If You Don’t Reach Out For Caregiving Help, You May Not Get Caregiving Help
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. As true as it is in the business world, it is just as true in the caregiving world. The funny thing about caregiving is, people who aren’t caregivers have no idea what caregiving entails.
They can make assumptions, but unless they are also caregivers, and caregivers to someone in a similar situation, they really don’t know what your day looks like or what you need. They may see that you are overwhelmed and throw out the old “let me know if you need anything” phrase, but it usually stops there. Partly because they don’t know what you need so they can’t just do it and partly because you don’t tell them what you need.
I’m not putting the blame on you, the caregiver. You may not know what you should ask for, or if they really meant that they want to help. You may also have asked someone else for help in the past and been disappointed so you don’t want to get burned again. You may be embarrassed to ask for help because you feel like you should be able to handle everything.
Guess what? It’s OK to ask for help. When a friend asks you for help, do you think they’re a failure at managing their life? Of course not! So, why would you assume people would think that about you? People like to help. It makes them feel useful and good to do something for someone else. How do you feel when you do something nice for someone? Don’t deprive someone of that same feeling (I’m only kidding a little bit).
How To Ask for Caregiving Help With Simple Tasks
Since you are a caregiver, I’m going to assume that you are the type of person who is used to making things happen. You jump in and get things done, usually single-handed. Even if you’ve never been a take-charge person, caregiving has made your inner leader come out of hiding.
If you’ve always done things yourself, it can be hard to ask for help. Things might not get done exactly how you’d like or you may not even know what to delegate. The good news is, you probably have a person or two in your life who would happily help you if you just ask. They may or may not be related to your caree. Just because your friend doesn’t know your caree, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t happily do a grocery run if it would help you.
You may not even know what to ask for help with. If you are drowning, sit down and write a list of all of the things you need to do. I know, you’re thinking, I don’t have time to breathe, how can I sit down to write a to do list. Trust me on this. You can’t ask for help if you don’t know what to delegate. Once you have your to do list, think of all of the people who have said, “let me know if you need anything.” What can they help with on your to do list?
Some of the easiest tasks to delegate are errands. Errands are easier to delegate partly because anyone can do them and partly because they aren’t as personal. Your friend may not feel comfortable changing your mom’s bedding or she may not have time to do a load of laundry for your mom, but she can totally add a few of your mom’s groceries to her own shopping trip. Sure, that doesn’t seem like much, but it saves you 30 minutes, at minimum!
So, how do you ask for help? Well, if you’re asking someone who has already offered help, you can simply say, “You know what? I could really use some help with a few errands. Would you mind picking up a few things for my mom the next time you’re at Target?” Chances are, you’ll get a yes. You gave a specific request and aren’t asking them to go out of their way.
What happens if you have a more time sensitive request? How do you ask for caregiving help then? Again, if it is someone who has already offered, you can start with, “Jane, thanks so much for offering to help out. I’m in a bit of a jam and need to pick up my mom’s prescription today but I’m at work until after the pharmacy closes. Is there any way you can swing by and pick it up? I can stop by your home to pick it up on my way home for work, or if you don’t mind, you can leave it in my mom’s mailbox.
Of course, if it’s a family member you’re asking, you can ask for more specific things. You can say, “Hey brother, mom really needs lunch delivered today but I’m at work and can’t get away. Can you drop off lunch for her during your lunch break since you work closer to her home?” Even if your brother just schedules a food delivery, it took something off your plate. It is possible your family member doesn’t want to help since he or she hasn’t stepped up. However, they may also just assume you’ve got everything covered since you’re always so capable. Let them know that you don’t have everything covered and need help.
How to Request Caregiving Help for Bigger Jobs
It isn’t hard to ask for small favors, especially one-offs. But what if you need more caregiving help than a small errand. What if you have medical appointments of your own and need someone to stay with your mom? What if you need more than an afternoon? Perhaps your son is graduating from college out of state or you just need a caregiver break?
This is the type of request that you should make of someone who either has a stake in the game or is really close to you. If you have a sibling, now is the time to be assertive and tell him/her that they need to take an active role in your parent’s caregiving.
If you don’t have a sibling, does your parent have a sibling? My mom is always happy to have her sister who has dementia stay with her for a weekend. It took a long time for my mom to ask her nephew if she could have her sister for a weekend and it turned out, he really needed the help but didn’t know who to ask. Don’t discount your parent’s siblings.
If you don’t have local siblings and there aren’t any other local relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins), what about asking a friend of your aging parent? My mom has stayed a weekend with her friend who has cancer when her friend’s daughter was away. She was happy to spend time with her friend. One of your close friends may also be willing to step up because they love you and want to help you. It’d be better if they already know your parent (which they probably do if you’ve been friends long enough), but even if they don’t know your parent, they may do it to help you.
If there truly is no one to ask, you may need to pay someone to do certain caregiving tasks. You can also reach out to some of the caregiving services available to you. You don’t have to do everything alone. Lean on your village. There will come a time where you can repay the favor. Every minute you save on caregiving, you can put towards self-care or your own health maintenance.