I am not good at it. Type A personalities typically aren't good at asking for help or delegating.
And I have lived my life pretty much according to this quote:
The best place to find a helping hand
is at the end of your own arm.
Care giving, however, teaches you the limits of your energy. And no matter what your personality type, eventually, you find yourself in over your head. For me it is a terrible position to be in ... to ask for help.
In fact, the last time I stretched to the breaking point, my husband insisted that I ask for help.
And I did.
But if you ask for help and you get resistance or excuses, it confirms that you shouldn't have asked in the first place. If you ask for help and it is interpreted as a rescue from your decisions, that is deadly.
So I rarely ask.
The truth is that you cannot do this job alone. Even in elder care institutions, they have 3 eight hour shifts of helping hands. Thankfully, I have a generous, loving and strong network.
To start with my husband, whose every day life was most affected by my choices, continues to support me. I am sure when he said his vows 42 years ago, it didn't include living with his mother-in-law. It is not his nature to be a care giver, and the frustrations of life for him are considerable at times. But how do you project 42 years into the future what life will be like and what will be asked of you. The fact he is still standing solidly by my side after 5 difficult years I guess means he really meant "until death do us part." How great is that!
And my adult children have been a help beyond measure. They don't wait to be asked. They see a need and jump right in. They really should be saving energy for their own parents 20 years from now ... meaning me, of course! :-) I plan to be a hand full when I am mom's age. I have already warned them.
But seriously, my adult children have already shown sensitivity and commitment without my asking. They know first hand how hard this is for me at times. I am proud to call them my kids.
Then there are friends! I won't name names, but they know who they are. Two individuals readily come to mind because of recent events. There are others, but this blog can only hold so much.
One friend is dealing with her own husband's critical and complex health issues, but she has walked this parent care giving path before me. She has offer valuable insights by email time and time again. Never judgemental, she is supportive and caring to my thoughts and frustrations. She constantly reminds me how "normal" all my responses are - even the bad ones. My knitting friend ... you are golden!
And then there is another good friend from my former professional life, who I recently saw after an absence. I tried to pick her brain for home companion recommendations, since she too has been a care giver for her grandmother and husband. She responded so quickly to personally help, that I couldn't believe it: "I would love to do this for you and your mom!" She remembered mom from years ago when mom went to doctor appointments independently. This friend's generous and spontaneous offer had me in tears as I stood in her office. She demanded that I stop or she would be in tears, too. Mom remembers this lovely lady, and they spent their first afternoon together yesterday. It went exceeding well from both of them. Knowing that mom is in my friend's capable hands lifted about 10 pounds off my shoulders. Thank you my dear friend from the bottom of my heart.
A few other resources ...
The website Caring.com has been most interesting and was discovered by my husband. A recent story on Care Giver Stress and how to deal with it seemed timely. There is also a free online newsletter. It is amazing how many times I see myself in these articles.
Another suggestion I have yet to seek out is a book called Caring For Mother: The Long Goodbye by Virginia Stem Owens. I plan to order it - and review it for this series of posts at some future date. At times I feel I am living that title.
I have also found some interesting pod casts on the subject of elder care. Aging Parents Pod Cast can be found at iTunes and at their website Aging Parents.com. I haven't really explored the web site, but I have listened to a number of the pod casts. Five years ago I would have found this information very helpful. I have learned a lot already through experience, but there is still new information to be found. Of course, you have to read/listen critically and determine which information is valid for your situation.
Recently I discovered the large support system sitting out there for the asking .... the blogging community. While it is true that bloggers are distant "friends", they have frequently boosted my mood and energy with words of encouragement and advice. And the sharing of personal care giving experiences has been very touching.
You guys are the best!
In the end when all is said and done, I am the main support for mom ... she looks to me no matter what actions I take. But "help" is critical to make sure I can still be standing for as long as she needs me.
Care Giver and Daughter