Are you a family caregiver? Here’s how to ask for more support:

Often one person in a family will take on all, or most of the responsibility for being the caregiver to the older adult in the family. And all too often do not get much support from siblings or other family members. It can be exhausting and finding help can be a challenge. Take a look at the three reasons why family members may not be doing their part, and how you can get the help you may need.

Misconception #1: – Looks like it is working from here…

From the outside, they think you’ve got it all under control and you don’t need their help. But the day to day is exhausting, creates time constraints in your ability to balance the rest of your life, and often you make sacrifices. Communicate to family members what you do, and slowly get them involved with specific tasks. Their involvement may change their attitude and they will see how joining together will benefit all.

Misconception #2: – But I don’t know what to do…

Some family members don’t know how to help. With this person, be specific about the tasks you need help with. Don’t assume what you’ve been doing is obvious to anyone else. Asking for exactly what you need is the best way to solicit help. For example – “Next Saturday can you please help me move some of dad’s furniture so he doesn’t trip on things with his walker? How about noon to 4?” If this fails, keep trying. Use precise requests with clear timelines for starting and finishing. After a few times of asking, and finding the right match in skills, you might find yourself receiving more help.

Misconception #3: – But you do it so well…

Some family members are concerned they won’t do a good job. Chances are you started caregiving because of an accident or a hospital stay in which you “jumped right in”. For the other person, they may need training in certain caregiving tasks. You can start by asking them to join you while you care for your older adult. This can help the person become more comfortable. For example, ask them to come to dinner. Show them how you prepare the food for ease of chewing, where dad’s special silverware is and how you offer water throughout the day to minimize chances of dehydration.

Do not expect equality in caregiving, explain the responsibility should be shared. Some people may be well suited to hands on care while others may be great navigating the healthcare system. Others may enjoy running errands, or fixing things around the house. Recognize each persons strengths, and your own. Asking for specific help will likely get you the support you need. Remember no one is a mind reader and that’s why it’s important to ask for help. After all, other family members probably will enjoy the chance to be with your older adult too!

This month, WMSS is encouraging caregivers to reach out to others for support. A sibling, a niece or nephew, a neighbor, even a friend. Please do not take on these responsibilities alone. As we all know, many hands make light work. Reach out for other hands to help yours. We honor all you do.