Being the primary caregiver for a loved one can be a rewarding experience that brings you closer and ensures they get the care they need. However, you still might need the occasional helping hand to keep things running smoothly. Asking for help from other relatives can help you maintain a positive outlook and keep your physical health in check.
You know you need assistance, but you might not know specifically what the best help would be. Sit down with your schedule and think about the times when you wish you could clone yourself to make things run smoothly. Is there a certain time of day you need help? Maybe you have school drop-off and pick-up duties for your kids and those times are difficult to manage. You could either ask a family member to come sit with your loved one while you do school routines or ask them to take your kids to school.
It can also help to write a list of everything you do during the day. Be as detailed as possible, and include both caregiver-related duties and other responsibilities. Then, look at your list and decide which tasks are time-consuming or would make your day better if someone else handled them. These are areas where you can focus your help requests.
Now that you have a better idea of where you need help, create a list of specific things your other family members can do to assist. Being specific with your requests ensures your family members know your expectations. Examples include sitting with your loved one while you handle another responsibility, helping with meal preparation, taking your loved one to medical appointments and handling paperwork.
Include a variety of ways to help that could fit different lifestyles and preferences. Some family members might not be comfortable staying with or caring for your loved one directly if they don't have any experience with their condition. Others might be too busy or live too far away to help physically. Those family members might handle paperwork or help with scheduling appointments. They might have meals delivered for you or pay for a cleaning or lawn care service to ease your workload.
Identify specific relatives you want to ask for help. These might be your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles or other close relatives. Consider where they live, what their schedules are like and other factors that could influence how they can lend a hand. Even their talents or hobbies could play a role. This can help you come up with suggestions and tailor your requests to make them more appealing to specific family members. For instance, if your sibling loves cooking, you might ask them to bring freezer meals for you.
While you don't have to justify your need for assistance, it can help your family members better understand the situation. You might let them know you need some breaks to maintain your mental, physical and emotional well-being. They might not realize all you do as a caregiver, so telling them more about the duties you have could also help them understand your need for others to pitch in.
It can be helpful to make specific requests based on what you know about a family member. If your sister lives near you and takes her own kids to school, you might ask if she can take your kids as well so you can focus more on caregiving. If a family member lives far away, you might ask if they can help you research respite care options in your area.
Your suggestions might seem like a good match to you, but leave room for your family members to offer other ways to help, as they might prefer to do something else. Someone you thought might like to help by having a meal delivered may want to offer respite care by sitting with your loved one so you can have a break. Or they might simply ask if there's another way they can help. Being flexible lets you get the help you need while giving others a chance to get involved in a way that's appealing to them.
Sometimes you can use additional help beyond what your family can give you. They might not understand how caregiving is affecting you, or they might have personal situations that make helping difficult. Finding outside sources of support can make your role as a caregiver easier. You might ask friends or neighbors to help, for instance. A support group for caregivers can provide you mental and emotional support. You can also build relationships with others who understand how you feel.
If the workload of being a caregiver becomes too much and you're not getting help from family members, you might consider moving your loved one to an assisted living or memory care community. Residential settings offer safe environments with specially trained caregivers. Your loved one also gets more socialization and activity options. Paying for respite care can also help if you're not ready for your loved one to move to a residential setting.