Book Review: Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend

Patient Expert

Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend

Author: Lisa J. Copen

"Let me know if there's anything I can do to help." How many times have we said that to a sick or grieving friend because we didn't know what to do? And how many times has that friend actually called us and asked for help? Probably none. While most people making the offer genuinely want to help but just don't know how, few people to whom the offer is made are comfortable asking for help.

Thankfully, Lisa Copen has come to our rescue with 505 suggestions of practical ways to help. This little paperback is jam-packed with creative, insightful ideas. The format is simple--a numbered list interspersed with occasional inspirational quotes--but the impact is profound. Through the list of ideas, Copen helps the reader understand a little of what the chronically ill person is going through.

A Sampling from Beyond Casseroles:

• Wash his car and put a little note inside for him to find later. (#8)

• Don't make her feel guilty about things that she cannot do. (#14)

• Ask, "Do you have an errand I can run for you before coming over?" (#21)

• Withhold from sharing every "cure" you've heard of for his illness. He's bombarded with cures and needs you to be his refuge from that. (#57)

• Don't say, "You look great!" If she does, it invalidates the pain. If she doesn't, she knows you're lying. Either way you can't win. (#109)

• Watch for local events that may bring a bit of joy to your friend's life, and rent a wheel chair if necessary. For example, would your friend love a cat show, a harvest festival, or a local parade? Do something out of the ordinary. (#195)

• Clip cartoons that will make her smile. (#304)

• Learn how to spell and pronounce the name of your friend's illness. It's courteous. (#321)

• Make her a CD of inspirational music that has gotten you through tough times. (#465)

Who Should Read Beyond Casseroles

This is a book that is truly for everyone. Although it's written with the chronically ill in mind, many of the suggestions are applicable for anyone who is going through a rough time. Since it's an inexpensive little book ($6 each or 3 for $15 at, you can keep several on hand. Then the next time someone says, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help." just hand them a book. (You might want to highlight your favorite ideas first so your friend knows what would be most helpful or mean the most to you.)

About the Author

Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit Christian organization serving people with chronic illnesses. Living with both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, Copen knows what she's talking about when it comes to chronic illness. She is the editor of Hopekeepers Magazine and has written several books including, Mosaic Moments: Devotionals for the Chronically Ill and Why Can't I Make People Understand? Discovering the Validation Those With Chronic Illness Seek and Why. Copen also founded National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, a week set aside each September to bring together people who live with invisible chronic illnesses and the people who love them.

© Karen Lee Richards

Updated 2/9/09