Caregiving Resources When the Usual Suspects Don’t Step In
If you are a caregiver, you know that caregiving is challenging. It is overwhelming, exhausting and physically and mentally challenging. Caregiving is also isolating. There are less resources for caregivers than there are for parent, the only other population that puts others’ needs ahead of their own.
People don’t offer to come sit with an aging relative with dementia like the offer to babysit a small child. Just like a parent can’t leave their young child alone to get away for a few hours, a caregiver caring for someone with dementia or physical challenges can’t leave their caree for several hours. The difference is, parents tend to have more people offering to help. Caregivers get far fewer offers for help.
Whether family or friends don’t realize how much a caregiver does, thus they don’t think to offer help, or they are uncomfortable caring for an elderly person, many times, loved ones just don’t offer a hand. It is absolutely OK for a caregiver to reach out and ask for help. Ask your siblings, aunts or uncles, friends or neighbors to help you with a task. If you tell them what you need (meals, groceries, transportation, companionship), they may me more inclined to step in. People like to know what “help” involves before committing.
Again, your loved ones may not realize how much is involved in caregiving so they don’t offer to help. They may not know how to help, so they don’t offer to help. They may think you’ve got everything covered, so they don’t offer help. Or, they may not offer help because they don’t want to help. It isn’t kind. It isn’t fair. Unfortunately, life isn’t always kind and fair.
So, what do you do if the likely suspects don’t step up?
Where to Turn for Caregiving Help
If you’ve asked for help and offered up specific areas where someone can help you and you’re still on your own with no caregiving support, you’re going to have to go outside your circle.
- Reach Out to Your Parents’ Circle: If you are caring for an aging parent, try reaching out to his/her circle. Does your mom have a best friend who loves her dearly? Ask her if she can come and spend time with your mom while you take some time away. Has your aging parent lived in the same home, next to the same neighbor for decades? Ask the neighbor if he or she can pick up a few groceries for mom while they are out. Ask if they wouldn’t mind taking out your parent’s trash on trash days so you don’t need to make the trip just to take out the trash.
- Join a Support Group: I know, it seems counter-intuitive to join a group when you are too busy to breathe, but hear me out. Support groups are full of people in your same boat. There may be someone you and your caree click with who would be interested in doing a coverage swap. Your caree can visit their caree and you get a break and vice versa. If nothing else, the support group may have access to low-cost resources or shortcuts that will help you save time.
- Research Your Options: If you haven’t taken time to research what caregiving resources are available to your aging parent, drop everything and do it now. Your aging parent could be eligible for in-home caregiving support, social worker services or even transportation options.
- Take Shortcuts: Not everything needs to be done perfectly all the time. Sometimes we do things a certain way because we’ve always done it that way. Evaluate your routine and decide what can be done less frequently and what shortcuts you can take. For example, you may cook dinner every night. You always have. Now you’re too tired at the end of the day and just can’t bear the thought of cooking. Instead, try cooking a few extra servings every time you cook to eat leftovers or freeze for future.
- Talk About Your Challenges: Tell everyone you come in contact with what you are going through. I know, that sounds lame and obnoxious, but hear me out. If you are chatting with a coworker about how you are struggling to get groceries to your mom, she may have a college-age neighbor who is looking for work who would be perfect for this. If you tell your mom’s doctor that you are struggling with getting your mom to physical therapy, he or she may recommend in home physical therapy or know of a low cost transportation service for your parent. You may tap into an unknown resource that will change your life.
- Don’t Discount Underutilized Resources: If you haven’t read my post on underutilized resources, read that next. You would be surprised by how much your local senior center can do for you.
It can be hurtful and frustrating to realize that your family isn’t prepared to help you care for a loved one. You are entitled to feel anger and take a step away from those that are unwilling to help you. You have other options. You and your caree will get through this. You just need to get creative. You may discover a connection with a distant friend or family member who you never considered reaching out to.
You are in a difficult season in life but it won’t last forever. Enjoy the positive moments and know that the difficult moments will pass eventually.