Family caregivers can easily end up feeling overburdened, as if there’s never enough time in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done; worse, they may feel as if they are the only ones responsible for clearing away the mountain of work.
Unfortunately, sometimes that’s true. There are times when one person is carrying the entire burden unaided. However, there are also times when this does not have to be the case, times when a caregiver needs to stop and ask for help from others who are in a position to provide support. Part of learning how to be a great caregiver is learning when to seek assistance.
Many caregivers discover too late, after they have experienced burnout, that if they are unwilling to ask for help they are doing a disservice to both themselves and to the loved ones they care for. Knowing one’s limits is important.
If you recognize yourself as someone who is unwilling to ask for help, even when it could be available, ask yourself why this might be so. In his book, The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers, Dr. Barry J. Jacobs lists six questions that a caregiver needs to consider if she or he does not like asking for help.
- Do you resist asking for help because you feel that caregiving is a privilege?
- Do you resist asking for help because no one else can do the job as well as you can?
- Do you resist asking for help because, in your judgment, you have more time and energy for the task than anyone else?
- Do you resist asking for help because you would feel like you were shirking your responsibility, which would in turn make you feel guilty?
- Do you resist asking for help because you made a commitment, and making any change would make you feel that you were breaking that commitment?
- Do you resist asking for help because you’ve begun to define yourself solely in your role as a caregiver?
These are important questions for any caregiver to ask and then to answer honestly. Perhaps you do feel that caregiving is a privilege; nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that it’s something that you have to do alone. Perhaps you do have the most time and energy for a task, but that does not mean someone else could not do that same task adequately and allow you some “rejuvenation” time.
No matter how great a caregiver you are, you will always need help at some time or another. Recognizing this fact and being willing to ask for help when it is needed will only make you more effective.