Q. I'm currently in treatment and having a hard time leaving the house, even for doctor's appointments or going to church. I've heard that some members of my church have been able to receive assistance from the parish. Do you know what type of help is available?

A.

Being connected with a faith-based community not only can provide a source of spiritual comfort and support, it can also be of help with practical assistance. Many faiths put a high priority on service to others, especially people who are dealing with illness. Depending on its size and how many staff members it has, a congregation is a rich resource that can be mobilized with just a phone call to the person or committee in charge of outreach to people in need.

The type of help a congregation offers could include home visits by clergy or another member, meal deliveries to patients and their families who may be too exhausted to cook, or someone to accompany you to your appointments. Sometimes a congregation member will volunteer to “stand in” for your own caregiver for a few hours at a time so that your caregiver can go out to do the shopping or run other errands. A congregation might also provide transportation for getting to and from medical appointments or religious services. Some congregations may also have discretionary funds that can help out their members who are facing financial emergencies.

Most important is to be clear and explicit about what your most pressing needs are and what kind of help you are seeking. Asking for help is never easy, but faith communities are designed to respond in a supportive way to those who are in difficult situations.

You might also find assistance by searching a database maintained by a volunteer interfaith initiative called Faith in Action, which helps connect people with specific needs to faith communities that might offer appropriate assistance.