It is hard to ask for help, but you cannot do caregiving alone.
The responsibilities of caregiving can often feel overwhelming and seem more than you can handle by
yourself. More and more of your time and energy is used up navigating the healthcare system, finding
resources or figuring out how to meet someone else’s personal and medical needs. It is natural to feel
overwhelmed and stressed. You don’t have to do everything alone. In fact it is essential that you ask for
help and support from the very beginning so that you don’t burnout.
Asking for help is essential to the well-being of both the family caregiver and the person receiving care.
When you share the responsibility, you will have more time and energy for a normal relationship with
your family member and to take care of yourself as well. You are less likely to be angry and resentful.
The care recipient’s experience will also be enriched by having the opportunity to interact with more
Despite the fact that family caregivers may be overwhelmed with responsibility, they often do not ask
for help or reject help when it is offered. Asking for help can be difficult when we don’t know what we
need, we don’t want to be a bother, or we feel guilty that we can’t do it all ourselves. Beliefs such as “no one can do this as well as I can” can also be an obstacle to asking for help. It’s true. No one will do it exactly the same as you, but that does not mean that they cannot be helpful in their own way. Recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It means you are acknowledging the challenges of the situation and are being proactive in resolving problems and preventing stress. It is a sign of strength because it requires putting your pride aside and acting in the best interest of your family member and yourself.
You first need to admit that having some help will make a real difference to the care recipient’s quality
of life, and therefore yours as well. You need to identify what help you need. Which tasks would be the
easiest to ask others to do? Which do you really want to do yourself? And which, if any, can you afford to pay others to do?
Discuss your needs with family members and friends who might be willing to help. They may want to
contribute but don’t know how. Create a list of tasks you need help with. Then focus on each individual’s strength. Some people may be better at personal care while others may be better able to help around the house or run errands.
Contact your local health authority to see what services are available to assist you, such as home
support and respite. There are many businesses, community and volunteer agencies that offer services
to reduce your load. People may not realize you need help if you don’t ask for it. Remember, you have
the right to ask for help. Everyone will benefit from sharing in the caregiving.
Some common needs of caregivers include:
- Concrete help (regular and dependable) with caregiving tasks. Seek necessary help from both formal and informal sources available to you. Make a point, for example, of knowing what services are available in your community and what the eligibility criteria are. A family member or friend could collect this information for you. Make a permanent list of all the tasks that need to be done, i.e., mowing the lawn, shopping, providing transportation, etc. Some may be more appropriately performed by formal agencies in the community.
- Someone who will listen non-judgmentally and who will not give unsolicited advice. List friends and others with whom you feel comfortable. Use these persons for support.
- Respite: time to renew the spirit and restore the physical body.
- Time to grieve and feel the sadness of caring for a loved one with increasing and irretrievable losses.
- Time to laugh (a sense of humour is essential to maintaining a perspective in coping with the constant demands of a devastating illness). Special friends who can take you away from the immediate tasks of caregiving are invaluable.
- Time to be self-indulgent or to be pampered by others on occasion. Small pleasures or rituals regularly contribute to the well being of the caregiver. It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it brings pleasure and respite and it is regular.
- Good information is essential to understanding and coping with your loved one’s illness. Caregiving tasks and coping are made easier when caregivers understand that many of the unpredictable personality changes and behaviour problems usually are due to the disease process and not to willful behaviour on the part of the patient.
- A safe place to ventilate. Mutual support and support groups can be helpful. Others with similar experiences best understand your situation and can offer good, time tested tips and techniques for coping and caregiving.
- Appropriate resources from the local community to assist with legal, financial, social, and long-term health care planning.