There will be the times that people offer to help but you don’t know how to direct them, the times that people don’t step up to the plate at all, and the times when the heavens align and the right help is delivered at the right time. Welcome to the world of delegating, an important task necessary for the survival of every caregiver. You can’t do it all, and luckily, you usually don’t have to.
Finding Your Support Team
People want to help when they know there’s a problem, and it’s mutually beneficial to allow them to help. They feel useful and you get to focus your attention on your loved one with aphasia or get a much-needed break.
Notifying people that you need support is actually the second step. The first step is defining who is in that possible pool of helpers. Begin by making a list of all of your family members who will want to help, even if they live far away. (After all, even people living far away can order a meal for delivery to save you from cooking one night.)
Next, add your friends and your loved one’s friends. You may be surprised by who steps out of the woodwork, so include everyone who makes sense. If you belong to any communities such as a religious organization or a social group, add those people, too. Think of these people as your dream team — the people who will step up and help.
Making a List of Needs
But wait, before you reach out to your dream team, come up with a list of tasks that would help you. There are plenty of things people will offer to do, but not all of these tasks will help. Some will require you to be home at a certain time or require you to create a long list of instructions that takes longer to assemble than doing the task itself.
This is the time to be transparent and think of tasks that others can do. Especially focus on the ones that take you away from your loved one with aphasia, but also consider tasks people can do to give you a break. If you make them a shopping list, can they go to the grocery store for you? Do a load of laundry? Feed your pets? Pick up another helper at the airport?
Don’t be embarrassed about asking for help; we all need it from time to time. Think about how good you feel when someone entrusts you with a task. Know you’re doing the same for someone else who wants to make your aphasia journey a little easier.
Now that you have you have a list and know your dream team, it’s time to set up a way to communicate. This is a place where technology comes in handy.
Sites such as CaringBridge can help disseminate information and keep people informed. Lotsa Helping Hands or SignUpGenius can ensure that you have coverage and other people get reminders to do their tasks.
You may want to create a Google Group so you can send out one email and have it reach many people. Or you may want to set up an email account specifically for your caregiving needs so these emails don’t flood your regular inbox.
Make sure you end each email or CaringBridge post with a call-to-action. For instance, tell them exactly what you need and how you’d like support. “I have an appointment for myself this week, so I would love for someone to come Thursday from 3 pm to 5 pm to be with Jim. Please email me by Tuesday evening if you’d like to do this.” Being specific means that you’ll get fewer questions in the long-run, and people have a sense of when you need the information and what they’re committing to do.
Make a Counter Offer
Sometimes people will offer to help, but what they’re offering to do won’t actually be helpful. Don’t turn them down entirely; make a counteroffer.
It’s fine to tell someone, “Thank you so much! I don’t need a meal right now, but I do need someone to go grocery shopping for me on Wednesday. If I make you a list and give you some cash, could you do that for me?” They may say no, but more likely, their first offer was made because they thought it was something you’d want. Once they hear what you actually need, they’re likely to change course and do your idea instead.
Remember, you don’t need to take all the help that is offered, but it is in your best interest to give tasks to all interested parties.
When No One Steps Up
Sometimes no one will step up. Sometimes you’ll need to let go of expectations and be okay with the fact that dinner is cereal again and the laundry didn’t get done. Life will go on, and taking care of yourself and your loved one is more important than a clean house.
You may also have people flake on tasks because they volunteer to help without knowing what they’re getting themselves into, or they may have good intentions and then forget. Be forgiving; everyone makes mistakes and you don’t know what is happening in their life. If your circle of support is tight, you may be able to quickly get another volunteer if one drops out. If you notice someone is a super-helper, you may even ask them if you can use them as a safety net if other people fall through.
Don’t be afraid to hire support if it’s possible; either to supplement or in place of friends. There are grocery delivery services, cleaning services, and restaurants that drop off meals. You can schedule these time savers around your schedule.
We’re rolling out four posts directly for caregivers for Aphasia Awareness Month. Jump back to read the first one because this is the second one in the series.
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