Sometimes the responsibilities of caregiving can feel overwhelming and be more than you can handle by yourself. Sharing the care is essential to the well-being of both the caregiver and care recipient. When you share the responsibility, you will have more time and energy to have a "normal" relationship with your family member or friend. Having the opportunity to interact more with others will also enrich the care recipient's experience.
Why is it so hard to ask for help? Despite family caregivers feeling overwhelmed with responsibility or unsure about the next step, they do not always ask for help or reject help when it is offered.
Asking for help is often hard because we aren't aware of our needs, we are fearful of being a bother, or we feel guilty for being unable to do it all ourselves. Beliefs, like, "no one can do this as well as I can," or "no one should do this but me," can also be obstacles to asking for help. It's true. No one will do it the same as you, but that does not mean they cannot be helpful in their own way.
Recognize that asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness. It means you have an awareness of your situation and have come up with a proactive problem-solving approach to making your situation easier. Asking for help is a sign of strength - acknowledge the challenge you face. 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.
First, you need to admit that having some help will make a difference to the care recipient's quality of life and, therefore, yours as well. You need to define 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 share in the caregiving responsibilities. They may want to help, but don't know how or when to intervene. Don't be afraid to say "yes," if someone offers to help. Have a list of errands or tasks you need help with. Focus on each person's strength. Some may be better at personal care while others may be better able to help with yard work.
Contact the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Home and Community Care Information Line (250-388-2273, 1-888-533-2273) to see what services such as home support, nutritional consultation, occupational therapy, etc. are available to assist you. There are also many businesses, community and volunteer agencies that offer services to reduce your load. People will not realize you need help if you do not explain your situation and ask for assistance. Remember, you have the right to ask for help. Everyone benefits.
Next month: Supplies and equipment available to help with your caregiving.