How to Accept Help as a Caregiver

Skye Lanford

How to Accept Help as a Caregiver

Skye Lanford
A healthy life is a life of balance; including the ability to give and receive.

When I first started my caregiving journey, one of the hardest things to accept was HELP.
So many people in our lives wanted to help. I definitely needed the help.
But, like so many people, I didn't know how to ask. And I didn't know how to accept help when it was given; I felt guilty.

And I didn't even know what I really needed.

When your loved one first becomes ill, you are most likely turning down offers of assistance -- there are just so many people that want to do so many things. While that's great for you and allows you more time with your loved one, it's also a little overwhelming. And, if you're like me, I wasn't exactly sure what I needed help with. Everything. Anything. Each day offered new circumstances that I couldn't control. At the end of each day, I took off my Super Woman cape and fell into bed; completely and utterly exhausted.

After a while, the phone calls and emails became less frequent - as well as the offers to help our family. People still cared about us and still wanted to help, of course. But the novelty of my husband's illness wore off.
I didn't want to be a burden to anyone, and I didn't want to ask. I thought it was rude.

Read more: Asking for help is crucial to relieving caregiver stress.

Now that I've got a little time under my caregiving belt, I've had some time to think about what's most helpful - and how to accept help, too.

People often ask how I manage it all; the day-to-day tasks and stress management of caring for a loved one battling a devastating disease. I've started a list of tips that have helped me come to grips with asking for, accepting, and appreciating help from others.

Four Tips for Accepting Help

1. Make a wish list of your biggest needs
Needs change. And they probably change frequently.
When people offer to help, it's wonderful to have a running list of things that would truly help you focus more on your caregiving journey.

  • Would it be helpful to have someone pickup prescriptions for you? Many pharmacies have an option for you to keep a payment on file. This would allow someone else to make that pharmacy run for you, without the hassle of worrying about giving money.

  • Consider your local (and free!) resources. You could have an eager volunteer check out audio books form the library for your patient. Check in with your local Chamber of Commerce for businesses that offer free programs for the elderly and ill. New businesses will often offer free services (like massages!!!) - seek them out.

2. Create a  list of people you can call upon
Like me, most people are thrown into the caregiving world very suddenly, without time to react or fully absorb the circumstances. My friends and loved ones wanted to help, but weren't sure if they should call. They didn't want to be a bother, but they wanted me to know they cared. I took note of everyone that offered to help; every single person.
When I discovered there were not enough hours in the day to do what needed to be done, I called in favors.
People that love you really want to help. And I am not superwoman, even though I try to be.
Pick up the phone or open your email -- and ask. You won't be sorry that you did, I promise!

3. Ignore the big, fat, dancing elephant in the room - for a bit!
Take care of yourself, so you can be your best for others.
I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to talk about something other than doctor's appointments, procedures, prescriptions and symptoms. These things are the focus of my day; I need a mental break. It is nice to break away and talk to my girlfriends, my mom, my neighbor about normal, everyday things.
Pretend, just for a few moments of every day, that you are not going through something life-changing.
Take a walk, take a bath, get a pedicure, enjoy one of those delicious $4 coffees from Starbucks.
And do it without GUILT.
Sometimes, I just want to feel more like a friend, sister, daughter, mom, neighbor, and wife than a caregiver.
That big, fat, dancing elephant will still be there, and you will be better prepared to handle it if you take some time for yourself, too.

4. Reciprocate
It feels great to help others.  It feels great to be on the receiving end, too. Just knowing that someone else cares is a huge relief. When the opportunity finds you, don't forget to give back. It will makes you feel better; and it will help someone else in return. No matter out circumstances, we are all on this journey of life together.

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