- GRIEF SUPPORT
- EVENTS & RESOURCES
- PHYSICIAN REFERRALS
Hope Hospice is publishing a five-part monthly series about common family caregiver mistakes. Following is Part 3. This series is written by Debbie Emerson, MS, Hope Hospice Community Health Educator.
Revisit Part 1: Not Planning in Advance
Revisit Part 2: Not Hiring In-Home Help
At the time of this writing, our country is still in the throes of a pandemic and avoiding prolonged contact with people outside one’s own household is advised. So it feels strange to stress the importance of having an active support team in place to assist with the care of elderly and/or chronically ill loved ones. But I’ve come to realize over these past few months that, in times of isolation, seeking and accepting help from others is more important than ever; not only will we receive that much-needed assistance, but reaching out to and connecting with others is essential for our own emotional health.
You may have lost your direct support system due to worries about infection, but please continue to seek and accept help from others. While they may not be able to come into your home, they can still run errands, help in the yard, make phone calls – support you in whatever creative ways they can.
So instead of limiting who is on your support team, I propose that you expand who’s on the team. In addition to reaching out to the usual family, friends, and neighbors, it’s time to consider the various other ways you can make your life easier. You may want to investigate using grocery and pharmacy delivery services and in-home care agencies. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy, reliable, and safe the shopping services are. And, many homecare agencies are taking extra precautions to keep their clients and staff healthy and safe. The Family Caregiver Alliance has an excellent article that covers almost everything you need to know about hiring in-home care.
How many times have you heard friends say, Please let me know what I can do to help. And your usual response? Thank you, I’ll let you know. But then you don’t follow up. For a variety of reasons. So, the next time someone asks what they can do to help you, be ready to answer specifically. Prepare in advance a written list of ways people can help you. Then, when someone asks, share the list with them and let them choose what they’re able to do. That way, you’ll get exactly the help you need and you’ll save your friends the dilemma of trying to figure out the best way to help you. It’s a win-win!
Asking for help can be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to juggle all of the tasks that come with caring for a loved one. As I mentioned, you first need to figure out what kind of help you need. That can range from a simple phone call to check in, to actually having someone stay with your loved one while you run errands or take a much-needed break. At the end of this article is a worksheet that can help you get started.
If you feel uncomfortable requesting help, ask a trusted friend or family member to be your care coordinator. When someone asks what they can do to help you, say, Call my friend Julie – she’s been helping me coordinate and schedule my helpers.
Or, if you’d prefer, you can enlist the help of one of the many online apps that enable you to request and accept offers of help from your friends, family, and neighbors. You are in complete control of determining what kind of help you need, when you need it, and who has access to the site. Here are a few to check out:
I recently learned of a Help Map on the social media site Nextdoor where neighbors can post their offers of non-contact help. When you go to the site, it will show you a map of your immediate area with big dots to indicate the name and location of a neighbor who has offered to help and what kind of help they can provide. In addition to errands, yard work, etc., the help map is currently working with vote.org to help neighbors vote in the upcoming election. And, if you are able to help someone, you can post your information. It’s a great way for neighbors to help neighbors. By the way, you will need to set up a free Nextdoor account to participate.
Zoomers to Boomers is another offspring of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a newly formed organization in which high school students volunteer to do grocery shopping for elderly and immunocompromised individuals in their community. Tips are actually discouraged, but any received are donated to charity. Many cities in the greater East Bay Area have adopted this program, so check the site to see if your city is included.
Check with local schools and scouting organizations, as students and scouts are engaged in community service projects. Check to see if there are any responsible young people in your community who can help with some of your tasks that don’t require them to be inside your home.
And, as always, Senior Centers have a wealth of free resources and services designed not only for senior citizens, but also for those who care for them. Just run a Google search on the phrase: “senior center + [the name of your city]” to find the organization in your community.
People love to help – let them. And when this has all settled down, you’ll still have your team in place to transition back to helping with more direct care for your loved one.