Helping Out Offers And Assignments


By Mary Lou

How many times have you said, “Just call if there is anything I can do to help.” How often have you heard from the person you offered that to? Maybe it’s a generational thing, more likely a cultural thing, but for the most part, people aren’t comfortable calling up a friend and asking if they would run to the grocery store, or swing by and mow the lawn. So the good intentions stay just that.

I have certainly had friends and family members who have experienced personal crises, including the death of a loved one. In fact, our family has been in that situation a few times. I know I have posed the “just call” message on several occasions, and when we have needed help, I honestly can’t recall picking up the phone and placing an order with a friend for a casserole. Those needing the help aren’t likely to take the initiative in asking for it.

What I think has worked better is a direct and specific task request—both as an offer and as an assignment. When my husband was having some medical issues, it was so nice to have a neighbor call and say he would take care of mowing the lawn. When my parents needed help—or I needed help with my parents—I needed to ask one of my siblings or my husband to do something specific. “Could you please swing by and take out Mom’s garbage?” or “Would you be able to take Mom to church this weekend?”

Family members and friends really do want to help. I know I do when someone needs it, especially a family member. It’s just hard to know what to do or what to ask for. I remember one of our Hospice social workers telling me that for many families, the serious illness of a loved one may the first time a family member has had to step into the role of caregiver; and if it is, they may feel they need to do it all. Consequently, they don’t ask for help, delegate tasks or even know where to begin to do that. That makes it a perfect opportunity for a friend to offer that casserole, trip to the grocery store or lawn mowing.

About Hospice of the Red River Valley
Hospice of the Red River Valley is an independent, not-for-profit hospice serving all, or portions of, 29 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Hospice care is intensive comfort care that alleviates pain and suffering, enhancing the quality of life for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones by addressing their medical, emotional, spiritual and grief needs. For more information, call toll free 800-237-4629, email or visit

6 Responses

  1. Jean Schmith

    Excellent advice, Ms. Dahms. People who seriously want to help should think of something to do, and then step to the plate to do it. But it’s so much easier to say: “Let me know what I can do,” knowing full well no one will ever call with a request. Not that I would ever do that.

    1. Anda

      This is one of the most poignant, hpleful articles I have read throughout my mother’s illness. She is end stages now, starting hospice care tomorrow, and I can relate to every bullet point in the article. I feel like there is another tsunami of grief headed my way as she fades away ..

      1. Mary Lou

        I am glad you found this information helpful. I know this is a difficult time for you, but the decision to get hospice involved was a good one – for you and your mother. Yes, grief will be a tsunami of sorts, but hospice will help you through it. Take care.

  2. Rob Swiers

    I too mean well when I offer the “just call” comment but have never been taken up on it either. I guess its a good reminder that the next time someone throws out the “just call” comment to me, I should take them up on it. I wonder how often people say “just call” when they really dont mean it though. It may be their way of making themselves feel better knowing full well that they wont be actually called.

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