Having been a caregiver for the past two decades, I can tell you with the voice of experience that it is an ever-evolving venture. For instance, in the beginning, the people you think you will be able to rely upon the most for help have a tendency to somehow disappear. Unfortunately, this can include some of your fondest family members. That’s when it truly hurts!
If somehow you find yourself the only one in your family caring for your loved one, I want you to understand that you are not alone. For many years now, this has been the number one complaint I have heard from caregivers everywhere.
You may be wondering, “How in the world can my own siblings rarely or never offer to help care for our mother or father? After all, they are their parents too.”
Well, I will attempt to answer that. Relatives have a way of dwelling in that frustrating and dangerous stage of denial, sometimes all the way until the end. They simply won’t let go of the belief that you are completely over-exaggerating everything. Others may avoid ever spending the time to actually see for themselves the hardships you and your loved one are enduring. They may even get upset or angry at you for asking for help, leaving you scratching your head, wondering, “Weren’t we raised by the same parents? How could we be so different?” The truth of the matter is that brothers and sisters are different, even twins. That is most likely why you have become the family caregiver. You are the gifted one. Give yourself a little pat on the back here.
If multiple attempts to get family members involved have failed, you may want to explore different tactics. First of all, don’t go into the conversation with your expectations too high. This way the letdown won’t be so full of disappointment and resentment, which is pressure you just don’t need at this point of the campaign.
However, when you do ask for help, don’t pussyfoot around. Be direct and stay focused. If these folks straight out say no, ask them to come up with a plan of assistance that they would consider implementing.
Do not let any disappointment allow the conversation to get sidetracked. Stay on point. Remember what the conversation is about. If you start hearing “I can’t help you right now,” move directly onto “When?”
Most of us were brought up to be stoic and taught to get things done on our own. However, this is a totally different situation here. You are caring for another person’s well-being. You have to do what’s best for both of you.
The number one mistake caregivers make is not asking for help. Even early on in this journey, one needs to get in the habit of learning to ask. Waiting to do this after the disease has advanced will only create another problem you don’t need.
Trust me. Toward the end, you will barely have time to breathe. You need to work on this early. Remember: the most successful caregiver is a proactive one.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc is the author of Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness, The Aftereffects of Caregiving, Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors, and coauthor of While I Still Can. He was a weekly columnist of “Common Sense Caregiving” published in the Tampa Tribune, Hernando Today, and many other health publications. He has had over 350 articles published in national newspapers on dementia care. He is now a national speaker on dementia caregiving. Learn more at www.commonsensecaregiving.com