this system worked for others?
The document attached is a thank-you note from a patient to her friends who coordinated support for her during treatment.