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When Tragedy Strikes, Build a CaringBridge to Keep Patients Connected to Friends and Families

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:37pm

At CaringBridge, caregivers or patients can quickly set up a personalized website where family and friends can easily get updates and leave messages. This is a must-have tool for anyone facing a critical illness or recovering from one.

I became aware of this great tool a couple of weeks ago, when I emailed Julie (not her real name) a fellow volunteer at a local animal rescue group I belong too.  Two seconds after I sent the email to Julie I received an email back telling me that she would not be able to use email in the near future, and I could find out what happened to her by visiting her CaringBridge site.

There, I learned by reading her story that she had suffered a bleed in her brain and was in the ICU of a local hospital.  Since then, Julie has been moved to a rehabilitation hospital, and I’ve received daily updates written by a family member who is overseeing her care.  Julie’s family has used her personalized CaringBridge page not only to tell her many friends what has happened, but also to help take care of the many details that have arisen because of her condition, to organize visits by friends and family, and to advise people on how their visit to her bedside can do the most good.  Her page has received over 1000 hits in just under a month.  It’s likely that many of the people who are following her progress would have completely lost track of her without the website.

It’s not just convenient, I think it’s fundamental.  When my father had cancer 20 years ago, I remember how every set back he experienced left all of us feeling completely drained.  Having to call everyone to update them was an added stress.  I would have paid a premium for a service like CaringBridge, but the service is completely free.  Founded and led by Sona Mehring, CaringBridge a nonprofit that raises money through events like its Act of Kindness campaign.  The group estimates that they are helping one in 85 “hurting families” at this time, and has the goal of helping 500,000.

Despite the fact that it’s free, the site is remarkably simple to use and elegantly designed.  It really only takes minutes to set up a site.  Each webpage you create includes:

Users can also create a CaringBook, filled with the comments left on the patient’s webpage, at cost.

I urge you to spread the word about this wonderful tool, and donate to CaringBridge if you can. When tragedy strikes, a patient’s network of friends and family are a vital resource.  Helping all those people stay informed and involved is one of the best things you can do for anyone in such a situation.

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