As the caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it can be really easy to focus so much on providing the best care possible for that loved one that you forget about yourself. After all, you’re not the one who is suffering from such an unfair disease — it is not about you. Or is it? The reality is that it is a monumental challenge to be an Alzheimer’s caregiver, and you should know that it is 100% okay to ask for help, too.
In many cases, you put your wants and needs to the side to care for a loved one full-time. And it is not uncommon for your health to be compromised, whether through illness, caregiver burnout, stress, or all of the above.
In my book, You’re not Alone: Living as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, we acknowledge how powerless it can feel to have to ask for help. But those who ultimately do say it is a blessing amidst the many challenges they are unprepared to face alone.
Caregivers deserve to have a helping hand, too!
Do you cringe when loved ones say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you?” That is not an uncommon feeling under the circumstances. Getting beyond the discomfort is important, though, if you are going to accept help and help others to help you. The first step is to ask for help once. Then ask again. You may find the second time easier and the third time easier than the second. And so on, and so on.
Once you start getting more comfortable asking for help, create a list of things you could use help with, and let the asker know what specifically you can use help with and when you need it. This way, you are getting the help you need while still maintaining independence on the things you can still handle on your own.
When it comes to surrounding ourselves with people who know how to listen and respond with care and concern, many of us can find strength in numbers. A few obvious people and places to seek this from include:
- Religious organizations
- Social groups
From there, consider looking outside your familiar support systems for professional help.
Primary care physician — He or she has experience evaluating and counseling patients on the psychological impacts of the Alzheimer’s caregiver role. If you have any medical reasons for how you are feeling, they may be able to help with that, too, by offering medication to relieve symptoms.
Non-medication approaches — Physicians often look to non-medication approaches to help with depression either prior to using medication or in combination with medication. Non-medication approaches may include participation in a caregiver support group or individual or family counseling. Support groups are often organized and facilitated by professional counselors affiliated with local hospitals or long-term care providers. They can be helpful to the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their family and caregivers.
Psychologist and social worker — This can be of significant help when dealing with how you are feeling. Your primary care physician will likely know the counselors in the area who specialize in the kind of counseling you might benefit from. Private insurance and government health care benefits pay for what is prescribed by a physician.
Remember to follow your own advice — I would bet that at times in your life, you have given this advice to someone: “Do not hesitate to ask for help.” Being that you are now an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it is time to take your own advice. Help can come in so many forms, each one as reassuring, supportive, and inspirational as the others: a listening ear, a reassuring hug, offering your favorite food, or a helpful drive to the store.
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Help will come when you need it if you learn to ask at the time. It is always nice if the help comes without asking, and often times it will. But when it doesn’t, I encourage you to remember this quote: “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
Please call Leigh Hilton PLLC if we can help answer any questions you have about the information in this blog post. Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call whenever any estate planning or elder law advice or action is needed.
We look forward to serving you.
Thanks for reading!