While college students plan their parties and high school students consider their weekend options; while your coworkers give thought to what movie they’ll see this weekend and family members consider how they might celebrate Easter, your plans remain the same.
Whether you have dinner with family, attend a religious service or plan to stay home, one thing is constant. You are a caregiver.
And there is at least one characteristic that is common among almost all caregivers, we are stressed and we need HELP. You will rarely find a caregiver who says, “I’m all set, I have all the help and support I need. My family readily chips in and I get a break whenever I need it.”
So, let me give you some practical suggestions as to how to get some much needed help:
ASK–I know that your brother should know that you take care of mom all week and that you need a break on the weekends. But he didn’t renew his subscription to “Mind Reader Today,” so his skills have gotten a bit rusty. Besides, you make it look easy and you seem to have everything under control. So let him know that you need some help.
BE SPECIFIC–“I could use some help you know” is not a request. It’s a statement yelled in anger, frustration or desperation. Or, it’s breathed under your breath, either way, it still does not express what you really need. Try these specific requests and see how they work out:
- John, would you sit with mother on Saturday morning from 9 to 1?
- Mary, would you please prepare lunch for mom on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?
- Mike, would you be willing to give mom dinner on Tuesday evenings?
- Linda, I know your schedule is tight. We are all stretched. If I give you advance notice, would you handle taking mom to the doctor (or wherever)?
GET MOM OUT OF THE HOUSE–This one depends on what stage of Alzheimer’s you are dealing with. Senior centers and Adult Day Care programs are excellent options. They provide:
Opportunities for your loved one to socialize
Skill appropriate activities
Opportunity to get exercise
A much needed break for YOU.
In addition, many provide transportation to and from the center as well.
YOU GET OUT OF THE HOUSE—Consider paid help. I have only one older brother. At the time I was caring for my mom, we did not live in the same state. So, I was pretty much on my own 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was a formula for disaster and depression. Eventually, I hired someone to come in and help out. On occasion, my husband or a church member would hold the fort down while I took a quick breather.
It was during my caregiving days that I buried superwoman along with her big red “S,” blue spandex and red cape flying in the wind. I suggest you have a ceremony right now, let the superman/woman thing go. It’s a great cartoon, but doesn’t work in real life.
If you want to serve your loved one well and for the long haul, learn to ask for help and take care of YOU.
Assignment–Get some HELP!