The Caregiver AAA Dilemma

By Linda Burhans

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By: Linda Burhans

Many times we think we’re too selfish and often feel ashamed about it. But the truth is the caregivers get out of the habit of taking care of themselves. Here’s how it works; you find the whole thing almost impossibly hard, yet other caregivers do it without complaining or giving up so there must be something wrong with you; and you drive yourself on until you’re ready to drop.

We didn’t apply for the job caregiver. We’ve had no training. We’re not even sure if we are good at it. And on top of everything, we’ve got our own life to lead.

Informal caregiving is a challenging, yet rewarding experience. Understanding how to balance responsibilities by taking care of your needs and involving others helps manage the natural stress and isolation of being a caregiver.

In the past several years I have facilitated over 700 support groups and workshops for family caregivers. I always find a common thread. I call it the “AAA” dilemma of caregivers.

Caregivers do not Ask for help,  they do not Accept help, and they do not Acknowledge themselves.

Many times caregivers are asked by a friend, neighbor or coworker “Is there anything I can do to help you out?” And invariably the caregiver answers “No, I’m okay.”
And most of the time we are not okay. We definitely could use some assistance. Usually we just do not know how to answer. And when we keep saying no and not accepting help, people stop asking. For some reason many of us caregivers think that it is our total responsibility to take care of our love ones.

I suggested to caregivers to take a little time to sit down and write a list of some things you can except help with. So the next time your friend or neighbor asks if they can help you, you can pull out your list and perhaps ask them to mow your lawn or pick up some groceries?

I guarantee they will be delighted to help you. That’s why they have been asking.

One woman emailed me after attending one of my workshops. She said she thought about what I had said and decided to make a list. She only put one thing on her list and that was if you could come over any afternoon between 2 and 4 PM and let her take a nap that would be just wonderful. Her exact words were “And I am pleased as punch to tell you that I am now napping seven days a week and my husband is getting seven different visitors that had stopped coming.” WOW!

So I strongly encourage all Caregivers today to ask for help except help and acknowledge yourselves.


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