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Help for Caregivers


Millions of Canadians are giving care to a family member. Many caregivers say they want and need help but don't know where to get it or how to ask. Without that help, caregivers are at risk for physical and emotional burnout. 

Before asking for help, assess the specific needs. They may include:

  • respite so you can take a vacation
  • support to make important decisions
  • regular phone calls/visits to you or to the care recipient
  • financial help - or help to manage finances
  • hands-on help with care
  • household chores

Some caregivers report “rejection” when asking for help. If other family members don't pitch in, it may be that they don't agree with the "needs". If you believe that Dad should never be left alone and your brother thinks you are being over-protective, you aren't likely to get cooperation. Explore or anticipate other family member’s beliefs about the tasks of caregiving before asking for help.

Here are five more strategies for overwhelmed caregivers:

Talk to family members.
Look beyond siblings – younger aunts and uncles, cousins, grandchildren and nieces and nephews may be willing to help. Start with a family meeting - face to face or telephone conference call. Without phrasing it as a demand, outline your list of needs, then ask open ended questions to find out which of these needs can be met by others.

Contact friends and neighbors – yours or your parents'.
Again, begin with a list. Consider what you can do to build or strengthen these relationships, and what you might do in return, particularly if you are caring from a distance.

Reach out to the community.
If your family belongs to a church, ask about assistance programs such as companionship, visiting, and transportation. Contact your local seniors’ centre and ask about community outreach programs.

Hire help, if you can.
First, learn what's available and find the services. Explore cost sharing with family members. This may allow the caregiver to use their time and energy most appropriately.

Manage your emotions.
Sometimes our emotions and beliefs get in the way of asking for help. Do you think you might be seen as demanding or incompetent? Does your family member say that you are the only one that can take care of them? Does that create pressure or resentment?

Caregiver burnout is a serious consequence of trying to do too much for too long on your own. You can learn more about this issue in our ElderWise Guide: Caregiver Burnout: How to spot it. How to stop it.

If you notice that your beliefs may be preventing you from taking care of yourself, consider talking to a medical professional, counselor or an ElderWise coach.

© ElderWise Inc., 2010

You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Publishing, a division of ElderWise Inc. We provide clear, concise and practical direction to Canadians with aging parents. Visit us at
http://elderwise.ca/ and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.

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