Get relief.


by Joy Loverde

There are people who will help you with eldercare tasks and there are people who will care for you.  Ask for help and be sure to accept help when others make the offer, even when you’re able and available to perform all of the caregiving tasks. Get used to making ongoing requests of assistance and get other family members used to the idea that you need and deserve their help.

You and your elders need breathing room. You may need a break from caregiving responsibilities and they may need a break from you. If they resent having someone else take your place temporarily, resist the temptation to cancel your plans.  The following is a potential network of people and organizations you may want to recruit:

Family - Asking for help from family members may seem like a deceptively simple plan and yet it can be nothing less than stepping into an emotional abyss.  Some family members cooperate without any hesitation or difficulty, others run in the opposite direction. Keep asking for their help; but do not rely on them 100% if you think they will let you down. Bring in a professional who can mediate and perhaps work out an acceptable division of labor.

Friends, neighbors, volunteers— Let your needs be known to people outside of the family circle. Be precise when defining “help” since what you may need can come in many forms. Make a list of big and little things that are demanding your attention, including getting temporary relief from caregiving responsibilities. Review the Share the Care section in the Creating a Care Team chapter for suggestions on specific ways other people can be helpful to you.

Employers—Eldercare at home can affect you in the workplace, since missing work or not showing up at all can happen at any time.

Personal assistant—If you are time-crunched and drowning in unfinished tasks, household projects and errands, the services of a personal assistant  or personal organizer are a telephone call away. Look in the Yellow Pages and Internet under the keywords Concierge, Home Helpers, and Personal Organizers.

The professionals don’t have all the answers since you and the others you will share with are the one who live these experiences day in and day out.  Group participation helps manage stress and improves skills as a caregiver.  Some problems have no solutions and being with other caregivers affirms the reality of the situation. Contact the local agency on aging, hospital, and senior center for locations of support groups.

Cyber community—Talk in real time, leave a note on the message board or respond to a blogger’s website. The Internet offers caregivers chat rooms and discussion forums and links to other sites and support groups. Internet resources are listed at the end of this chapter.

Specific illness associations—Organizations dealing with specific illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s often have programs and support groups for family members as well as patients.