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How to Ask For Help Caring For Elderly Loved Ones

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There may come a time when caring for elderly family members exceeds what you feel confident in assisting with or another priority comes up that needs your attention. In this blog, we’ll talk about some ways to ask for help from siblings and others, or how to assess if it's time to move your loved one to assisted living.

Consider your phrasing

Saying something as final as, "I can't do this anymore," can be challenging for family caregivers. You may feel indebted to the parent you're caring for or have an innate belief that it's your responsibility to continue to provide care, even if you're overwhelmed or under qualified.

Instead of saying no altogether, think of this as a change in the way you care for your loved one. That can help you frame the conversation in a way that's a little easier for you and those involved. Instead of, "I can't do this anymore," try saying, "I've been providing care in this way, but I think it's time to consider caring for Mom in a different way. Here's what I can do." Once you (and the rest of your family members) recognize that caring for a loved one can come in many forms, you can share your needs comfortably and move forward without guilt.

Perhaps you're only able to visit, handle finances, or schedule doctor's appointments, but no longer provide 24/7 care. Know that however you contribute adds value - and contributing when you have nothing left to give can leave you unable to provide your parent or loved one with the fulfillment they need.

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Ask questions to uncover solutions

Discussions surrounding the changing needs of an aging parent can become heated, bringing old wounds to the surface and causing rifts between siblings at a time when collaboration is key. You can help facilitate an honest and compassionate conversation between those involved - likely your siblings and yourself - by asking questions instead of driving any single solution.

Questions that can help ensure everyone is heard and uncover solutions the whole family can support include:

  • What's most important to each of you as we make these difficult decisions?
  • What do you feel comfortable contributing as we move forward?
  • What boundaries exist for you? Which aspects of your own life might make it difficult for you?
  • Are there any solutions you strongly oppose? Tell me more about that.

This collaborative approach can help you determine who has capacity without making assumptions or demands, better enabling all of you to identify potential arrangements that might work.

Own your own limitations

Because surrendering your role as caregiver can be so challenging and guilt-ridden, it's common to blame others for your own feelings of anxiety or exhaustion, but those conversations never go well.

Some of the most common phrases that could come to the surface during these difficult conversations include:

  • We wouldn't be in this predicament if others had offered to help sooner
  • I'm bearing all the weight right now and it's not my fault that one person can't do it alone
  • If others had cared in the first place, maybe we wouldn't be having this conversation today
  • I tried to do it all myself because I knew you wouldn't help

Instead, own the way you feel. "I'm so glad I could help this last year, but I know my limits and I'm very close. I'd like to discuss helping in a different way moving forward because I'm feeling overextended." When you own your own exhaustion, your siblings are less inclined to feel defensive and the conversation is more likely to end with collaboration, ideas, and willingness to help.

Recognize that transitioning care doesn't equate to giving up

If your parent's needs are outside of your qualifications or physical abilities, it may be time to consider assisted living, skilled nursing, or memory care. For most families, the decision to transition care is an emotional one. Families often tell us, "We feel like we're giving up on her," when it's time to move into a more supportive environment.

The truth is that families remain involved as helpers when their loved ones transition to a care community. You'll continue to contribute to their care in meaningful ways. Families are intimately involved in the care planning process, providing insight and making important decisions about the care of their loved one. Family members can be involved in nearly every aspect of care, from feeding and dressing to doctor's appointments and more. You can transition care and still provide as much or as little support as you'd like. You don't have to forfeit your role in the care of your loved one.

When visiting with your parents or siblings about care in a group setting, you can refer to it as adding help to your team or supplementing your support with a more qualified team.

Key takeaways

When your own mental, physical, or emotional health begins to take a toll as a result of your caregiving role - or when your loved one's needs exceed your qualifications or capacity - it may be time to ask for help. Rephrasing your request, using collaborative language, and rethinking long-term care options can help.

Learn more about the qualified care services that Vista Springs provides. We're experts at getting you the respite you need.

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