Why not Reach Out for the Hand that is Available?

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Microwave ovens make it easier for people to heat and cook meals in mere minutes. Elevators make it easier for people to climb from one building floor to the next. Vehicles make it easier for people to travel between locations. There are plenty of innovative products and services available on the market today to simplify our lives and we often make good use of them.

When it comes to caregiving for an aging senior, there are also many tools available to ease the job. One such tool is personal respite (or taking a personal break). But caregivers do not always take respite … when doing so can prove to be so beneficial, why not?

To begin with, caregivers may not know where to look for help. Let’s face facts … while there are ample products and services available throughout our country to help both caregivers and seniors, caregivers may not know where to start searching. As many caregivers are often entered unknown territory, they can feel overwhelmed and be unsure where, when, or how to step first. 

Caregivers may not want to ask for help. With everything that is involved with caregiving, this may seem counterproductive; however, thinking that one’s own mother and/or father is one’s own responsibility is common. Your parents raised you after all and you may feel like it is now your turn. Alternatively, you may feel wholly responsible for the care of your own parents and handing over the job (or a portion of the job) to someone else could be deemed as dodging your own responsibility. Consider this, however. Did your own parents never hire a babysitter for you so they could enjoy a night out themselves? Your parents needed time away from their responsibilities to unwind and have fun and you deserve the same reward.

Caregivers may feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness. When you request help from someone else, this does not always indicate failure. You are losing a person you love (often in a way completely beyond your control); caregiving, at any level, can be trying and taking time away or having someone to lean on can make you a stronger and better caregiver. As humans, we have our limits and our minds and bodies will tell us when we are taking on too much. The message, however, is not always heeded and caregivers become needlessly stressed or exhausted – therefore doing more harm than good in your relationship.

Caregivers may feel like they are giving up their privacy. When you bring in outside help, you will open the door to these individuals knowing more about you, your family, and/or your own caregiving situation. At an often difficult time, giving up this privacy can be difficult for caregivers to accept.

Caregivers may disagree with another’s approach: Although someone else could provide the voice of experience and offer well-meaning advice, a caregiver may not agree with any offered recommendations. Another person’s way of doing something may not be the same way a family caregiver would do something and that caregiver may not be open to trying new things. 

Caregivers may be too proud to ask for help. If you have looked after yourself for much of your own life, good for you! Looking after someone else, however, is a completely different matter. You may be facing something completely foreign (in my own case, I had never dealt with my own parent’s health conditions of Parkinson’s disease, Leukemia, and Alzheimer’s disease) and is okay to admit that you may not know about the best practices involved with proper care.

Should you be currently helping and supporting an aging senior (or even anticipating doing so), please remember to help and support yourself throughout the process. Please do not resist help but embrace it and reach out for the many hands of support which are available. You cannot realistically expect to do it all nor should you expect to do it all.

Please watch for my further discussion and tips on caregiver self-care in the months ahead on The Caregiver Network.

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About the Author

Rick Lauber , Author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians

Rick Lauber is the author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver's Guide (both books are published by Self-Counsel Press) - valuable and practical resources for family members, friends, spouses, and/or partners providing care to seniors. Lauber, a former co-caregiver for both his own aging parents, has written extensively about caregiving and senior’s issues for print and on-line markets, has guested on radio talk shows and television news programs, and serves, on a volunteer basis, on the Board of Directors for Caregivers Alberta.

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