Help From Family and Friends

Caring for a loved one is hard enough without trying to do it all yourself. As you prepare to enter the caregiving process, don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help.

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help, but it’s even harder to provide care alone. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Instead, it’s an important step in making sure the person you care for gets the help he needs.

Sometimes caregivers feel like they’re carrying the whole load and others aren’t doing their share. If you feel this way, it’s possible that:

  • You may have refused help at an earlier point when the job was less demanding.
  • Other people think you have the job under control.
  • They don’t know what to do. People aren’t mind readers, but most say “yes” when asked. See the ideas listed below on how to ask for help.
  • They are afraid or uncomfortable around illness or disability. Offer information about the condition to make it less frightening. “It’s not contagious,” or “Bill can’t carry on a conversation anymore, but he loves to have someone read or sing to him.”

Like anything new, it may feel uncomfortable to ask for help. The following ideas will help you get started.

Decide What Help Is Needed

  • Make a list of what needs to be done.
  • Check off what you can reasonably do.
  • Decide what’s realistic for family and friends to do.
  • Find out about services an agency could provide.

How To Ask For Help

  • Be prepared. Have a list ready when people say “What can I do to help?”
  • Be specific. “I need someone to take Sarah to her doctor’s appointments every Wednesday.”
  • Be positive. “It’s a big help when someone else does the grocery shopping.”
  • Offer choices. “Could you pick up the prescriptions at the pharmacy tomorrow or stay here with Armando while I go?”

Hold A Family Conference

Caregiving can bring families together, especially when everyone feels they have an important role to play. Even out-of-town family members can help by managing the bills, or help with household repairs when they visit.

  • Include everyone.
  • Discuss what needs to be done and what you’re able to do.
  • Ask what others are willing to do.
  • Make sure you think about everything you could use help with, not just direct caregiving jobs. Other people may find it easier to do yard work, home repairs, laundry, or meal preparation than to provide direct care. Anything that will lighten your load is important.

Remember. It may take awhile to feel comfortable asking for help. But take the first step. Come up with a plan and try it out for six months. Chances are you’ll find that it gets easier with time.

Some family members may want to do something nice for you because of all you do for their relative. They may bring you meals, or want to pay for your vacation. Don’t feel offended or patronized; accept it for what it is, a thank-you for all you do.

Originally written and published by the Aging and Adult Services Administration Department of Social and Health Services, State of Washington. Reprinted with permission.

© Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

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