Caregiver Tip #1, “Asking for help”
-excerpted from Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers (Family Caregiver Alliance)
When people have asked if they can be of help to you, how often have you replied, “Thank you, but I’m fine.” Many caregivers don’t know how to marshal the goodwill of others and are reluctant to ask for help. You may not wish to “burden” others or admit that you can’t handle everything yourself.
Be prepared with a mental list of ways that others could help you. For example, someone could take the person you care for on a 15-minute walk a couple of times a week. Your neighbor could pick up a few things for you at the grocery store. A relative could fill out some insurance papers. When you break down the jobs into very simple tasks, it is easier for people to help. And they do want to help. It is up to you to tell them how.
Help can come from community resources, family, friends, and professionals. Ask them. Don’t wait until you are overwhelmed and exhausted or your health fails. Reaching out for help when you need it is a sign of personal strength.
Tips on How to Ask
- Consider the person’s special abilities and interests. If you know a friend enjoys cooking but dislikes driving, your chances of getting help improve if you ask for help with meal preparation.
- Resist asking the same person repeatedly. Do you keep asking the same person because she has trouble saying no?
- Pick the best time to make a request. Timing is important. A person who is tired and stressed might not be available to help out. Wait for a better time.
- Prepare a list of things that need doing. The list might include errands, yard work, or a visit with your loved one. Let the “helper” choose what she would like to do.
- Be prepared for hesitance or refusal. It can be upsetting for the caregiver when a person is unable or unwilling to help. But in the long run, it would do more harm to the relationship if the person helps only because he doesn’t want to upset you. To the person who seems hesitant, simply say, “Why don’t you think about it.” Try not to take it personally when a request is turned down. The person is turning down the task, not you. Try not to let a refusal prevent you from asking for help again. The person who refused today may be happy to help at another time.
- Avoid weakening your request. “Itʼs only a thought, but would you consider staying with Grandma while I went to church?” This request sounds like itʼs not very important to you. Use “I” statements to make specific requests: “I would like to go to church on Sunday. Would you stay with Grandma from 9 a.m. until noon?”