If you have taken on the responsibilities of caring for your elderly loved one and feel overwhelmed and stressed it may be difficult for you to ask for help. You're not alone. People in the caregiver role may not be able to ask for help simply because they don't know what their needs are. On top of being socially conditioned to be self-sufficient many people find asking for help a sign of their inability to handle the situation at hand.
While each family situation is unique, there are some common reasons that caregivers may have difficulty asking for the help they really need.
Whose Needs Matter Most
Too often, some people believe it's selfish to think of themselves first; particularly when tending to a frail elderly loved one who is largely dependent on them. The time commitments of caregiving, employment, and tending to their own families often don't allow for other activities; such as regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, or simply taking time for some R&R.
Quality of Additional Help
When caregivers have been ‘in the trenches’ for extended time a routine is established. They become hesitant to the idea of others taking over even if it provides some respite with concerns their family member may not get the same degree of care. Establishing a whole new routine or bringing additional helpers up to speed about the care schedule may feel more complex, so resistance to introduce anyone new to a situation can add to the overwhelm.
Paying for Help
Families may feel that a loved ones' financial situation will not allow for outside, paid help. It’s all too common for situations to occur in families where elderly members are under prepared for end of life care or have no long term savings available. The financial responsibility by family members to contribute to care can cause a great deal of stress on families as a whole. Caregiving by members is often a secondary choice due to the financial strain it would put a whole family in trying to cover care 24/7 with paid help.
If you are able to identify with any of the above points and overwhelm is a constant in your life as a caregiver, consider the following options as a way to reframe and begin to take back your sanity and boundaries around time.
Consider looking into community resources where your elderly parent or spouse may qualify for support based on their income, health or age. Many organizations have resources to help deliver meals, provide some cleaning, or personal care support they could afford, which could give you some respite for up to half or even a full day each week.
Consider breaking up time schedules with other family members to help accommodate certain activities. Even having another person in your family do the shopping, a bit of house work or spend time sitting and being with the elderly parent or spouse gives you time to take a break a couple hours a week. That time can be used to support your well-being so you stay healthy and refreshed to continue to do this very important job.
If family finances cannot cover and accommodate full time additional care options, finding ways to outsource some tasks may be wise instead to preserve your time to work or tend to you and your own family's needs. Paying for housecleaning or having errands done may seem like an expense when in truth it’s an investment. Delegating tasks provides benefits to you by freeing up the never ending to-do list, gives more enjoyable time to spend with your elder family member, and will have your own needs met by freeing space in your schedule to create more balance between your own care and that of your loved one.
© Nancy Glover | Aging With Grace www.AgingwithGrace.ca
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Nancy Glover, a healthy aging advocate, mentors extraordinary women and men who have stepped into the challenging role of caring for their elderly spouse or parent by managing their well-being in the later stages of life. Blending first-hand expertise with practical step by step systems to support the needs, goals, and desires of the elderly spouse or parent, Nancy helps caregivers maneuver the complex and often challenging role with supportive advocacy and resources that equally focus on everyone’s well-being. Learn more about her at www.agingwithgrace.ca and sign up to receive timely information and strategies to empower caregivers and families in transition.
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