Asking for help is a skill? Apparently it is, and one that I am not very skilled in, yet!
Recently we made a trip to TN, we were gone for 5 days. I had to put together a careteam to look after mom while we were gone. What a job that was, primarily because I didn't know how to ask others for help! I have read about it, discussed it with other caregivers in chats and forums, but this time it really hit home, I didn't know how to ask for help. I had to do some digging into myself and do some more reading and asking questions of others to get some answers!
There are several reason it is difficult for a caregiver to ask for help:
1. They don't want to hear the N word.....no.
What is actually behind that word are these reasons: I can't, I am busy; I can't do what you do; being by her/him makes me uncomfortable and so on.
2. No one can take care of her/him the way you do.
Well, that is not a truthful statement, others can take care of her/him as well as you do, they just might do it differently then you. You have to give up and let go and let someone else fill your shoes for awhile, even it they don't fill them like you think they should!
3. You know how hard it is to do the things needed to be done and you don't want to "subject" a family member or friend to those things. You don't want to be a "burden" to them.
They don't offer to help because?
Well one consideration when it comes to other siblings would be, for them to see the parent in this state, they are face to face with the possible reality of their future, or the fear that they may not have someone to take care of them if they need it....makes them very vulnerable, scared and mortal.
Not helping also produces guilt, guilt at not doing something, anything to assist...you would think that would help them to step up and help, but no, it will usually cause them to avoid helping even more.
Of course everyone has their own family situations to deal with, we caregivers understand that.
I posted the question in a caregiver forum (http://mikegamble.websitetoolbox.com/) Nov. last year, and the following are some of the comments that others shared.
Jane in MA 11/14/09
My sister's daughter and my sister's husband used to say, "If you need anything, let us know." But when I needed anything, like someone else to take my mother to an app't, they were not available. Even tho BIL did not work, they had their own lives and only visited my mother when it was convenient for them (about 4 times a year).. so I never even bothered to ask. I am not the type to ask for favors. But if someone wants to volunteer, I would accept.
Is it pride? Or stubbornness, or maybe we are afraid of being turned down? I know that in most cases, when someone says, 'if there is anything I can do, let me know" means very little. I want to be asked specifically,.. "How about I take your mother to the next appointment?". Or "How about I run some errands for her this week. I don't want to ask people for help and assign the chore! And I bet if I ever said, "Hey! Sure! How about you take my mother to the doctor on Friday!" I would be met with shock.
I am living with my father, who has dementia, my mother is a resident in the nursing home where i work.
I have a brother who takes my father in to see my mother every day on the days i work. (in the same facility where i work) On the days that i do work, i bring my father back home... so it's a one way trip for my brother.
On my days off, i am to bring him there (to see my mother ) and back home.
How much free time would i have for for myself on my days off when i do this?
I am not a thankless person here! but , something has to give here, to make it easier for me.
I have 3 brothers here, that live in the area, that have cars, that don't have jobs, I am trying to do this care giving as good as i can, as i am the DPOA.
I just had a call from one of my brothers, He will take my father in to see mother tomorrow. One day away from my place of employment.
Mary E. 11/15/09
I've been thinking of your question overnight.. I believe that it's almost a sociological behavior in which one particular adult child steps up to the plate (naiively - not realizing the implications) and becomes designated in other's minds as the one with the responsibility.. That one person then has - without realizing it - become the "parent" to the parent. The others - the siblings become like the aunt and uncle.
Now the aunt and uncle LOVE their elder just as much as the "parent" BUT they bear no responsibility - when asked if they'll help to do something so that the primary caregiver can go on a trip or go to a wedding or some such thing - they'll see if it's convenient for them.. They won't do it if it's not convenient. So the aunt and uncle have options, where the parent does not..
Yes, I've been through this. I wanted to go away for a week at the end of the summer. I had business obligations two hours from home where my mother lives next door to me. My sister hadn't come out for a couple of months and I took a chance and asked her if she "might" be happening to come that week I wanted to be away - and explained.. The answer was that she couldn't come - "too much was going on". You see, she had the option to say, "no" where I never do!! Yep, blame it on a sociological behavior - that's what I feel.
I think that we don't ask, mostly because we do not want to be turned down, which would add another emotional burden, at a time when we can not take any more, so the risk involved in asking for help is enormous for the caregiver.
