Question: We are caring for my mother-in-law who is living independently in an apartment on a very limited income. We are burnt out. Are home companion services a possibility?
Dr. Amy: I encourage you to think about formal help from government and other organizations, and informal help from friends and neighbours. If you can afford it, it’s a good idea to have a consultation with a geriatric care manager. In addition to their knowledge of health , psychology, and human development, they have an excellent understanding of public and private resources—as well as funding sources.
If this is not do-able, there are several government programs that may be able to provide you with some assistance. The best thing to do is to go to your nearest department of social services (the adult services unit) and get an application. The people there will be able to give you information specific to your area, help you fill in the form, and tell you about what help might be available for your mom.
Does your mom have any chronic medical conditions? The reason I ask is organizations like the National Stroke Association (stroke.org) and the American Heart Association (strokeassociation.org) both have info and suggestions for how and where you can get support.
You can also call a home care organization like Home Instead Senior Care. One of their trained staff can visit your mom and do a free assessment of her needs, the services they can provide, and what that would cost.
I also encourage you to think of who in your personal network might be able to help. Can you call on friends and neighbours to lend a hand? Many hands make for light work, as the saying goes. If several people would be willing to do one small task every couple of weeks, this could make a big difference to your life and to your mom. Last but not least, if you are a member of a faith community, the leader will be able to make suggestions about local resources.
The important thing it to ask for help. I never tire of telling this story—it’s about me asking for help.
Early one Saturday morning I took a taxi to the airport and asked the taxi driver to stop at my bank. I was leaving town for a week and needed to deposit money into my account to cover automatic withdrawals. The bank was closed so I used the bank machine. As I reached for the deposit envelopes next to the machine, I found that there were none. I was momentarily panicked and wondered what I should do. In mild desperation I walked out to the taxi and asked the driver if he happened to have an envelope. He reached down and handed me not just an envelope, but a bank deposit envelope! Needless to say, I was both quite surprised and extremely pleased. I ran back to the bank machine and made my deposit.
When I returned to the taxi, I told the driver that I really didn’t know why I even asked him if he had an envelope. It was such a long shot that he would have one –but I didn’t know what else to do. This taxi driver was a very animated gentleman, and he said to me with great enthusiasm, “When you need something in life, you just have to ask for it – ask, ask, ask! Someone will always have what you need. But you have to ask!” He repeated this to me several times, and I couldn’t help but feel there was a bigger lesson in this. How many times had I not got help with something simply because I didn’t ask? How many times was there someone nearby who could have made my life easier if I had only thought to ask them?
Help is out there for you. Keep asking until you get the help you need. Good luck!
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