Accepting help is a skill set many caregivers need to cultivate. Caregivers often don’t know how to accept help and folks that offer don’t always know what’s needed.
It’s an interesting conundrum in our culture that people really want to help, but don’t know the best way to do so. As a result, caregivers frequently feel stranded and alone. A recent AARP study shows that only 46 percent of family caregivers ask for or look for help. The reality is that caregivers can feel like it’s a burden to accept help.
I had a conversation with my teenage son recently about letting either his social worker or me help him navigate a relationship with a difficult teacher. It was interesting to hear him say, “I want to do it myself – I’ve got this.” My response to him was that it sometimes feels easier to try and handle something on your own. Yet, it’s an essential skill for young adults to learn to accept help when they need it.
I realized in thinking about it later that for caregivers it’s a slightly different, but similar twist. Accepting help is a difficult but necessary skill to master because frequently it feels easier to do it ourselves. Explaining the specifics of what is needed can feel overwhelming and vulnerable. Yet, in order to continue care giving over the long term, it’s important to learn how to ask for help and then accept it.
When I cared for my mother-in-law, I remember friends offering to help but never following up. What I’ve learned since, is that frequently people don’t know how to help, so they don’t. When in reality if I had given some direction, it would’ve allowed friends and family to feel better because they would know what to do. As time went on, I learned first to ask for small specific things. For example, next time you go to the store, could you please grab some extra milk and saltines. Doing so, built my courage to ask for more.
Eventually, I discovered a more comfortable yet direct way to ask for help. My husband and I started to use a website to keep folks informed and to post our specific needs. My sister-in-law worked with Mom to update how she was feeling physically, while I posted grocery lists, required rides, and babysitting support for us caregivers.
The good news is that technology is catching up with care giving needs and now there are a variety of websites and agencies available to help alleviate some of the stress of care giving. Please consider joining our private Facebook Caregiver Support Group for support and inspiration from other family caregivers. Here, you can also reach out to us for assistance in finding some of the resources mentioned above.