• February 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    You know you need help. You would love it if someone—a sibling, friend or neighbor– would take over some of your dementia caregiving duties so you could get away for an hour or two, maybe even a day or a weekend.
    But the help you want and need just isn’t materializing:
    • People have offered but because you couldn’t think of a task for them in the moment, nothing ever came of it.
    • Your siblings aren’t cooperating. They don’t seem to hear your requests for help.
    • You suspect there may be assistance “out there” in the community. Somewhere. But you haven’t the time to go look for it.
    • There aren’t enough hours in the day for running your life and caregiving. You simply don’t have time to figure out who to ask, what to ask for and how to integrate this help into your life.
    Take a deep breath and relax. Asking for help isn’t all that difficult if you learn to model your caregiving to mimic a sports team.
    It doesn’t matter what the sport is, they all operate on the principle that each team member has a particular skill to bring to the team effort, and that there is one person who decides when and where to use those skills—the play-caller.
    For instance, the manager of a baseball team calls down to the bullpen and says “get so-and-so warmed up I need him to pitch in the next inning.” He’s specific in asking for what he wants. He doesn’t ring the bullpen and ask if anyone’s interested in helping out, some way, soon.
    If you think like the team leader, you’ll assess your needs, who’s available to play that day (week or month) and make assignments.
    Start by creating a roster. Call friends and family members to find out what they’d like to do, and what they’re capable of doing. Maybe brother Bill is very reluctant to help physically care for mom, but he’d be willing to take over management of Medicare and the insurance.
    If you want time off, ask your team who can come in on a specific day for a specific period of time. And don’t be afraid to have that time-off just to go goof off. You need time away from caregiving for a dementia patient. Period. It’s OK if you just sit on a park bench for three hours.
    One key to asking is to be specific. When my sister was ill, we had a tough time with meals brought in by volunteers. Some days they wouldn’t appear at all, then on other days two—or more—would show up at the same time. Portions were unpredictable. Then, one of the volunteers decided to become the “captain” of the meals team. She created a roster and made sure that the volunteers knew who had brought what for the preceding week, that they knew what day and time they were to deliver the meals and how much food they were to bring.
    One last thought: unlike a sports team captain, manager or coach, you can’t demand performance, you can only request it. Most family and friends are willing, even eager to help, they just need to know what the assignments are, so go ahead and get organized, and then ask!
    Blessings, Joanne