Relinquish Control Ask for Help

caregiver asking for helpFor those of us who have become adept at managing our families, homes and careers, it can be incredibly difficult when something shifts and we have to ask for help.

My friends Emma and John are two of the most independent, intelligent, capable people I have ever known. Emma runs a successful business, and she has been taking on more and more of the domestic load in recent years because of John’s advancing Parkinson’s Disease. On Saturday morning she stepped off of a curb and broke a three bones in her foot.

Emma called me yesterday morning in a panic. I stopped on my way to their home and bought some groceries. When I arrived, she was upset with John because he hadn’t cleaned up the kitchen. She was feeling panicked because she noticed that he hadn’t touched the bills that had been stacked by his computer since the beginning of the week. She was angry and frustrated with him for not being more helpful.

Once again I explained that Parkinson’s is responsible for John’s apathy and inability to complete projects – something that Emma has been reluctant to acknowledge. John may be ready to live in a retirement community or assisted living community, but Emma is not, so I recommended a good non-medical home care agency and I gave her the name of a woman I trust who is a self-employed elder companion.

Emma likes to be in control. I thought she might balk at the idea of hiring someone to help, but she finally acknowledged that she cannot continue to pretend that John’s Parkinson’s isn’t changing their lives. She now also accepts that she can’t carry the entire load for both of them.

I love this quote from author Robert Jordan: “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”

Emma doesn’t want to bend. She likes the way her life has been, and she doesn’t want it to change. But she’s gradually coming to accept that she can’t stop the progression of John’s disease, and she can’t do everything that needs to be done without asking for and accepting help. None of this is easy for her. It isn’t easy for any of us who witness the steady and progressive decline of someone we love, but learning to bend with the struggle rather than always trying to stand strong against it, could help us survive whatever storms may come with a little less damage.

For more tips on caring for yourself, click here: Caregiver Help Self Care Module