Tunnel vision is common among caregivers. We often think we have to carry the whole job alone even when we’re feeling tired and overwhelmed. We don’t consider the risks of not caring for ourselves. We can do it. We’ll make it through. Hello! Caregivers often suffer from serious illnesses and stress that turns to depression. Taking care of yourself means you will be there to care for the ones you love.
Well, what can a caregiver do? Try asking for help.
Ask Your Family and Friends
Before the resentment sets in, before you do get sick and before you feel you can’t take another step — ask for help. Start with those closest to you — your family and friends. Be specific. Start with a positive. “I so appreciate you and love you. I have always felt I could count on you. Would you be able to watch mom one afternoon a week? I really need a little time to take care of some things.”
Don’t think for a moment you’re shirking your responsibilities. When you have your needs met, you can better meet the needs of your loved one. Your loved one will also benefit by having a new face to look at and someone else to talk to. Every person we involve in our lives brings something different and stimulating to our everyday existence. Chances are the experience will be just as beneficial for your loved one as it is for you.
Really encourage family members to visit often and help out when they can. You’ll actually be helping them by getting them involved. They’ll feel included and needed and won’t carry any guilt around after their loved one is gone. For family members who live far away, see if they might help with a weekend off for you. If they can’t come in person, perhaps they’ll consider paying a local assisted living for respite care. Most assisted livings offer respite care and the ones I’ve seen are lovely and well-staffed.
When you have your needs met, you can better meet the needs of your loved one.
Ask the Professionals
If you’re caring for a loved one who has a terminal illness with a prognosis of only months to live, Medicare will pay for help in the home and respite care. You’ll need to contact your physician or hospice doctor before you’ll get the services you need. They will even cover housekeeping services, pain medication, nursing care and much more.
It’s also good to contact your medical insurance carrier and ask them what’s covered under you loved one’s plan. Know your options and then you can feel confident in getting services that won’t be cost prohibitive.
Ask Your Community
So many communities have programs that might help you and your loved one. I volunteered at a local senior center that offered adult day care and it was really popular with the seniors and their caregivers. Like most small towns and cities, ours offers lunch every weekday to seniors. There are also classes of every sort — exercise, arts & crafts, photography and much more. Getting your loved one involved can be a great experience for them. Chances are they’ll see some of their old friends and make some new ones. Just an hour break a day can be very helpful to a stressed-out caregiver!
Ask Your Church
Reaching out to those of like faith can be such a blessing to you and the one you’re caring for. Many churches have volunteer services and if your parent has been involved with a church for years, there will likely to be a number of people who’d love to help. Call the pastor or ministry team and let them know what you need. Do you need help taking your loved one to the doctor or could use some help at home or in the yard? Ask. What do you have to lose?
Ask the Neighbors
If your parents have lived in the same place for a while, chances are they’ve become friends with people living close by. These are the people that can probably help you on a regular basis or even at the drop of a hat. Most will feel honored to be asked and enjoy the experience. Since they live close by, it makes it even easier for them to help.
Don’t Forget to Ask the Teens and Young Adults in Your Life
Yes, young people are busy but it’s never too early to learn the joys of giving to those we love. Ask older teens to help out with chores around the place or just to sit with granny or gramps once in a while. Young people make old people feel better. My parents perk up immediately when one of the great-grandkids walks through the door. Blessings both ways will abound when you link up an elder with a youngster.
Get the help you need by asking and keep on asking. It will benefit everyone involved.