As a wife and primary caregiver to my late husband George, I am all too aware of the physical, emotional and mental stressors involved. I was all too guilty of having the "I CAN DO IT MYSELF" attitude.
All too often, when someone asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” My immediate response would be, “Thanks, but we don’t need anything.” This was a lie! I was under the false impression that it was MY responsibility to provide ALL of his care. After all, I was his wife AND a nurse. I should be able to do it all. I doubt that I am the only caregiver out there who thinks this way. My whole point in writing this blog is to discourage others from developing or maintaining such an attitude.
Make a list of all the things that you do. Realistically evaluate the items and note which ones don’t really require YOUR expertise. Things like laundry, vacuuming, dishes, errands, organizing supplies,etc. Then the next time someone asks, “What can I do to help?” You can tell them exactly what you need. It will be awkward at first, but it will get easier. State your needs clearly and keep them simple. Over time you will know who can handle what.
Even when we finally had a responsible, paid caregiver I found it difficult to add duties. It took time, but eventually I realized that I could relinquish many of my responsibilities to her. She was, after all, very capable, honest and reliable. This was very freeing!
I never was able to allow friends to help. I should have, not just for my and George’s benefit, but for theirs. He would have enjoyed having someone else to interact with. We all know the feeling you get when you know that you have truly been helpful to another. I was denying others, as well as myself.
We all need help sometimes, and sometimes we need a lot of help. So….if you are the caregiver…let others help! If you are one of the “others,” offer to help someone. If you don’t personally know someone who is a caregiver, I’m sure it wouldn’t take too many inquires to find someone who could use a helping hand. No task is too small. It’s as simple as saying, “I’m on my way to the store, what can I pick up for you?” Or” I know we use the same pharmacy, I’ll give you call next time I’m going and see if I can pick up something for you.”
Be a giver AND a taker.