Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia
I have never been very good at asking for help and like many family caregivers, I didn’t think that my own needs mattered. Thinking I had to do everything all the time caused me to have two breakdowns; once during my early years of caregiving and again the last year of my caregiving journey. (I was a caregiver for over 17 years.)
I wish I had known about the following statistics from the MetLife Study:
Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely and this level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life.
40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately 25%-50% of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.
I don’t know which statistic frightens me the most. But I do know that I have paid an emotional, physical and financial cost for being a caregiver. (I also loved taking care of my family.)
But it didn’t have to be that way. I could have and should have asked for help. But I am a caregiver and when people told me, “Just make time for yourself,” it wasn’t that easy.
If you think about who in a family becomes the caregiver, it will usually be the person who is more nurturing and generous with their time. So by nature, the caregiver is the type of person who already gives more than others. And this becomes a vicious cycle of give – give – give instead of give – receive – give – receive.
I recently said to my friend who is an overwhelmed caregiver, “Maybe now is a good time for the rest of your family to learn what they need to do to help their grandfather.” What I heard back from her were lots of excuses:
They don’t want to help
They don’t know what to do
They don’t know him like I do
They will just make it worse
I don’t have time to teach them
It is just easier if I do it
I get tired of asking
I don’t think they would help, even if I asked
Why should I have to ask, they should just know what to do
I don’t want to be a bother
It is too much effort to ask
Sound familiar? I realized in that moment that it isn’t always that the family won’t help; it is the caregiver who is resisting asking for help. So let me ask you. If you had a broken shoulder, would it be okay to ask someone to carry your groceries to the car? If your car broke down, could you call for a tow truck? When your loved one needs help, don’t you get them the help you need? Then why don’t you deserve the same attention? Your needs matter and you deserve to have someone help you.
Viki’s Four-Step Process
I encourage you to explore what is keeping you from asking. Write down what goes through your head when someone says, “You should just ask for help.” What are your resistance statements?
Take your list of resistance statements and put a statement beside it to help you get past what has been preventing you from asking for help. Here are a few examples caregivers have come up with:
They don’t want to help – Well I don’t know this because I haven’t given them a chance
They don’t know what to do – I could teach them
I don’t have time to teach them – You don’t have time because nobody is helping you. If you teach them now, then they can help at other times in the future.
It is just easier if I do it– Only the first time.
Why should I have to ask, they should just know what to do – Would I have known what to do before I became a caregiver? Then how would they know?
I am not saying you will be able to get past your barriers right away, but you need to begin so you won’t break down like I did. One thing that helped me was to realize that the other person won’t do what needs to be done as well as I would. They may do things slower, awkwardly at first, and in their own way. But that is okay because you are going to get free time and your loved one will be okay.
Make a list of all the things that would help you such as practical, emotional, financial and information support. Write a really long list and carry it with you so when people say, “What can I do to help?” you can pull out the list, hand it to them, and ask them what they would like to do.
Ask for specific things:
Can you call mom each week and ask her about her favorite memories or talk to her about what is worrying her?
Can you call me every day to check on me? (This can be very helpful to keep your depression under control.)
I don’t have time to read this book about Maria’s disease. Can you read it and then send me the main points?
Can you research what is the best wheelchair to buy?
People can help from a distance:
Can your brother listen to Dad’s doctor’s appointment by speaker phone?
Can they do the shopping for groceries online and have the food delivered?
Could they pay for someone to come to the house to give you a massage?
Can they take over paying the bills or set up automatic bill pay for you?
Can they send $51 a month so you can pay for three hours of respite care?
Ask someone to create a phone tree to disseminate information. This way you don’t need to make all the calls. Have others spread the news.
Mom needs a ride on Thursday for her haircut.
Could you pick up some milk and eggs when you go to the store today?
I need someone to come and clean my kitchen.
Can you sit with Bob on Thursday night so I can go to a class about coping with dementia?
These are just a few ideas. I am sure you can come up with lots of ideas, big and small. (Don’t hesitate to put everything on the list. You will be surprised by what people are willing to do.)
