Caregivers always welcome a helping hand.
So, why is it so hard to ask for help?
Perhaps the management skills, fierce loyalty, and big heart that make us such great caregivers also make it difficult for us to ask for assistance. We tend to see it as a sign of weakness and we feel that our loved ones can’t afford to see us as weak. But listen: when you ask for help you are putting yourself in a vulnerable state. Others recognize that and respect you for it. Sharing our vulnerabilities is the basis of human connection.
I have also been caught up in this vicious cycle of whether or not to ask for help in taking care of my parents. As time went by, I truly felt shipwrecked on an island with no viable means of escape. No matter what direction I turned, this immense overwhelming feeling took over every task I was trying to complete. I finally caved, and asked my siblings for help. They listened…that bridged the gap.
We understand that as a caregiver, your natural state is a giver of support rather than a receiver. It’s time to change that. Giving without receiving is an unsustainable practice: if you give all of your time and energy away, you won’t have any left to give. But if you allow yourself a respite with some help, you can re-fill your tank so you can keep moving forward.
With the knowledge and understanding of why caregivers are reluctant to ask for help, I have listed a few strategies to assist and help in How to Ask:
- Explain your predicament. Author and clinical psychologist Harriet Lerner suggests opening the conversation with something like, “I am feeling so tired and depleted from taking care of mom that I’m worried if something doesn’t change, I will be crawling in that bed with her.”
- Make specific requests. Be clear about what you need. Try communicating, “Can you spell me for two hours on a weekend or stop at the grocery store on your way home from work?”
- Talk to them about how they would like to contribute and how they could be most helpful. Ask for their suggestions and give options. Perhaps a financial whiz can handle the medical bills. Or maybe he or she would be happy to do the grocery shopping online or take on washing the clothes.
- Plan for an ongoing conversation. It might take several heart-to-hearts to come up with a game plan. And you can revisit the conversation if the help lessens or the care giving needs become greater.
- Remember that this is not easy. It can be painful for a young person (or anyone) to see a loved one with serious health problems. Let them know you understand how they feel and that it hurts you, too.
- If direct requests don’t work, just drop it. Don’t waste your time and energy by being bitter. Let it be, and move forward.
Caring for a family member or close friend is one of the most important—and complicated—roles you’ll play. It can happen suddenly. Later, you may find yourself taking more time off from work, preparing meals or handling their finances.
Whether you’re just beginning to anticipate a need or taking care of a family member full-time, these strategies will serve as a practical tool to make the process easier for both you and your loved one.
Remember…Just take it one step at a time.
Please take a moment and join the dialogue with us on this important aspect of life. Give us your tips and/or suggestions for coping and asking for help.
As always, I am…the Boomer Explorer.