As caregivers, we often don't know when to ask...
Acting as a caregiver for a sick or aging loved one is rewarding in many ways but can also be a stressful and overwhelming job. If you don't address the stress of caregiving, it can lead to burnout. Often caregivers feel the need to shoulder all the responsibilities of the role themselves. But, part of balancing your needs with those of your loved one is knowing when to ask for help.
Too Much is Too Much
Sometimes taking on too much can be just that, too much. So knowing when to reach out and when to delegate is necessary for maintaining balance. Often we view asking for help as a sign of weakness or failure, but that isn't true. By asking for help, it shows we are aware of our limitations and know that by seeking help, our loved one will receive better care.
So how to go about asking for help? First make a list of the things on your to-do list that could be easily delegated to someone else, be it a friend, a neighbor, or a service. Do you need help with grocery shopping? Make a list and ask a neighbor to pick things up for you on their next trip or utilize a delivery service to save you an outing. For a daily welfare check, services like Iamfine can be used to make a regular phone call and alert you if there is a problem. You don't always have to take on everything alone.
Most people want to help but might not know how to so the next time a friend calls and asks if there is anything they can do have a list of ideas ready. Be clear about what you need and what they can do. If you ask someone for help and they don't follow through, don't waste time being upset or bitter just move on.
Knowing When to Ask for Help
It might be even more important than knowing how to ask for help. Don't wait until burnout sets in, recognize your limits, and reach out before you get there. Common signs of caregiver burnout include depression or feelings of hopelessness, trouble focusing, anxiety, and insomnia. Exhaustion can also cause changes in behavior or attitude and can lead to you getting sick more often.
In addition to knowing who to reach out to for help in caring for a loved one, joining caregiver support groups or taking part in online forums can be a great way to address your self-care. For an extensive list of resources for you and your loved one see a state-by-state list at Family Caregiver Alliance.
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