I get how some caregivers can fall into the trap of doing it all on their own. This is more likely to happen when the caregiver has no friends or family willing to help them carry out activities of daily living.
But caregiving is hard. No one can do it all on their own. If you are providing care 24×7 without external help, you will eventually burn out. Unfortunately, some folks get an ego boost by doing it all by themselves, ignoring the fact that it will lead to tiredness and fatigue.
This is why seeking help is vital. Ask other members of the family to start making small contributions. Maybe you have a brother who works in finance. Ask him to manage the financial accounts of the care recipient. Your job will get easier if every person in the family chipped-in in their own way.
Eventually, a time will come when you can begin delegating the easily doable tasks (like preparing meals, changing diapers, bathing, cleaning up after, etc) to family members who are eager to help.
I am not asking you to manipulate others into helping you. Always be open and honest when asking for help. Leave room for the other person to say “no” — if they don’t want to support. This post is about how to ask for help as a caregiver and the concerns surrounding the subject of seeking unpaid assistance.
Why do caregivers hesitate to ask for help?
Simply stated, caregivers deal with problems that no one else knows about. They feel burdened by the quirky issues of caregiving. Unless they find help from a support group, they feel alone and sometimes incompetent. In such circumstances, they try not to bother others with their problems.
I know I am generalizing but it is safe to assume that most caregivers are kind-hearted and nice people. The last thing they want is to offload their personal problems on someone else. This might be another reason they hesitate to ask for help, even from a family member or a close friend.
Caregiver problems that no one talks about
There are lots of secondary issues that caregivers do not share with others. Some don’t even bring up these rudimentary, less-important issues at weekly caregiver meetups.
For instance, if a caregiver is tasked to assist the elderly person with let’s say bathing. They are going to be dealing with a myriad of other issues while performing that particular task. What if the care recipient refuses to bathe? What if they don’t want you to touch them? So on and so forth.
The same goes with other caregiving tasks such as administrator medications, taking them out for a walk, feeding them, etc.
Most caregivers feel like others in the family (or the nurse in charge) do not recognize the work they put in. An attention-starved caregiver can find it laborious to ask for help— as they feel no one cares.
How to know when it’s the right time to ask for help as a caregiver
You should begin delegating responsibilities of caregiving just before you reach the burnout stage. As I mentioned earlier, burnout is inevitable if you care for someone relentlessly; by sacrificing your personal needs for the benefit of others. Let us first learn what caregiver burnout is and how to diagnose it.
Caregiver burnout is a stage when a person caring for a loved one gets exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. Caring for someone can sap away your energy making you tired, irritable, frustrated, sad, and much more. You will reach a stage where you will just be going through the motions.
This is when you should stop and think. Make a list of tasks that can be delegated without jeopardizing the comfort and safety of your loved one. Will it help to hire a homemaker or an aid? If yes, go for it. Delegating less-important tasks will help relieve some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
How to ask for help as a caregiver
The “first people” to seek help from are your family members. No brother, sister, or parent would like to see their loved one under constant stress. Unless you, unfortunately, belong to a dysfunctional family, you can seek support from your family members.
Remember that communication is key when asking for help from family members, close relatives, or friends. You have to state your request for help in a clear manner. Do not be vague or ambiguous — thinking they will read the situation or your mind. Be direct, while being polite.
You want the other person to know exactly what the task is. Only then can they calculate the time and energy needed to finish it. Let them take their time. Let them think about it. But do not forget to follow up.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking help from a family member or a close relative. You don’t have to feel guilty or embarrassed. It’s possible that they needed you in the past and you were unavailable for them. But so what? You can make it up in the future. Try to negotiate if needed.
If your family members are unavailable for whatever reason, you can always turn to community services. You can rely on them as they are funded by the state or other non-profit organizations. All you have to do is find the nearest community service center and share your concerns with the staff (who are mostly volunteers doing unpaid work).
You don’t have to grind day in and day out making your loved one’s life better. And you don’t have to do it all alone. But I understand if you have found yourself in a situation where you feel like there’s no one out there who can do a better job than you.
This is where support groups come into the picture. You will find out that you have a lot in common with fellow caregivers, which will give you peace of mind. You will realize that you are not alone in this journey. I am sure you now know how to ask for help as a caregiver.