Life with MS

MS Tech 101: Lotsa Helping Hands

By Joanne Fortunato

Whether you are the caregiver of a person with MS, or a person with MS who is a caregiver for someone else, you know that care-giving responsibilities can be overwhelming at times. Often, well-meaning friends and family ask “how can I help?” and you don't know how to respond with specific answers. Even if you have a specific task you need help with, staying organized and coordinating people to complete the task may be difficult. Creating a community through Lotsa Helping Hands ( offers an easy, free way to solve this problem.
With this website, you create a place where your community of supporters can participate in helping care for a friend or family member’s needs. In addition to helping with care, supporters can just check in to stay updated on information about what is happening in the normal life of the person needing care. Events such as birthday or anniversary celebrations can even be shared. Having one easily accessible space to share information and communicate with friends and family can ease many problems faced by the daunting task of being a caregiver.
Start by going to From the front page, simply click on “Create a Community.” Fill in information about the community (like a name and a purpose), then create a user name and a password.
Once you have created a community, make sure to complete a few basic profiles. Click on the “Me” tab and fill in all the pertinent information others will need to know about you, such as contact information and any notes you wish to add. Then click on the “Vitals” tab to add any information about the person in need of care you wish to share with the support team. (Check with the care receiver to be sure that they are okay with information being available to the community.)
The next step is to invite community members. Click on the “Home” tab and choose “Invite Members.” If you have friends and family who have expressed interest in helping and supporting the person you care for, use this feature to send them emails with an invitation to your community. (If you do not have their email addresses, you will be responsible for entering and tracking information for them, such as tasks they have agreed to complete. For example, if someone is taking the care receiver grocery shopping, but they are not community members, you will need to update the community and let them know that need has been met, so others know that task has been accomplished.) As part of the invitation you can add a message. It would be a good idea to explain that this is a hub for sharing information and that volunteering to help is appreciated, but not required to be part of the support team. Once someone has agreed to join, they can log in any time to keep up with the information being shared. Well wishes and messages can be posted for all community members to see.
One of the best features of this site is a Community Calendar. Under the “Home” tab, choose Create a Calendar Activity. Putting events or requests in the calendar allows community members to see what help is needed and what events are scheduled. They can then respond by using the calendar to agree to perform that task or attend that event. To see the calendar, click on the “Calendar” tab. Members can see at a glance where help is needed and sign up for tasks they are able to perform. The calendar is coded based on the responses. Members can tell at a glance if a need has been met or if there is an occasion where their presence has been requested or they have been invited. No calls or emails may be needed if community members know they can just check the calendar to stay in the loop.
Another great feature is the Announcements. Announcements are posted on the left side of the Home page. This is a quick way to highlight important, time-sensitive information. In addition to announcements, a picture can be posted on the Home page. Personalizing the photo is easy and can be a fun way to highlight something positive.

There are four levels of access to this Community: the Community Leader, Coordinators, Members, and the Public. There is a help feature on the site that explains each level in detail. Click the “Help” button at the top the page, then choose Community Roles. The creator of the community is the Community Leader who has complete control and can change the access privileges of each member. It would be wise to start with giving supporters minimum access and increase this as they get comfortable with the site.
Learning to maximize your use of this site is easy. It just takes a little time to explore the many features offered. Some features may require a little technical savvy, but for the most part this site is simple and does not require any more technical skills than the average social media site. Friends and family will find this a convenient way to stay informed and help support someone they care about.