When people ask family caregivers, “What can I do to help?” many caregivers don’t know how to answer. Many of us are pretty reluctant to actually assign work to others, even those who are more than willing to really help. Because of this we miss out on much needed help and support.
You may admittedly be feeling overwhelmed with work, children and the responsibilities of your own home while caring for a loved one with an advanced illness. But moving from feeling overwhelmed to actually accepting help is often something many of us never do.
There are many reasons that it may be hard to accept support. But one of the main reasons is the fear that those who are offering really don’t mean it. Will they feel put upon if you accept? Will they resent you asking? But the reality is most likely very different. You’ll be accepting help from people who can decide for themselves if they want to be involved. Many people want to contribute for no other reason than they simply get great satisfaction by helping others. It actually benefits them in a way that might not be apparent. Many may be looking for ways to fill their day, maybe they miss working full time, are dealing with empty nest syndrome now that the kids are grown or just looking for new ways to feel like they are contributing. They’re not viewing helping as a burden, but as an opportunity.
When someone offers to help, take a baby step. Begin by asking them how they’d like to help. Let them suggest possible ways for them to be involved and how they feel they can best contribute. Start a list of who can help, their contact info and what they’d like to do. Then consider what tasks you’d feel OK to give up. For instance, you might not have to take your loved one to every doctor appointment or be there for every visit of the hospice nurse. Letting someone run errands for you is a good way to begin accepting help. You are not giving up something that is important and only you can do. Have someone come sit with your loved one. This will free you up to do other things and gives your loved one someone else to talk to, allowing them to feel more connected to the outside world.
Accepting help may become the only way for you to provide the care you not only want to give but that your loved one deserves. Your loved one will benefit from your ability to say ‘yes’ to those who offer to lend a hand. They may feel like a burden and begin to restrain from letting you know their needs. Allowing help from family, friends or church members lets your loved one feel a little less dependent on you. It allows them to feel less of a burden.
Accepting help will also most likely help your relationship with your loved one. If you become over burdened you may become less patient, less in tune to their needs and less able to provide good care. Being overwhelmed will hamper your ability to enjoy your time together and rob you of special moments you will come to cherish in the days ahead. Accepting help will let you be better for them.