Top three times when a caregiver should ask for a helping hand

June 24, 2021

Top three times when a caregiver should ask for a helping hand

Caregiving for an elder loved one is a selfless role that many step into out of love and obligation to someone that they are deeply devoted to. Any caregiving role is challenging in its own right.  However, unique challenges come with caring for the elderly.  When caregiving for children, there is always the hope that they will soon grow and develop more and more independence giving the caregiver gradual relief as they mature.  However, caring for a senior is a journey where continual decline and loss of ability is the anticipated future, often leaving the caregiver with little hope for rest. If you are extending care to an elder, it is critical that you learn the signs that it’s time to ask for a helping hand.  Here are the top three times when you should ask for help.

1.      Your own wellness is compromised

It is very common to see caregivers who experience a dramatic decline in their own health after a prolonged time in the role.  Sometimes that decline can look like weight loss/gain, scattered thinking, loss of balance, emotional outbursts, or poor sleep to only name a few. Remember that wellness is more than your ability to safely lift the elder or load and unload their walker/wheelchair each time you come-and-go, although this is important too. Your wellness, is also about emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness.  It is vital that you maintain opportunities to have meaningful conversations and experiences that nurture your body, mind and spirit. If not, it is likely that depression, resentment and loneliness are lurking just around the corner.  See your doctor often to watch your health closely and have honest conversations about the signs of decline in your own wellness.

2.      Your “fuse” is getting very short (theirs too)

Have you ever had that feeling that you are going to explode if you have to hear someone chew?  Maybe it’s the volume on the television that gets under your skin.  Or, it could just be that one question they ask over and over and over. Some of this is normal.  Very normal. However, if you are finding that your fuse has been shortened to the point that you can’t hardly cope with the typical day-to-day interactions without overreacting, shouting or resorting to regrettable exchanges with your loved one, it’s time to ask for help.  Your loved one can’t be happy with this existence and you certainly aren’t happy with yourself either.  You likely beat yourself up each night when your head hits the pillow and promise yourself that you’ll do better the next day.  And yet, it’s become a pattern you can’t seem to break. Sometimes it’s the elder that is experiencing a short fuse too.  It is likely that neither one of you is getting the uplifting stimulation that comes from days spent with purposeful activity, engaging relationships and fulfilling opportunities to nurture your interests.  It’s important to find your way back to healthier ways to co-exist and asking for help is the first step.  

3.      You no longer feel like a wife, husband, daughter, or son….

Becoming a caregiver often means finding a way to reframe your relationship.  Once upon a time, you were a wife but now, you are a complex cocktail of wife and caregiver, intertwined and indistinguishable from one another on most days.  Other times it is the adult child who has to evolve into a caregiving role after decades of being cared for by the elder.  It’s confusing, conflicting and can leave the caregiver grieving their former life and former role within the relationship.  In this process it is important that you learn how to wear different “hats” in order to maintain your sense of identity within the relationship.  Remember that the elder may also be experiencing this grief as they struggle to recognize themselves and their role within this new dynamic. While you can always remain the primary caregiver if you wish, it can be helpful to have other caregivers that can wear that “hat” for a time so that you can become “wife, daughter, son, or husband” for a bit.  Reconnect with your original role from time to time so that you can hold onto those parts of yourself that have been so defining in your personhood.  

Remember, there is no failure in asking for help!

There is no doubt, you want to give the very best to your loved one, that’s why you agreed to become their caregiver in the first place.  So, don’t they deserve the best of you?  Healthy, confident, and connected!  Asking for help is not failing, needing help and not asking is the true failure. So, who do you ask?  Find a team of supportive friends, family or senior healthcare professionals that can give you these much needed breaks to care for yourself so that you can be all that your loved one needs you to be.        


Methodist Retirement Communities offers a variety of senior services across the state of Texas and can extend support and resourcing to caregivers in need of help. Check out our location map to find a community near you.

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