* This is the third installment in a series where we will be discussing some realistic ways that Caregivers can cope with the stresses of care-giving.
Reaching out for help – it sounds simple, right? There are actually some pretty significant barriers that caregivers might have to overcome before they reach out for help. The biggest barrier, is admitting that they need help. This can be really tough. Some caregivers may be under the impression that if they ask for help, they’ll lose all control; others may feel tremendous guilt about allowing someone else to care for a spouse/loved one; still others may have run into barriers previously and have given up on finding help at all.
Help is available, in a variety of forms. The first thing that I often coach new caregivers to do is to start saying YES when someone asks if they can help with anything. It happens all the time, a neighbor or church-member or friend says something like “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “If there is ever anything you need, just let me know!” If you’re a caregiver, I want you to start speaking up right at that moment! Have a mental list ready if possible! It doesn’t have to be something big, like caring for your loved one for a whole day. Small things can make your load lighter. For example, asking if they can arrange for someone to mow the lawn or fix something around the house. Perhaps someone can bring a meal by on night. Maybe someone can watch TV with your loved one while you go for a 20 minute walk. If you’re feeling lonely/isolated, see if someone might be willing to stop by just to visit, play cards or have coffee sometime. Most people who express concern and offer to help, really do want to help! They probably just don’t know how! Having a list of ideas ready will help you say yes to help and will help them identify a way that they are comfortable helping.
There are other (FREE) ways that you can reach out for help and support. Here are a few of the programs and services that the Alzheimer’s Association offers to help you get started:
- 24/7 HELPLINE: I know I harp on this, but honestly, it is an amazing resource. Our Helpline is staffed 24/7 with master’s level counselors and social workers who specialize in dementia-care. They are they to talk, to listen, to problem solve and to advise you. They can also point you in the direction of community resources if needed. Write this number down and put it on your fridge! 800-272-3900.
- Alzheimer’s Navigator: If you need to get education about different dementia-related topics and create a care plan and if you are also trying to get other family members or professionals all on the same page as you, then the Alzheimer’s Navigator tool is perfect for you. All online, you can go at your own pace, invite others to join in and create a care plan with action steps assigned to different team members. This is great for long-distance care-givers in particular. Check it out HERE.
- Support Groups: If you’re feeling isolated and alone in your care-giving experience, you aren’t. We have in-person support groups all over the state of Georgia and even some telephone support programs for people who have difficulty getting out of the house. Check out Georgia support group options HERE.
- Alz Connected: An online-way to connect with other caregivers through message boards and forums. Alz connected is great for people who are computer-savvy and who need to connect with others virtually. Check out the latest caregiver’s forum HERE.
Other, less free ways to get help and support:
- Geriatric care managers: When situations are complex, when family dynamics are difficult and when caregivers are far-away from the person with the diagnosis, a geriatric care manager can really save the day. This person is usually a Master’s-level social worker or Geriatric-professional and often has a medical or nursing background too. Case management, care planning and in-home assessments are just a few of the services that they may offer. You can find a care manager near you by visiting the Aging Life Care website.
- Respite Care – Nothing beats a break. It’s important, it’s necessary and if you’re a caregiver, you deserve one. You can use our online Community Resource Finder to locate home care agencies or you can call us directly (800-272-3900) to get a listing sent to you for your area. If you need financial assistance for respite care, then definitely give us a call to see if there are any respite programs available in your area. You may also want to check with your local Area Agency on Aging and County Senior Services offices for respite programs in your area.
Stay Tuned! More to come on practical coping mechanisms for caregivers.