Caregivers need to not only be physically strong, but have emotional hides as thick as tire treads. All you have to do is read the threads here to see that most get the same, sorry, loaded line "I have too much going on right now.," when a sibling is asked to help. Great, so now that you've asked and been dissed, you feel that your life is worth-less, your relationship with your sibling is likely ruined and you are still in the trench with your parent ALONE.
I think you listed some excellent reasons as to why people don't ask for help.
But I think the main reason is unless your paying for help, you're not going to get it.
As I mentioned earlier the lady next door when asking about my mother has said "if you need anything let me know"....she is very nice, but I really doubt there is anything behind those words. It is just something some people say because they need a follow up reply because they asked you how things are going.
I don't begrudge her, but I am smart enough to know it is just an expression.
People have their own lives and situations going on and if you ask and get no help it just makes it more obvious your on your own.
Mary E. 11/15/09
You know, I think that the other reason we don't want to take the 'risk" of asking for help as NGA says is that we feel that we are begging almost.. And asking or, if we're desperate, which so many times we are, it puts us in the position of "needing, hurting, suffering". We are not in the position of strength as those people are - who are in the position of being able to refuse. They become the strong ones and we are seen as weak.
I've even run into misunderstandings where my sister thinks that since I'm asking it means that I don't want to take care of my mother at all. She turns it around and says, "Mary, everyone KNOWS that you have done more than anyone - three times more than everyone." She thinks I feel musunderstood or underappreciated JUST because I might want a week's break..
Again, as I said, she turns it around (and not meanly, just cluelessly) to thinking that I'm trying to abandon, when all I want is a little help.. I come across as weak, she strong.. Yes, NGA I think it's true - it is a risk to us to ask, knowing we'll most likely be refuse and we do need a thick skin and all of the hardships we've been through have actually made us quite vulnerable and not thick skinned at all..
My husband believes that "they" - the non caregivers will not 'get it" because they won't listen or hear what we are saying. But I think that even listening won't teach them a thing - they have to experience it.
It is funny how many people will not extend themselves to someone who needs work.
Someone told me years ago and I believe it is true as many seeing being "unemployed" as something they can catch like a virus if they get too close.
So they avoid people who are out of work or don't get too involved in their situation for fear of "catching it".
It may sound strange, but it explains to me why so many unemployed people are left dangling in the wind.
I think the same could be said about caregiving....you need help...I have the power to grant you help or turn you down.
mary f 11/16/09
It's not hard to ask for help from relatives....it's wasted air. In the past few years, I've heard it all. "We'd love to have so-and-so with us but we're too busy." Then there's the sibling that lives in the area who doesn't help (doesn't even call) but is waiting for parent to die to get some money.
I haven't become cynical, just realistic. Maybe helpful families are in abundance and mine isn't one of them? Have become accustomed to handling things on my own. It's easier without interference.
We don't ask for alot, maybe a couple hours a week if even that. But there are a more ways to help a caregiver then just coming and sitting with the parent. The following is a list I found online. I don't doubt there could be more items added to it.
1. A night out with friends
2. A ride to doctor appointments
3. Someone to mow the lawn and shovel snow
4. Dinner prepared
5. Insurance forms filled out and filed
6. A shoulder to cry on
7. The house cleaned
8. The shopping done
9. Help with paying the bills
10. A weekend away
11. A regular home care aide
12. Someone to ask how I am
13. More information on available resources
14. A neighbor or two I can call in an emergency
15. Some quiet time alone at home
16. A handyman
17. A sitter for (my spouse/parent/child so I can go to......
18. Understanding that we're the same people we used to be but our family's needs have changed
19. Pick up prescriptions and other healthcare items
20. Help with car repairs
This is a pretty good list of things that others could help caregivers with, each individual situation would determine what the caregiver had need of.
The difficult world of a caregiver doesn't need to be so difficult if only family, friends could get past the fears, phobias, indifferences, whatever it might be, and lend a hand. Those that do, and do it with the right heart, will feel pretty good about themselves, and find a very thankful caregiver!
If you are a caregiver, is it difficult for you to ask a family member or friend for help? Why do you think it is difficult? What responses do you get if you ask?
"Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day." Sally Koch. Via @Rainer_Seiffert