Why Is Asking for Help So Hard?
For the family caregiver, it often feels like the duties are just part of being a family. Caregiving seems like a natural extension of filial piety. However, that also translates to many of us feeling we have to do it all ourselves. A family caregiver might not even realize there is help available. Some caregivers feel like they’re all alone in the role (and, in many ways, they may be). Additionally, a family caregiver might be so busy that it doesn’t seem possible to find out what help is available. Asking for help can seem like an impossible task when you’re just trying to survive.
Your blockage with asking for help may be deep-rooted. While you were growing up what kind of messages did you get about asking for help? Did your family place value on self-reliance? When you did attempt to get help, how did the people in your life respond?
Family members’ actions modeled whether or not asking for help was acceptable. They also taught you the extent to which outsiders could be trusted. And most importantly, your past experiences could serve to reinforce the notion that help was available, consistent, and safe. On the other hand, they might have left you with the painful impression that your needs would go unanswered. If it was the latter, most of us simply stop asking for help rather than face rejection or worse.
Some of us associate asking for help with being weak, needy or incompetent. Occasionally, we might, consciously or not, worry about what someone will want in return. We want to feel equal in relationships. So, asking for help may feel like we then owe the person, even if they do it with no expectations.
This is made worse if the very family members who modeled these negative assumptions are the ones we’re caring for now. They may continue to reinforce these patterns with what they say to us and unspoken assumptions.
Why Asking for Help is Essential as a Family Caregiver
Despite how hard asking for help is, we must learn to do it. Because, without help, you’re likely to become overwhelmed and burnt out.
The majority of caregivers say they felt ill-prepared for the role. And, most caregivers find caregiving to be stressful, with about half saying it’s overwhelming. Unfortunately, very few of these caregivers are getting the help they need…or any break at all. About 85% of family caregivers in the U.S. do not receive any respite care. Due to this burden and feelings of isolation, from 20–40% of caregivers experience depression. Additionally, many face poor health.
When you are overwhelmed, depressed, or ill you cannot do your best as a family caregiver. Asking for help is not a selfish act. It is a loving act that protects both you and your care recipient. Additionally, many caregivers take on medical tasks, managing finances and more. We may be doing our loved ones a disservice trying to do all this ourselves if we feel ill-equipped.
And, the evidence for getting help is overwhelming. For example, 98% of caregivers said respite made them a better caregiver. The elders they were caring for also had fewer hospitalizations once they received respite care. In addition, almost 80% said it contributed to marital stability. Moreover, most family caregivers reported improved mental and physical health when they got support.
How to Ask for Help
First of all, rethink asking for help. Start with these questions:
- What are the situations as a family caregiver where I would benefit from outside help and support?
- Who are the people in your life who would be safe to reach out to for assistance?
- What professional resources would you encourage a friend to use if they needed help?
- What are three ways in which asking for professional help can be a sign of strength? How could it help me do a better job as a family caregiver?
- What areas do I struggle with or feel most comfortable getting outside help?
If you feel it’s time to ask for help, but are still stumped on where to turn, we encourage you to reach out to us. We offer a safe space to ask questions. If you aren’t quite ready, consider joining an online support community like our Caregivers group on Facebook or any of these. And, make sure you’re getting quality caregiver information like our monthly newsletter. Therefore, you’ll know where to turn for help and be more aware of what’s available. This article is full of additional resources and steps you can take for a caregiving transformation.
Another issue you might face is resistance from your loved one. We deal with this a lot and would be glad to talk to you about strategies. We can also help with guiding the discussions. Check out a few of our tips for When Your Elderly Parent Refuses Help.
Take the first step.
Set up a free consultation to discuss your caregiving situation and get help.