Caregiver Support: Asking for Help

By Jaime Cobb

Juggling your life with your commitment to caregiving can be a real challenge. And this delicate balancing act can leave you feeling overwhelmed and overworked. Learn how you can avoid caregiver “burnout” by asking others for help.

We all need a helping hand from time to time – so why are we so reluctant to ask for it? Let’s debunk two common beliefs that hinder caregivers from asking others for help.

Belief: I’m the best person for the job and the only one who knows how to take care of my loved one.

Reality: There’s no doubt about it, you’re doing the best you can to take care of your loved one – and doing an amazing job at that. However, you need to make space for someone else to do the best they can to help the both of you.

Belief: They don’t really want to help or don’t know what to do.

Reality: No one can read minds, and if you don’t ask for help, they will assume you don’t need it. Surprisingly, most family and friends want to help; they just don’t know how. Think about where you can use help and start asking for help with specific tasks, like folding clothes or grocery shopping.

Once you’ve reframed your thinking, embrace the art of the “ask” by applying these important tips:

  • Take inventory of who can help and what resources you have. Think of trustworthy people (spouse, family members, friends, etc.) and local resources (community organizations, churches, paid caregivers, respite services, etc.) as part of your caregiving team. Each will have different roles, but serve as a crucial part of the team.
  • Keep your team informed and up to date. Be sure to inform your team of any changes in your situation or your loved one’s condition. Share what stories, techniques, routines and strategies work well and use these updates as opportunities to educate them about the disease.
  • Get used to having helpers. The earlier you accept or get help, even if you can manage all your responsibilities at the moment, the easier it will be for you and your loved one to receive help when it’s really needed. Plus, your loved one will be more comfortable with others being around, and it will be easier for you to let go and let others be involved.

Still feeling hesitant to reach out? Here are more ways to get the help you need!

  • Make a list – and be ready to use it! Write down a list of things you need help with, such as mowing the lawn or filling out insurance paperwork, and be prepared to delegate those tasks.
  • Don’t turn down help when it is offered. Say, “YES, you can help me. I have a list of things right here. Which one of these items work better for you?”
  • Make your ask strong and straightforward. Be assertive in your ask! If it is important to you, communicate that in a respectful manner. Also, make sure your requests are clear and easy to execute.
  • Be prepared for hesitation. A hesitation is not a personal rejection or even a no. The timing might not be right, they may be managing other responsibilities at that time, or they’d rather help in another way.

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