1st Jan 2003
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis
IF YOU HAD TO NAME your most important task as a caregiver, what would it be? Which task is the least rewarding? One thing is clear-we need all the help we can get at one time or another.
As a rule, I can handle crisis situations pretty well. I need a break from the day in, day out routine. In my 15 years of caregiving, I've learned one important thing: You'll seldom receive help unless you let others know you need it.
In a time of crisis, I need to reach out to another person. I need that person to listen to me and assure me that help is available for my particular situation. That person may not always have the answers, but at least I have a listening ear. Perhaps all I need at the time is a pat on the back or someone to tell me that they understand and that I'm not alone.
Nothing seems to be coordinated in the varied network of resources and programs available for the caregiver. What we need is a program that recognizes the caregiver's role in the long-term-care situation. Caregivers wear so many hats and not all of them fit very well.
To continue being the strong, resilient caregivers that we are (or, can be), there are steps we can take.
Write It Down
First, we must admit that asking for help from others isn't a sign of weakness. You can start by making a list of the tasks that need to be done every day. Not all of us feel the same way about the duties we must do. I always enjoyed the chance to get away for a few moments to do the grocery shopping. But if this is something you dislike, then put that on your list.
On my list, my husband's personal hygiene was the hardest task to ask nonprofessionals to do. But I soon found that bending over his bed to bathe him made my back scream in protest. My husband was willing for others to help him shave and dress. He has a trapeze bar over his bed and can still lift himself to assist with his dressing.
Tasks such as mowing the lawn, transportation, child care, daily meal preparation, housecleaning, and the daily laundering of sheets and towels are jobs that others can easily do for you. Make a list of your worries and concerns and don't forget to add your own health concerns to that list.
Show your list to a friend, a relative, the nurse in the doctor's office, or someone from your church. They may offer insight and ideas you haven't considered. After you've made your list, put it aside for a few days, then review it. If you find tasks that you simply can't ask someone else to do, put the list away again for a few days. Then review it again more closely.
It was difficult for me to ask for help, and my health suffered needlessly. My pride got in the way, and I was determined that I could do it all. I soon found I wasn't indispensable. Accepting help improved the quality of my life, as well as my husband's.
Keep your list close by. When someone offers to help you, show them
your list and ask them which errand or task they'd like to do for you.
With practice, asking gets easier.
© 2002 Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis