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How to Ask Others for Help

Asking others for help
One of the best ways for a caregiver to avoid becoming overstressed is to enlist the help of other family members and friends.

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April 12, 2010

"I keep trying to help mom on my own. I think I'm doing a good job and I don't want to burden anyone else with this, but seriously, there are times when I could really use some help…"

Caregiving is and should be a family responsibility. But oftentimes if a spouse is not available or able to be the caregiver, the primary caregiving responsibilities, for one or both parents, tend to fall on a sole family member - usually the eldest, grown daughter or the grown child that lives the closest to the senior.

The number of people providing caregiving is staggering. One quarter of American adults are currently providing care for an aging loved one. According to Home Instead Senior Care, of these adults, 72% provide the care without any outside help. However, 31% admit they'd like more help with caregiving, and one in four resent other family members who don't help out.

If you are a sole caregiver it's important that you avoid burnout and stress. You must take care of your health or you won't be any good to the person for whom you are providing care. One of the best ways to avoid becoming overstressed is to enlist the help of other family members and friends. And, you should do so without feeling bad or guilty for reaching out.

We know that asking for help is difficult for some people. The following are suggestions to get other family members or close friends involved:

  • Give each person a responsibility, even if it is small, to help spread out the tasks. Even if your brother lives 1,000 miles away, make it his responsibility to call your elderly parent once a week to check in or to visit for a week each year to allow you to take your own family vacation.
  • Divide up the tasks - have a specific family member who handles the medical aspects of your relative's care (talks with doctors, medication information, etc.), while another may be responsible for groceries/meals and another handles paying the bills. By dividing up the tasks, each person becomes more involved with the details or these tasks and can keep each other abreast of changes, issues, problems, etc.
  • Make sure to converse with other family members about your elderly relative. If you don't express your concerns (e.g., debilitating health, amount of time you are spending caring for them, etc.), you can't expect your other family members to know what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Don't be a control freak. If you want to control every aspect of the care, other family members may be less apt to step in, thinking you have it all under control. They'll be less able to understand your stress level if they believe you are creating it yourself.
  • If you don't have other family members to help out, consider joining a local caregiver support group or involving outside friends, church members or professional caregivers to share the duties.

Once you have enlisted support, check out these other tips for how to manage caregiver stress.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. November 1, 2017 at 2:00 am | Posted by Terry Murray

    This advice is next to useless. If i could enlist the help of other family members, I would. But other family members are unwilling. I'm on duty 24/7, 300 miles from my own home, friends, therapist, etc. Happy to be able to help my sister (not a senior - well, barely - only 60, with metastatic cancer and in palliative care) but it's isolating work.


  2. October 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Posted by Nan

    Any suggestions for me? I moved in with my dad, to assist him. He can still dress and feed himself, but his dementia is severe. I'm his only caregiver, and I'm burnt out. I'm just so tired of all this; he rarely moves from his chair. I dread coming home and dealing with his confusion.


  3. August 5, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Posted by Sal

    This all sounds so good in writing, but in real life it seldom works. I've tried till I was blue in the face for help from my siblings. Not only do they not help they don't come at all even for a visit. They have stopped communication all together with me.


  4. July 1, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Posted by carmen

    i would like an advise please, my mom is 88 and she has a memory problem, she doesn't want to see a Dr. and out of 9 children only a few want to cooperate being with her, how do I convince her to see a Dr? since I can't force her


    • October 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Posted by Nan

      Then don't force her. Remember that she's an adult, and even though she's declining, it's still her choice.


  5. February 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Posted by Patty

    We moved Mom into assisted living last July. She was falling in her house and unable or unwilling to take care of many of her daily needs. She told me nearly every day for the four years following my stepfather's death she was so lonely she was miserable. She's in a beautiful facility where the aids are exceptionally kind to her but continues to say what a lonely, awful place it is. She is very nice to me on some days. Many days she's just plain nasty. I'm taking her everything she requests and needs plus taking care of all her paperwork. She'll be eighty-seven in April. Her doctor said she cannot go back to her home. What do you think?


  6. October 14, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted by V. Zimmerman

    Getting other family members to help sounds good but when they either live too far away or won't help you must find some othr source of help.


  7. October 1, 2010 at 10:59 am | Posted by Women’s Independent Press | TIPS FOR SENIORS from HOME INSTEAD

    [...] an aging loved one, 72 percent do so without any outside help. To avoid burnout and stress, you can enlist the help of other family members and friends, and/or consider hiring a professional non-medical caregiver for assistance. There is no need to [...]


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