Gary Joseph LeBlanc, Director of Education
Dementia Spotlight Foundation
Having been a caregiver, I can tell you with the voice of experience that it is an ever-evolving adventure. For instance, in the beginning, the people you think you will be able to rely upon the most for help tend to somehow disappear. Unfortunately, this can include family members. That’s when it really hurts!
If somehow you find yourself the only family member caring for your loved one, I want you to know that you are not alone. For many years this has been the number one complaint I have heard from caregivers everywhere.
You may be wondering, “How in the world can my own siblings rarely or never offer to help care for our mother or father? After all, they are their parents too.”
Well, I can easily answer that. Relatives have a way of dwelling in that frustrating denial stage, sometimes all the way until the end. They simply won’t let go of the belief that you are completely overexaggerating everything. Others may avoid ever spending the time to actually see for themselves the hardships you and your loved one are enduring. They may even get upset or angry at you for asking for help, leaving you scratching your head, wondering, “Weren’t we raised by the same parents? How could we be so different?” The truth of the matter is that brothers and sisters are different, even twins. That is most likely why you have turned out to be the family caregiver. You are the gifted one. Give yourself a little pat on the back here.
If multiple attempts to get relatives involved have failed, you may want to explore different tactics. First, do not go into the conversation with your expectations too high. This way the letdown will not be so full of disappointment and resentment, which is pressure you just do not need at this point of the campaign.
However, when you do ask, do not pussyfoot around. Be direct and stay focused. If they straight out say no, ask them to come up with a plan of assistance that they would consider implementing.
Do not let any disappointment allow the conversation to get sidetracked. Stay on point. Remember what the conversation is about. If you start hearing “I can’t help you right now,” move directly onto “When?”
Most of us were brought up to be stoic and taught to get things done on our own. However, this is a totally different situation. You are caring for another person’s well-being. You must do what is best for both of you.
I repeat, the biggest mistake a caregiver makes is not asking for help. Even early on in this journey, one needs to get in the habit of learning to ask. Waiting to do this after the disease has advanced will only create another problem you do not need.
Trust me. Towards the end, you will barely have time to breathe. You need to work on tactic this early. Remember: the most successful caregiver is a proactive one.