Calm summer waters along the Assabet River in Hudson/Photo by Douglas Flynn

At first glance, asking for help may seem obvious, but it is one of the most common barriers facing family caregivers, especially for those individuals who have always been very strong, self-reliant and independent. 

Asking for help is a skill. Learning a new skill under stress and in crisis is very difficult for anyone. So be kind to yourself as you take these steps into new territory and go at your own pace. Just keep trying and you will eventually get there. Remember the goal is to build a support team so everyone remains healthy.

Be specific. Write a list of all the tasks involved; write specific days or times that need coverage; note if it can be a one-time only, weekly or monthly task.

Write a list of all the people you know: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, volunteers at the senior center, volunteers at religious centers, anyone who has said to you “let me know if you need anything,” including someone who may have turned down a request in the past.

Ask. If someone says “no,” remember they are turning the task down, not you.

Prepare information for the volunteer to have a successful visit. Emergency numbers, possible activities, basic idea of care recipient’s medical condition and what their routine is, what the care recipient is expecting, what you are expecting.  Answer volunteer’s questions and concerns. Talk about any discomfort the volunteer may be having regarding any specific task. Ease the volunteer into the home and into the situation as temporary caregiver. Ease yourself into trusting this person in your home and into the caregiving role.

Evaluate the experience from the care recipient’s point of view, from the volunteer’s point of view, and from your point of view. What worked well? What didn’t? What could be amended to improve the experience? If something did not go well, don’t throw the whole idea away and go back to thinking you are the only one who can do this. This thought isolates you and sets you up for depleting vital energies you will need over the long run.

Try again. Evaluate what worked in your new plan and what aspect did not.

Remember: Asking for help adds more supports, making the structure stronger.

Contributed by Leslie May-Chibani©2014

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