I asked for help!
Initially I resisted the idea to write on this topic and here’s why. When I was caring for my mom, I asked for help. I asked for help well in advance of when help was needed. I asked clearly, directly, and for specific things. It didn’t work out the way I had hoped. Then I realized, that’s exactly why I need to write on this topic.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog intended to bash anyone. To do so would be unhealthy, unproductive, and unfair. Besides, I get it – life is crazy busy. We all have our own work, family, and personal lives. Yet, no matter who you are, no one should have to go through this alone. It’s for these reasons I focus this blog on my lessons learned rather than just telling you to ask for help.
Care-giving is a journey. You’ve heard me say it many times and in many ways. While my most recent care-giving experience, with my mom, is what I choose to speak about the most – it’s my collective care-giving experience that I will draw upon for this blog. You see, early on in my role as a family caregiver I wasn’t asking for help. There are many reasons why, but chief among them is the sensitive nature of the care-giving topics – mental health and substance abuse. If this fits your care-giving situation, I get it. My first lesson learned is tailored just for this scenario.
I Believe You
Before we get into my lessons learned, I want you to know: I believe you. I believe you when you tell me asking for help seems like a betrayal because doing so would expose a family member’s vulnerability. I believe you when you tell me you are asking, or even screaming, for help and just not getting it. No matter the situation, rest assure, there will be no caregiver blaming in this blog. I believe you. Keep trying though, always keep trying – never give up.
Lesson Learned #1: Start Small
For all the caregivers out there dealing with a socially sensitive, care-giving topic, it’s hard. I truly get it. Every ounce of you knows you need to ask for help, but you are afraid to expose the sensitive nature of the situation. Start small. If you have someone in your life who has dealt with the same or similar situation, call that person and talk to them. Share everything that’s going on – be honest and don’t hold back.
If you aren’t comfortable calling a friend, check out our Free Balanced Care-giving Tools or join a support group. Now-a-days, one can join a support group in their community or online. No matter your preference, make sure you join one. It’s so important to share your story or be around other people who are going through the same situation. Keeping things inside is toxic to your body and can lead to the development of so many negative health related issues.
Lesson Learned #2: Be Specific
Identify your needs and when possible indicate the time commitment for the task. For example, below are just a couple of items that will be on my list should I be in the same care-giving situation again.
- Respite: Who can help me with respite? Or, Who is good at researching and can identify quality respite services/professionals in the area for daily and overnight respite needs? Who can help me research funding sources for respite care? Insider’s Tip: Caregivers should plan for a full day’s respite once a week in order to maintain a healthy and balanced care-giving experience.
- Self-Care: Who knows a therapist who is familiar with caregiver stress, can set up an appointment for me, and then stay with “mom/dad” once a month while I go to the appointment? Or, Who can stay with “mom/dad” 2-3 hours once a month while I implement my self care plan?
By identifying not only the task needed, but the frequency and duration of the task, you will more likely be able to solicit the help you need.
Lesson Learned #3: Cast A Wide Net
When you’re ready – cast your net wide.
If you are providing care for someone who lives in a State where you didn’t grow up, or if you haven’t lived in your home State for a while, put out a request for support, resources, and connections on social media along with any networking groups for which you are a member. This is not the time to project whether or not you think someone will or won’t help. Ask everyone on your personal and social media connection lists. You will find current friends, old friends, and new friends will help with research, connections, and provide general support. If you are providing care where your circle of support currently resides, reach out to as many people as you can – ASAP!
Bonus lesson learned: If one of your friends doesn’t commit to helping, don’t vilify them. Recognize they might have their own battle to fight right now. Conserve your energy, wish them well, and do your best to move on.
Pulling It All Together
Once you have your list of friends, explore the use of a free organization / communications tool like Lotsa Helping Hands. Tools like this can keep everyone up to date on the ways they can be helpful. If you need assistance getting the ball rolling, start by listing all the care-giving tasks which need to be done and what you will be doing. Next, fill in the gaps by asking your friends these three questions:
- What are you good at doing?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What are you not comfortable doing?
Match their answers to the list of tasks and continue until all the tasks are filled. This will establish your baseline of support and set reasonable expectations for what others are able/willing to do.