If you have a friend or relative who is currently battling blood cancer, you might be wondering how you can help support them during COVID-19. Andrea Maikovich-Fong, Ph.D., ABPP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Behavioral Medicine Specialist at Kaiser Permanente and Behavioral Medicine Project Consultant for Sarah Cannon, shares seven ways you can support people facing blood cancer during these times.
- Rather than ask the open-ended question, “What do you need?” (which patients may be too overwhelmed to know how to answer), anticipate needs and ask permission to meet them. For example, you might say, “I'd really like to organize a meal train for your family. Would that be okay?” or “I'm wondering if it would be helpful for me to walk your dog three times a week?”
- Hospital rooms can be boring and lonely. Consider personalized gifts to cheer your loved one up, such as a photo blanket that you can create with favorite photos of them with loved ones, window decals to brighten their room, or a special pillow case that is more personalized than a hospital pillow case. If he/she has children, consider gifting the children with new art supplies in order to make their parent special pictures to hang in the hospital room. This also helps the children feel as they have an important role to play in brightening their parent's day.
- Consider providing gifts that will help pass the time such as a gift card for audible books, an iTunes gift card, a basket with word puzzles or Sudoku, adult coloring books and colored pencils, etc.
- Treatment can make people's bodies uncomfortable. Small comforts like ChapStick, unscented lotion, fuzzy loose-fitting socks, etc. can be very valuable gifts.
- Treatment can make people tired. Let your loved one know that you are thinking of them and will be reaching out via emails and phone, but that they do not need to feel the need to talk for long periods of time, or to respond to every email or text. You can encourage them to post updates on a blog if they'd like, so that they don't feel the need to update everyone who is thinking of them individually. Do not take it personally if they are too tired to talk or respond to you.
- Take care of yourself! Patients will feel better if they know their loved ones are engaging in good self-care, as it takes the burden off them of worrying about you.
- Give your loved one permission to express a range of emotions. While positivity and cheerleading have a time and place, it's also important to let your loved one know that they do not have to feel pressure to be positive and happy all the time. It's healthy and important to express a range of emotions, from anger to anxiety to grief, and it can be a huge relief to let your loved ones know that you understand this.