Accepting "Help!" Makes You A Better Caregiver
My name is Kelsey, and I have a very hard time asking for help. Maybe you can relate? But as a full-time caregiver for my three kids and my mother with Alzheimer's disease, this puts me in a bad place.
I love that popular Beatles song, "Help!" Even though the band didn't write it this way, the song's lyrics capture how I've been forced to ask for and accept help as a caregiver and how I'm better for it.
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way
I've been used to feeling like a very capable daughter, like when I swooped in to help Mom when my dad suddenly passed away after my wedding. I've helped Mom clean out her house, arrange her legal and financial affairs, and found her good medical care when we started suspecting early signs of dementia.
I figured I could totally handle it when Mom moved out of her home states away to live with my family of five. Right?
But now these days are gone; I'm not so self-assured
Wrong. My first humbling experience was running myself ragged, trying to drive everyone around. My mom no longer drives due to the disease, and I could not keep up with school pickups, errands, appointments for my mom, and all the kid and social activities. I finally found a private caregiver to help me with driving and it saved my sanity.
Another pressure point came every evening at dinner time. As a mother, I'm already feeling the heat at that time with hungry faces swarming the kitchen, little people offering and pleading to help, and thinking of what to cook every night for everyone.
Add in a person with dementia who doesn't cook anymore but also wants to help and keeps asking me what she can do, and I am swamped with overwhelming stress every night at 5 pm.
The worst part
I'm a control freak and have a hard time if someone doesn't wash the dishes "just right." When I mentioned this to a friend, she gave me a reality check. "If your mom offers to help, let her do it! Let her wash the dishes! Who cares if it's not perfect? She's so sweet to want to help you, and now you don't have to do it."
A very good point. I am humbled again. So now, if my mom offers to help or is fussing about with the dishes, I let her. I accept the help. If it's not perfect, I let it be. Mom is so sweet, and I still want her to help me.
Now I find I've changed my mind; I've opened up the doors
Recently when I was going to be out of town and wanted someone to check on my mom while I was gone, my support group leader suggested I ask friends from the neighborhood or church. I initially scoffed at the idea, but at the last minute, I was desperate and thought, why not?
So I texted a friend from church, and she immediately wrote back and said she'd be happy to check on my mom. I know - that wasn't so hard! Yet it felt like a big hurdle I'd gotten over. I was so grateful, and I brought her a thank-you treat back from my trip.
Practice makes perfect
I am getting better and better every day at accepting help. When someone offers to bring dinner, I try not to agonize over it and just accept it. If someone wants to watch my kids for an evening so my husband and I can go out, I will swallow my pride and say yes. If my friend from church offers to pick Mom up every Friday for her exercise class, so I don't have to take her, I will say, "thank you so much."
And if people don't know what to do or what to offer, I'll forward them these tips for supporting caregivers by Lauren.
And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
It never goes unappreciated or unnoticed. I don't take any of the offers for granted. I don't begrudge others who don't or can't offer to help. I've been there, and I know life sometimes can be a lot.
I realize that I am only one person, and I need all the help I can get in this caregiving journey. I am so lucky to have friends and family who care so much that they want to join me in support.
If you struggle to ask for help, I am here to tell you that there is freedom, and you, too, will benefit from allowing others to assist.
You can shout out like John Lennon: "Help! I need somebody. Help!" and then let others relieve some of your burdens and help you care for your loved one. Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you have any caregiving tips that could help the community?