Ask a lot of people. You may need to ask 5 people to find one that will help you but that is okay because now you have one person who will help you. Ask people for things they can actually do. Different people have different abilities. Show them the list and let them choose what they would be comfortable doing. Tell them the deadline for when the task needs to get done.
Oh no, I hear your resistance statement coming through. “There is nobody I can ask.” Here is my response to break through your resistance. There are more people in your circle of friends, family and community than you think. Call a local faith community and ask for help. (You don’t even need to belong to that church or synagogue.) Call the Area Agency on Aging in your town and tell them what you need. They can help connect you to resources. Tell the people in the hair salon about the struggles you are facing and maybe they know someone who can help. Many high schools are requiring kids to do community service hours. Call the school and ask to have someone assigned to help you.
It may feel like a lot of work to begin to ask, but don’t let this stop you. This is another of those resistance issues. Remember that you are not just asking for this one time, you are training this person for the future. If you can get them to trained and used to helping, they might be able to help you every week or two.
Lastly, give gratitude even when you think your family should feel obligated to help. Of course they should but let’s be realistic. Our practical goal is to get them to help more than they have been. Saying thank you and giving words of appreciation go a long way to reinforce good behavior. And if that doesn’t work, you can always say, “If you don’t have time to help, then you are going to have to pay to hire someone to help me.” That will get their attention.
Have a kind and respectful day.
Viki will be interviewed on the Caregiver Hour, the radio show hosted by Kim Linder, founder of Senior Holistic Living.
Kim Linder is passionate about helping caregivers listen to their inner voice, be authentic and make conscious decisions during every stage of the caregiving process. In addition to her experience garnered from over 10 years as a professional caregiver, she personally served as primary caregiver to her in-laws for two years. Her career path has provided invaluable insight into the very real struggles, guilt, challenges, joys and sadness that caregivers often experience. And because of her personal journey, she understands and embraces the healing power of self-discovery and empowerment.
As an advocate for seniors, Kim’s grass roots experience as a Marketing Director and Executive Director of an Assisted Living Community helped her become an integral part of the senior living community. Her passion to enhance the lives of seniors motivated her to develop monthly educational and wellness programs to illustrate her belief that many seniors want to be seen and heard rather then become invisible as they age. Her work in this arena naturally led to her passion for helping the many caregivers that she encountered and interacted with over the years.
Recognizing that caregivers often shoulder a burden that they are simply not prepared to handle, Kim is gifted in detecting the warning signs that ultimately lead to imbalance in their lives. She relies on her intuition to guide her as she supports caregivers, encouraging them to feel acknowledged, empowered, centered, and balanced. This holistic approach of focusing on the whole person is gentle yet effective. And most importantly, it results in a de-stressed caregiver who is able to make wise and clear decisions for themselves and those in their care.
Kim enjoys working with professional and lay caregivers, health professionals, holistic practitioners, and all types of well-spirited people. A dynamic speaker, she has presented to a wide variety of audiences, including Regency Oaks, St. Mark Village, and BB&T Bank. In addition to her work with Senior Holistic Living, she is a certified reiki master and member of Better Living for Seniors, Women In Philanthropy, and the Florida Council on Aging (FCOA). Kim wrote a monthly column for the Tampa Tribune called The How To Guide To Graceful Aging, and her writing has also appeared in The Jewish Times newspaper, Jewish Woman magazine, and The Bugle – a senior publication.
Kim resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband, Jack. She has a son, four stepchildren, and two grandchildren – all of whom enjoy her keen sense of humor and penchant for telling a great story. Her hobbies include traveling, black & white photography, biking, yoga and attending art shows and estate sales. She wholeheartedly believes that giving back to the community is essential to creating abundance, so she donates both her time and money to the organizations that she supports. Her volunteer efforts include the Alzheimer’s Association, Suncoast Hospice Foundation and All Children’s Hospital.
If you think Kim’s approach is right for you or you’d like to know more about her, please contact her.
