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How to Ask for Help as a Caregiver of Elderly Family or Friends

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Caregiver burnout is real, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone needs a break sometimes. When you’re a caregiver, your responsibilities don’t just go away when you need some time off, though. That’s why it’s important to know how and when to ask for help. Asking for help can be difficult, especially if you don’t know who or how to ask! Here are some tips to help you find the support you need.

As a Caregiver, Who Can You Ask for Help?

Caregiving is full of joy but fighting caregiver stress means having a team to support you. The most obvious choice for help with caregiving is a sibling or other relative. If you’re fortunate enough to have siblings who live nearby, you might even be able to have regularly scheduled respite. Caregivers commonly find that their siblings are less involved than they’d hope. Sometimes it’s true that a sibling is unable or unwilling to help. However, maybe your siblings simply don’t know how to help or are only able to help in specific ways. Just because a sibling or relative hasn’t been involved with caregiving in the past doesn’t mean that they aren’t willing to help now.

Other potential helpers include your friends, neighbors, spouse, and teenage children. When you’re first looking for help, try not to rule anyone out right away – just because someone isn’t able to do everything you do doesn’t mean they can’t be a valuable support.

I’m a Caregiver – How do I Ask for Help?

Nobody likes to feel guilty, so when you’re asking for help you should avoid language that may come across as judgmental. Even if you feel like you’re doing more than your fair share of caring for mom, putting someone on the defensive is unlikely to get you the help you need. Instead, treat all potential helpers as valuable members of your caregiving team. I’ve found that most people like to be helpful, and everyone responds well to being appreciated. When you ask for help, make sure your potential helper feels appreciated.

When looking for help, your goal is to find someone who is able to make your life a little bit easier. You’re not looking for your own replacement, and no helper is going to do as much as you do. Maybe someone can only help one day a month, or maybe they’re not comfortable with providing hands-on care. They can still be a valuable member of your caregiving team. It’s important to remember not to judge helpers for their limitations. Instead, appreciate them for what they can offer.

Read: An Introduction to Self-Care

What Kind of Help Should I Ask For?

If you’re caregiving every day, chances are outside observers don’t have a full understanding of what you do. If you tell a potential helper that you want them to stay with mom for the day so you can go out of town, that might be overwhelming and they will likely say no.

Instead, your request should be specific.

Try something like this: “I want to go to the beach with a friend on Sunday, and was hoping you could spend the day with mom. She wakes up at 9:00 a.m., then takes her medicine and has breakfast. In the morning she usually watches TV for a few hours, then after lunch I get her up and we spend the afternoon together. She takes her evening medications with dinner around 6:00 p.m., then she’ll want to get back in bed. I’ll be home around 7:00 p.m..”

This gives your potential helper an idea of what the day would look like. A lot of caregiving tasks are not difficult on their own. Break it down so it’s easier to show a potential helper that they’re capable of what you’re asking.

The Importance of Being Flexible

When you’re asking for help, understand that some people are not going to be comfortable with doing everything. In the example above, imagine that your mom needs an insulin injection with breakfast. If your helper is not able to give injections, you may decide to leave for your beach trip after breakfast, so you’re able to help with that task. Just because someone is not able to give an injection doesn’t mean they can’t help, or that you need to cancel your trip.

How to Give Clear Instructions

Some helpers are more confident than others. If you’re getting help from someone who is new to caregiving you will need to give more instructions than you would to a confident, experienced caregiver. If possible, have medications ready to go in a medication tray, and provide a menu of meals and snacks for the day. Leave out an outfit if your helper will be assisting your loved one with dressing.

If your helper will be driving your loved one to an appointment, give them all of the appointment details and tell them if they’ll need to help your loved one into or out of the car. Sharing little details will reassure your helper, will make things go more smoothly, and will make your helper more likely to help you again in the future.

Asking for help is an important part of being a caregiver. Taking time for yourself as a caregiver will help you be more present as you care for your loved one and provide them with the best care possible. It can be easier said than done, which is why getting someone to help you can make the difference. Most people in your life will want to help, they just may not know how. So take these tips and give a family member or friend a call.

 

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About The Author

Ashley Krollenbrock has been a caregiver for her mom for 10 years. She has her Masters of Public Health and JD with a concentration in Health Policy & Law. Ashley has done legal work for two state protection and advocacy agencies for people with disabilities. She is passionate about disability justice, aging justice, health equity, and aging in place. Ashley blogs at themillennialmatriarch.com, and her goal is to empower families to keep their aging loved ones at home by sharing her story and practical knowledge. Ashley lives in Oregon with her wife and mom, and when she’s not writing or caregiving she loves to travel, garden, and hike with her dogs.

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