I wasn’t raised to ask for help. I was raised to identify what I wanted to do and then figure out how to do it. And while I might not verbally ask for help, when it came to caring for my Dad, I felt like all I did was “ask” and all it got me was feeling even more powerless.
Apparently, I didn’t ask the “right way” though I remember using a pleading tone and saying “please”. ‘Plllleeeeaaasssseee…someone help me to…’ explain to my children why telling them my Dad wouldn’t get better wasn’t being mean; explain to my boss why I wasn’t regretful for being late, but I really needed my job; explain to my Dad that he was the greatest person that I would ever get to know and I hadn’t had enough years to truly know him.
Apparently, it’s not enough to recognize someone needs help, the expectation is that they will articulate what help they need, ask for it, and therefore get it. Wouldn’t want to intrude, after all.
Once someone in the family I married into told me that if I wanted help, to ask, after all they had experience in caregiving. To this day I can’t help but wonder if they really did because if they did, why didn’t they know that I didn’t know what to ask for, how to accept the help that I didn’t know I needed, and that asking in itself was something I hadn’t done in the previous decade so why did they expect it from me at that point in time?
Four paragraphs ago I thought this blog would ultimately lead me to share the ways in which care partners ask for help and to encourage those reading, who I assume are care partners, to not stop “asking”.
Instead perhaps I’d encourage you to share this with those around you because what I feel truly needs to happen is the rest of us need to start listening better, beyond the words. It’s called third-level-listening and it means listening to others in the context of their situation.
“What are you going to do on your day off?” one co-worker asked the other who replied “I’m going down to my Mom’s to help her around the house.” I’m caregiving for my mother who lives independently and I’m worried that she needs extra help. “Why don’t you call into Friday’s meetings so you can beat traffic?”
“Your son told the class that his Grandpa had cancer, we hope he gets better,” the teacher said at pick-up. Caring for children while also caring for a parent is very difficult, but as teachers we see it a lot, “I know the perfect story to share with the class that will help him understand he’s not alone.”
“Dad, did you drink enough water today?” I don’t know how else to show that I love you because I don’t want to say the wrong thing, make you sad or cry in front of you. “I’d rather have a beer with you.”
Four paragraphs later and I don’t feel as if I’ve imparted anything you didn’t already know. Except…that the right people will hear you and while they may not know what to say or how to help, they just might.
I’d like to think that I’m reminding you that while you might feel isolated, you’re hardly alone.