Senior Holistic Living
13911 W. Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL 33635
Four Ways to Listen (For questions, call 877-897-8255)
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Have a kind and respectful day.
April 13 – An Evening with Viki Kind – Austin, Texas, 6:30 PM Presentation sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association of Texas and Austin Groups for the Elderly
April 13 – An Evening with Viki Kind – Austin, Texas, 6:30 PM
Presentation sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association of Texas and Austin Groups for the Elderly.
The Alzheimer’s Association-Capital of Texas Chapter is a non-profit organization that provides family support, community education, public awareness and supports research for the prevention, cure and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.
Their mission is to provide leadership to enhance care and support services for individuals and their families while supporting the advancement of research to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease. Their vision is a world without Alzheimer’s disease.
Austin Groups for the Elderly is a non-profit organization empowering caregivers, the elderly and their families through education, advocacy, resources and support.
RSVP to 512.241.0420 or email
Have a kind and respectful day.
Drowning but can’t reach for a life vest: families, caregivers, doctors, nurses and many others helping professionals
I had such a sad experience recently. I was speaking to a group of doctors and presenting them some techniques to make their lives easier. (This was at a county hospital which deals with the most underprivileged of our community.) I was surprised by how many of the doctors in the room were so resistant to accepting help. I sensed from their comments how burnt out they were and how hopeless they had become. The system they are working under is so broken that they couldn’t imagine that anything could change or be made better. It was painful to witness their suffering.
I realized that what I was seeing was classic caregiver burnout aka compassion fatigue. Caregivers, both family and professional, get so overwhelmed, they can’t ask for help. Lifeguards see this all the time when the person becomes so fatigued that the person can’t grab hold of the life vest right in front of them. The lifeguard has to swim out to the person and literally carry them to shore.
It is so easy for those of those of those who help caregivers to just say, “Grab on and I will help you,” but it may be too late. Ideally, we should reach the person before they are that far gone, but often times, the burnout doesn’t reveal itself until it has become extreme.
I understand this. When I was caregiving for my fourth and final relative, I became so overwhelmed that I laid down on the sidewalk in front of my house, and couldn’t get up. The only reason I finally did get up was because I didn’t want someone driving by to panic and call an ambulance. (Typical caregiver behavior, I was more worried about everyone else, before myself.) I went in the house and cried for days. I was lucky because my husband was my life saver and helped me reach out for support. For so many caregivers, they are drowning and don’t know help is available or where to turn.
For healthcare professionals, there is pride in being strong and capable, and to be weak is professionally unacceptable. And because their colleagues rarely express their own suffering, these professional caregivers think they are all alone. This leads to even more isolation and inability to ask for help.
I would encourage those of you who work as a professional healer to make sure your organization develops programs and support groups for you. You deserve the same care that family caregivers are receiving in the community. I need all of you to be okay because a lot of people are depending on you. But I don’t expect you to be super-human, I understand you are very human and have the same needs as all the rest of us. Please realize you are not alone and there are people ready to help. A great organization that can help is http://www.compassionfatigue.org/.
Have a kind and respectful day.
Ryan Whitmore and Michael TS Lindenmayer from The Caregiver Relief Fund, “Providing home health vouchers for care for caregivers in need,” on October 6th, 10AM Pacific on blogtalkradio.com/kindethics
The Caregiver Relief Fund (CRF) is a non-for-profit organization that provides resources, assistance and a voice to over 50 million Americans who are currently caregivers to the chronically ill, aged and disabled. We address two major problems for caregivers: limited time and chronic exhaustion. The CRF provides vouchers for “respite” at-home care, which are donated or purchased on behalf of the CRF from professional at-home care service companies. These vouchers give caregivers time to address their personal needs and grants them the resources needed to invest in their own well being. We created the CRF to respect caregivers, build strong families and ultimately help America face one of its single largest challenges: the aging of America and its impact on caregivers.
