I had a bad habit of turning down offers of help while caring for my elderly grandfather in my home. I clearly remember people offering to come and sit with him so I could have a little time away, but I somehow felt it was inappropriate for me to accept their offers. For one thing, I didn't want to burden anyone else with "my" responsibility. And if I am really honest with myself, I realize now that I wanted to be seen as a competent caregiver. At that time, I couldn't see myself as a capable, responsible person if I admitted my need for support.
I didn't pay attention to the fact that I was short on sleep and low on proper nutrition, not to mention neglectful of my personal hygiene! I was under the impression that the only "right" way was to handle things on my own, or at least within my immediate family. Pretty soon, friends stopped offering to help. I rarely got a chance to go out and visit any of them, and they seemed to assume that once my grandfather had settled in and I had "learned the ropes,” I didn’t need help anymore. Apparently I proved myself so "competent" that they figured I could handle it unless I said otherwise.
Eventually, on the edge of caregiver burnout, I realized that asking for and allowing support into my life was one of the most responsible (and therefore competent!) things I could do. This is a bit counter-intuitive, so consider this in your own life:
If you conserve your already taxed resources by accepting and encouraging some helpful hands, you will have more energy to go around. This will naturally increase your ability to enjoy your elderly loved one, the rest of your family, your life, and help you feel more like yourself again. You will feel more capable and able to respond to your loved one's needs. Therefore, accepting help equals happier, healthier, more competent you.
So I'm encouraging you to start becoming aware of what would make a difference in your life. Please accept offers of assistance that come your way, and speak up and ask for additional help if you feel like you could use it. In Gaining Essential Caregiver Support: Part Two, we'll explore this idea further with some great ideas to empower your life.
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