Health Advocate Blog

How to truly help someone

Life’s challenges—whether the loss of a loved one or income, a health issue, relocation, birth of a baby, or some other change can make it hard for someone to handle even the minor details of their daily routine. You may want to offer to make their life easier. Here’s how to make sure your offer is the most meaningful.

Stand in their shoes and make a specific offer. Avoid a vague offer like “Let me know if I can help.” And don’t assume you know what would be most helpful for someone. Instead, pay attention to their routines to target the right kind of help. Say something like, “I’d like to get your groceries or take-out if you can text me a list.” Or offer to drive them to appointments, pick the kids up from school, mow the lawn, etc.

Talk with their close family and friends. You may find out what help would work best as well as how to lighten the load for the other helpmates. They may be plugged into a website like Lotsa Helping Hands and Meal Train that helps organize volunteers for meal prep, delivery and more.

Follow up! Try suggesting something like, “How about if I check in quickly with you on Sunday at 7 or a time that works best?” Offer simple, concrete options to avoid overwhelming them with decisions.

Understand that everyone processes life challenges differently. Some people need constant company and a listening ear, while others need more time alone.

Be ready to pivot to changing needs. With time, your friend or family member may need less, more or entirely different help. Stay flexible.

Finally, respect boundaries and try not to overcommit. It’s important to be clear about the time and effort you can reasonably offer so you don’t become drained and possibly resentful. Practice self-care—take breaks, keep up with your own commitments, call on others to share the help, and look into resources such as as well as online caregiver support groups.