How Does The Caregiver Relief Fund Work? The Caregiver Relief Fund begins with leading at-home care companies. We work directly with the individual franchises to secure donated vouchers for “respite” at-home care. In cases where donations are not possible, the CRF may negotiate to buy vouchers to help those caregivers in need. After securing the hours, we will select and match the available relief funds. In order to receive a voucher, caregivers begin by filling out an application form and sharing their caregiving story. Voucher recipients are non-paid caregivers with an annual income of $80,000 or less who have been in a caregiving role for a chronically ill individual, elder or disabled person for 12 months or longer.
Michael Lindenmayer: Michael is the founder of the Caregiver Relief Fund. Michael has a long history of building social ventures. He was an early adopter of the award winning leading micro-credit institution, the Grameen Bank (www.grameen-info.org) and of the leading literacy organization, Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org). He is a founding member in the Rio Leadership Institute (www.ilrio.com.br) and of the South Leadership Institute (www.southleadership.com). Michael is a member of the brain trust of World Blu (www.worldblu.com), the thought leader on democratically run organizations. Michael commenced his career in investment banking. He worked at Morgan Stanley in their New York and London offices. He did post-graduate research for James P Womack during his tenure at MIT. He is a frequent speaker on caregiving issues, frequent radio guest and committed champion of caregivers. He graduated cum laude from Kalamazoo College. Michael is a partner in a consulting firm and speaks 5 languages.
Ryan Whitmore: Ryan is the Editor-in-Chief of the Elder Brief (www.elderbrief.com), a publication dedicated to educate and inform elders and caregivers of the products and services available to assist them in their journeys. Prior to his role at Elder Brief, Ryan was a financial analyst based in Chicago. Ryan has served as the co-head of the Chicago Chapter of Room to Read and is an advocate and volunteer for Ladder Up, a Chicago-based non for profit which assists low income families gain access to education funding.
Ryan and his wife live in Chicago. He speaks English and Portuguese.
Bo Bradley on Thursday, May 28th at 3:30 pst on blogtalkradio.com/kindethics about “Preventing Caregiver Burnout.”
I will be interviewing Bo Bradley on Thursday, May 28th at 3:30 pst on blogtalkradio.com/kindethics about “Preventing Caregiver Burnout.” She will discuss what is burnout and what leads to it, then she will give you tools and strategies to manage the burnout. To find out more about Bo, check out her website at http://www.UniversityOfManifesting.com
Your patient is not the only one who is suffering. Their caregiver is suffering too. And soon, you may have another patient on your hands. You have probably not been the primary caregiver yourself since have been busy helping other people’s families. But I can tell you from personal experience that caregiving can become so overwhelming that I could barely get up and function. There is a profound sense of isolation, fatigue and helplessness that destroys the caregiver. I am an extremely capable and competent person, and if can fall apart due to caregiver stress, then anyone can.
Signs of caregiver stress and burnout:
• Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion
• Fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression
• Accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned If the loved one who is usually supportive and interactive during the patient’s appointment becomes withdrawn and passive, you may have a person in crisis in front of you.
Why do caregivers burnout?
• Don’t get the help they need, or if they are doing more than they are able, physically or financially
• May become ill themselves
• May feel guilty if they spend time on themselves
• May have to quit job to stay home
• May go bankrupt, both financially and emotionally
If you let the caregiver crash, then the patient is at risk. They both need your help.
What can you do?
1. You can order home health support to get them through this crisis. You can order a visiting nurse, medical equipment or someone to go out and evaluate the situation.
2. Many insurance companies now have patient support systems in place. Find out what is available and have the numbers ready to give to your patients.
3. Create a local resource handout that you can give to your patients. The social worker at your hospital already knows what resources are available in your town and can give you a list of people the family can call. This can also include resources for patients to get discounted drugs from the pharmaceutical companies.
4. There are also free organizations you can recommend in most communities such as meals on wheels, dial a ride and volunteers with groups such as the American Cancer Society.
Did you know that if you put a patient who has been married for a long time on hospice, their spouse is less likely to die within a year of the patient’s death? You truly have the power to heal and save more people than you realize. Take the time to reach out and provide the support people need.
Have a kind and respectful day.
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