Introducing Gather My Crew, the online tool to help those in a health crisis
17 August 2017
I have spent the better part of 20 years as a psychologist, supporting those who are going through a health crisis. Whether it's a cancer diagnosis, a traumatic spinal injury or a child born with a congenital condition, in each instance the family dealing with the crisis is thrown in to turmoil.
Part of the job was to help families find a way through the turmoil - to pull themselves together as best they could, to put one foot in front of the other until they could find their way out of the chaos.
Regardless of the specific crisis, these discussions always included ways to engage their support network to make sure they got the practical help needed to help them through the often dark months ahead.
There are often friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and extended networks who are standing at the ready, but who do not know how to best help the ones in need. We have all heard of the situation where, as the news of a cancer diagnosis spreads, the lasagnes start piling up at the front door. Each lasagne has been made with love and care by someone wanting to help, but it was not always what the family really needed to get through the day.
As a psychologist, I would talk to families about turning these outward expressions of love and care into the help they really needed. When a friend asked "What can I do to help?" or said "Shout out if you need anything", I would encourage them to respond immediately and specifically with what they most needed at that time. I would suggest they create a list of all of the practical help they needed, so when someone did ask what they could do, they would have an answer ready to go. That is how these help rosters are best created - or so I thought.
Then, in 2015, a friend of mine was in trouble. She was about to have significant back surgery and was going to be completely out of action for at least six weeks. She was from overseas, had no family in Australia, was a mum to five-year-old twins, and her husband had used up all his carers leave in the lead-up to her surgery.
I decided to do for her what I had always encouraged others to do - to work out a list of all of the things she needed help with, then friends and family specific tasks to do.
After emailing the class list at school to ask who was able to help, then talking to my friend about the practical help she needed in order to stay afloat, I found myself with 30 helpers and a list of chores as long as my arm: school drop-offs and pick-ups, transport to and from hospital, laundry, house cleaning, afterschool care, meals, grocery shopping and so on.
So now what?
It was through this personal experience that I realised how hard it is to actually coordinate specific and practical help when going through a crisis. Text messages, ring-arounds, spreadsheets and late night phone calls are difficult, time consuming and often just too much for someone to manage when they are already in the turmoil of a serious life crisis.
I wanted to help my friend but didn't have the free time to coordinate all the assistance she needed with all the wonderful people who had offered to help.
And that's how Gather My Crew was born.
Gather My Crew is an online rostering tool that has been developed specifically to support people in crisis, to enable them to ask for and coordinate the practical help they need.
Using the expertise of people who had "been there, done that", as well as the clinicians who supported them, Gather My Crew exists to make sure people going through a crisis get the right kind of help from all their well-meaning friends, family, neighbours and colleagues without all of the stress that usually comes with coordinating help when a loved one becomes ill.
It is a way to ask for help - and then turns that help into a calendar that tracks and records who is doing what, and when. It even sends reminders and updates to keep everyone connected throughout the time the assistance is needed.
Gather My Crew is a registered charity, and the online tool is free and easy to use. You can find out more at www.gathermycrew.org.