Caring for a seriously ill person can be all-consuming. Often, one person bears the majority – if not all – of the load. But being the primary caregiver doesn’t mean being the only caregiver.
The primary caregiver should see herself as the captain of a team made up of family, friends and anyone willing to take on even the smallest task. And, as captain of the team, the primary caregiver should be ready to recruit.
Amber Wiesner, executive director of Home Assist™ for Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio, said caregivers often find it difficult to ask for help, or even to accept help when it is offered.
“Many times, it’s a generational thing,” Wiesner said. “Older caregivers tend to feel that if they ask for help, it’s a sign of weakness. They think that they should be able to handle all of their loved one’s needs on their own.”
The truth is, the opposite is true. Asking for help shows strength and dedication to do what is necessary to give loved ones the best care possible, Wiesner said.
Like a good team captain, a primary caregiver can assign tasks to the most capable helpers – family members, friends or neighbors – who are ready and willing to take on the job.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a list of tips for caregivers who find it difficult to ask for help:
- Make a list of potential helpers. Note each person’s special skills, interests and temperament. Be sure to consider each one’s schedule and individual stress level, too.
- Write down the duties involved in caring for your loved one. This list should include tasks like helping with showers, accompanying to doctor’s appointments, paying bills and managing insurance issues.
- Make your request for help specific and direct. Do not end the request with comments like “It was just a thought,” or “It’s ok. I can handle it.”
- Compile a mental list of tasks that you can have ready if someone asks to help. Often, the biggest hurdle to getting help is figuring out what to ask others to do. When someone says, “How can I help?” you’ll be able to say, “Would you be willing to take mom for an outing next week?” or “Can you pick up prescriptions?”
Wiesner said VNA of Ohio’s Home Assist is a valuable resource for caregivers who need to fill in gaps in their team. The private-duty service provides home health aides to help with everything from companionship and assistance with personal care to light housekeeping and childcare. Wiesner said Home Assist also now offers the services of registered nurses for patients with more intense healthcare needs.
“We can go grocery shopping, we can provide transport to doctor’s appointments,” she said. “A lot of people think we are just there to be in the home, but we can do so much more to help. We may not have done (the task) before, but we’re always open to take on new things. All (clients) have to do is ask.”