"We need to make it right before it goes wrong." What a wonderful expression! The phrase gives you permission to say, "I need your help."
Yes, it is true that some people, even without your asking, will be more than happy to volunteer their time. However, an uncommitted "Call if you need anything" is not the same as "What do you need? Tell me what I can do to help you."
Many family and friends, perhaps not understanding the responsibilities and challenges you face, will require a little prodding. A good approach is to organize an informal gathering with your family and perhaps a few friends. Lunch or light refreshments may prevent the conversation from becoming confrontational. Use video conferencing to include, and to get input from, those family members who do not live nearby.
Give examples of what they can do for you and for the loved one you have in common. A request for respite – just a few hours per week – is a good place to start. Explain you need time to relax, to take care of your health and well-being, to socialize with friends, to enjoy a little solitude as well as time to catch up on lost sleep.
While you will appreciate their gift of time, there are many other ways your family can make things easier for you. A sibling who does not live nearby can manage your loved one’s finances. Family, friends, and even nearby neighbors can buy groceries, do the laundry, or take responsibility for such things as a car, house, or yard maintenance.
Ask that a family member or a friend accompany you and your loved one to doctor appointments or other places where you anticipate having behavioral difficulties. A promise of going out to lunch after his or her doctor's appointment can improve everyone’s mood.
Use a calendar and sign-up sheet to free yourself from having to think about day-to-day management details. Exchange contact information to make communication as easy as possible. Consider designating a person to be the point of contact. Think about using an online app or website like www.lotsahelpinghands.com.
A few words to caregivers – don’t be stoic. Accept help! Promises aside, it’s more important to be a good caregiver and not an irritable, exhausted, and burnt-out caregiver.
A few words to family members – don’t assume one person can shoulder all the responsibilities and challenges of caring for the loved one you have in common. It’s unfair and will create ill feelings. Make yourself available even if he or she claims they neither need nor want your assistance. It’s also important that you tell your family member that you appreciate his or her efforts – a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or for a rejuvenating massage is another way to express your gratitude. Call or e-mail often - but not too often or at inconvenient times. In addition to inquiring about your loved one, be sure to ask your family member about their general well-being. Be an empathetic and supportive listener.
And to caregivers, family members, and friends - the most important words you can say to one another are "Thank you."
Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.
The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org