Say YES to everyone!
My parents generation does not ask for help or share personal information easily. When I heard my mother tell someone on the phone there was nothing they could do to help while dad was in the hospital, I knew something had to change. (Jump to Lessons Learned)
Dad’s first hospital stay quickly proved that I could not do it alone. I was at the hospital by 7:30 AM for doctor visits, home at lunch to care for mom and get work done for my job, back to the hospital for dinner, home again for mom and to finish working for my client. That was my world for two weeks. I could not have gotten through that time without the help of family and friends. It is critical to find a way to say “Yes” to each offer of help. Or to reach out and ask for help.
Because of mom’s mobility issues, bringing her to see dad everyday was simply not practical, while sitting at home worried and isolated was not healthy. For us, friends and family that made phone calls and visited mom were key to her mental well-being and mine. I constantly felt torn and guilty because I had no energy to devote time to mom other than her caregiving.
At the same time, mom found it exhausting to repeatedly update everyone who called. Our family is large, so we asked a couple of folks to pass along the latest new. I used Facebook as a way to keep friends updated. Here is another option:
- CaringBridge is a non-profit that allows you to create your own personal website to easily update friends and family on a loved one’s condition. It allows you to leave messages of support and caring for the family as well. A Planner helps coordinate and schedule tasks such as delivering meals and providing child care. It is safe, private and ad-free. (Source: Caring Bridge)
I am incredibly fortunate that my mother has all her faculties. The daily routine my parents had together was not one I could keep up. Being able to talk with my mother on how we could alter it to take some pressure off me was huge. Just slight changes to the steps for getting her to bed gave me both physical and mental relief. Don’t get me wrong, this was not an easy conversation to have with her. Fortunately, once we started talking she was open to changing her routine and letting others help. This was huge since not only were we going to say yes to everything, we were going to ask for help as well.
In an emergency, people are wonderful: they are sincere in their question “What can I do to help?” Take advantage of their generosity and be ready with suggestions on several ways they can ease your burden. Having someone pick up the necessities at the grocery store was a blessing. Having a revolving group of people who visited dad when I had to be at home during the day helped eased my worry and guilt.
- Be ready with a list of ways people can help when they ask what they can do. I figured this out quickly when I asked someone if they could go see dad over lunch while I needed to be home. I was so thankful for their honesty when they shared doing hospital visits were difficult for them. “No problem! Can you come stay with mom, visit with her, help her cook or clean out the junk drawer?”
- If there was nothing on my list right then, I would say: “Right now I am good but I am going to reserve the right to come back to you when there is something you can do to help.” No one turned me down when I went back for help.
- My thanks to Aunt Mary Ellen for this practical and helpful suggestion. Buy gift cards from your local grocery story, then give them to the folks who offer to pick up what you need while they are out shopping. Using this trick eliminates the awkward “let me pay you” conversation and the times you don’t have cash on hand.
- Here are some links to helpful articles for caregivers:
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.