Reaching Out to Others as a Full-Time Caregiver

Reaching Out to Others as a Full-Time Caregiver
Rachel Harding, MSW Social Worker, Alzheimer’s Family Services

Whether you are caring for your loved one in your home, helping care for them in their home, or making regular visits to their new home at an assisted living or nursing facility, there will most likely come a point when you need to reach out for support. It can be difficult to know who to go to because of a fear of burdening family or friends, or you may simply feel so isolated that you cannot think of a single person to turn to for help. As Alzheimer’s disease continues to affect families all over America, be encouraged that you are not alone. Someone else is out there that knows your daily struggle, and there are ways to find these other people so that you may support each other. Here are a few tips on knowing when to ask for help and reach out to others:

Regularly visit a caregiver support group
Caregiver support groups offer emotional support, but they also may help you know when you need to ask for help from family and friends. As you hear others’ stories at the support group meetings, you will be able to better identify your own personal limit. It is important to take care of your emotional health before the stress of caregiving overwhelms you. Building relationships with others at the support group can give them the opportunity to look into your life and let you know what they see. You can do the same for them. You may just find a person that understands exactly what you are going through and makes you feel less alone.

Stay in communication with close family and friends; tell them what you need
Burnout can creep up on you, and you may not even realize what has happened to you. If you keep the lines of communication open, then others know what is going on in your daily life and may see that you need them before you do. When they offer to help, give them a few options. If you have a family member that doesn’t mind doing laundry, then let them help you with the washing. Give them a load to wash every few days. Instead of saying you are fine and don’t need anything, stop for a moment and think of something you do need. You can even make suggestions to your family members. They may not intuitively know what you need but still greatly desire to help. Tell them they can bring a meal over once a week. Even tell them what to make because you know what your loved one likes best. When asking for help, think of your family member’s interests and suggest accordingly. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. But if you work within their time constraints and what they feel they can do, you may just find more help than you knew was available.

Here are some more ideas that allow others to participate in your loved one’s care:
-Ask a neighbor to mow your lawn at the same time they mow their own.
-E-mail your grocery list to a family member/friend who makes a weekly trip and lives nearby. You can pay them when they drop it off.
-Have a trusted friend or family member that enjoys organizing help sort through your bills and make a list of when each one needs to be paid.
-Let someone who doesn’t mind cleaning come over regularly to help with the dusting and vacuuming.
-Allow people you love and trust to visit you in your home to keep you company.

Most importantly, be honest with the people you come in contact with and when they offer a helping hand do not hesitate to take it. We are often quick to say everything is fine, but sometimes it is necessary for our well-being to let people in. You won’t know until you try. Remember, you are not selfish by asking for help; it is healthy to recognize your need for assistance. Reach out in your community and let someone help you today.

 Source: Mayo Clinic. (2012). Alzheimer’s caregiving: How to ask for help

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