Raise your hand if you like asking for help. (I’m guessing that if I could see all of our readers right now, there’d be few or no hands raised.) For whatever reason, be it cultural, societal, or just plain stubbornness, asking for help is not something we enjoy doing. We’d rather wear ourselves out doing more than we should truly take on alone, or we’d be the first in line to help someone else — even if we needed help too.
Ask anyone who is or has been a caregiver, and I’m sure they’d say help would have been nice. Or, when they reached out for help, it made a big difference in the caregiving experience and kept them from burning out or considering a senior living transition sooner.
So…we’ve made the job of asking for help a little easier for you. Check out these how to tips, ideas and resources for delegating elder care tasks:
Create a calendar. The only way to move past people’s good intentions — how many times have you heard or said the words “let me know what I can do to help?” — into tangible assistance is by being specific about your needs and holding these people accountable to their offers. Too often, “let me know how I can help” ends up being empty words. But it’s not always because the offer wasn’t genuine; sometimes, the giver didn’t follow up, and the intended recipient didn’t take that person up on the offer.
As you go along in your caregiving life, you’ll get a better idea of what/where/when you need help. When you’re new to it, you may not know exactly what would be helpful. In this case, it’s always good to fall back on requests for meals, help with errands, help with housework, and perhaps a regular check-in cup of coffee with a friend.
Start an online calendar so you can 1. see where/what your needs are, 2. plug people in as soon as they make an offer to help, and 3. have a means for people to fill in the gaps where they choose. Here are a few great, free tools to help you get started:
Schedule the helpers as you would for a job, and stick to the schedule faithfully. If your sister can’t take Mom to the doctor, you don’t have to fire her, but ask her to give you sufficient notice so you can find someone else to fill the slot. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing everything yourself, and then you’re back to where you started.
Ask what tasks they’d enjoy doing and assign accordingly. When someone says, “I want to help,” make your knee-jerk response be, “What would you like to do?” If they’re open to any task, suggest a few things you need help with and let them choose what suits them best. Filing paperwork may sound terrible to you, but one of your helpers might be extremely skilled at it — and enjoy doing it. Ask this person to help you create a caregiver face sheet, a vital document that may be needed in emergency situations. Read more about it here.
Keep the tasks simple. Doing laundry may sound like a menial task, but it requires little explanation and will literally be a load off your mind. Making or dropping off a meal is a simple thing for many people to do (even those who don’t like to cook know a good take-out place), and it’s one less thing for you to worry about in your day.
If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, refer to these posts for ideas on how others can help you:
- Engagement in Meaningful Activities for People with Dementia
- Creating a Dementia-Friendly Home: Meaningful Activities
- Filling the Unscheduled Time in Alzheimer’s Caregiving
Don’t give in to the “it’s just easier to do it myself” state of mind. There may be days when it seems simpler to just say, “Thanks, but I’m good; I’ll take it from here.” On those days, think about the times when that little bit of help allowed you to take a shower, go for a walk with a friend, or enjoy a full night of sleep. Push through the challenges. It’s worth it to preserve your health and provide better care for the person you love.
Think of delegating as a normal, natural part of your caregiving job. Ask with confidence and gratitude, so that the person to whom you are delegating feels that his/her time and contribution is being respected and valued. Don’t ask in a way that makes them feel sorry for you. Otherwise, they’re going to help out of guilt and obligation, or because they felt cornered or manipulated, and that’s not the kind of help you really need.
Say thank you often. It may not be easy to ask for help or delegate tasks, but you’ll probably find saying thank you to be a more pleasant experience. Do so frequently. You don’t have to go overboard with extravagant gestures or gifts; a simple word of thanks or short handwritten note can be tremendously affirming and valuable to your helpers.