Dealing with a personal or family medical crisis is never easy. There are decisions to make, schedules to change, unexpected problems and more. Most people find that friends rally quickly, and often even total strangers come along, all asking, “What can I do to help?” The help is desperately needed, but the task of managing those offers is secondary to meeting health needs and often becomes another burden.
A social networking site provides a solution helping many people. Lotsa Helping Hands was created to help people battling illness and caregivers in asking for help and organizing tasks done by friends, family members and neighbors. The free, private, web-based service is open to anyone, and uses tools including a group calendar to help coordinate activities and volunteers.
The service was started by Hal Chapel and his friend Barry Katz after they experienced tough challenges in their own lives. Katz's wife, a nurse practitioner, was in treatment for four years before she died from ovarian cancer in 2003. The husbands saw the difficulty faced when trying to care for a loved one and also schedule helpers to assist with meals, child care, medical appointments and other tasks.
In an interview with Coping.com Katz said friends really wanted to help his wife. They regularly left four-course dinners and boxes of cookies on the doorstep. Some days two dinners would arrive; other days, none. They thought there needed to be a better way to help people. "After experiences like…someone forgetting to pick her up for a medical appointment, we began to talk about figuring out a way to coordinate [the logistics] using the Internet," Chapel told the Boston Globe.
They launched Lotsa Helping Hands in 2005 with a comprehensive calendar and in the past four years have added community-building features like message boards, blogs, and a place to post photos.