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Posted: September 17, 2007

Practical Caregiving

Help! And Ways to Get It

Are you taking care of a parent or other relative? Are you doing it without the help of other members of their family? Do you feel frustrated and, perhaps, even bitter because they don't help you? Do they say they will help, but then they don't? Or do they just plain refuse to help?

Most of the time, the family caregiver doesn’t get the help they need from other family members. But why don’t they help you?

You need to understand why they react the way they do so you can keep from becoming bitter. Bitterness can (and usually does) cause health problems, either now or in the future. You don’t want those health problems. So let’s try to understand why they don’t help you.

They live too far away. Most of the time they can’t quit their job and move. They simply can’t afford to do that. I think that is something you can understand.

They can’t help because of their responsibilities to their own family. Being married, raising kids, taking care of their child with health problems, or helping another member of their family all take time. They only have so much time and have to decide what needs their attention most. Since your loved one is being taken care of, they need to spend their time with another member of their family. You don’t want it to be that way, but you can understand their dilemma.

Sometimes they may want to help in the care of your loved one, but they can’t because of their own health problems. You can understand that, of course.

Emotionally, they are not capable of helping. Not everyone can handle the various situations that arise when taking care of someone. That’s why some people are doctors and some are computer geeks – they fill a specific need, or void.

They have a bad relationship with the person you are taking care of. Their feelings may be justified, or they may not be justified, but they still have those feelings -- and those feelings stop them from being able to help.

They don’t think it is their responsibility. There are many reasons why people feel this way. They were spoiled, they have trouble handling responsibility, they have been hurt, and many other reasons. The end result, though, is that they can’t handle responsibility – and you’re left holding the bag, so to speak.

Okay, here we are. You probably can agree that your family has one or more of the above reasons for not helping. However, understanding why they don’t help doesn’t solve the problem of your needing their help. Is there some way to get their help? Try the following:

Talk to them. Keep the lines of communication going, if possible. Let them know what is happening on a continuing basis. If they don’t see your loved one on a regular basis, send them photos so they will have a better understanding. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Ask them to help. Don’t ask them to provide you with a new house and a million dollars. Think about what you actually need help with and then find a way to ask for that. My column, Knowing What You Need Is the First Step In Getting What You Need, talks about how to decide what you actually need. Use my Needs and Resources Worksheet to help you determine what you actually need. You will find that there are other ways of getting the some of the help you need. You can reduce the list to zero in on what to ask your family for. Then decide who you will ask for specific help.

Make sure your requests are reasonable, taking into consideration their situation. If they don’t make enough money to take a vacation, it may make more sense to ask them to give you breaks respite -- instead of asking them for money.

When you decide what you are going to ask them to help with, rehearse what you are going to say or write. You need to be diplomatic, but assertive at the same time. Don’t demand anything. Explain that you can’t continue doing everything yourself and that you need their help. Can they buy prescriptions or even pick them up? Can they give you a break for a day? Can they buy food? Can they buy clothes for your loved one? What other needs can they help with? Do they have ideas that will help you? Do they know where you can get help? Can they call a government agency for you? Can they help get your loved one ready for an appointment?

There are many ways they can help, but they just may not know how to help; you need to direct them.

In the end, you will come out ahead. If they help you, that is wonderful. Enjoy it. If they still refuse to help you, at least you will know that you are taking care of your loved one and the importance of the care you provide. You are doing what you should be doing. Years from now, you will always know you did everything you could to help your loved one. You will come out ahead.

© 2007 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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Please send me your questions, comments and issues regarding the practical side of caregiving at ASKJEAN@caregivershome.com, and remember to take advantage of our professionals and experts in the Ask an Expert section of our website. You'll find it in the left column on our homepage.

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