My Dad has been in and out of the hospital numerous times the past year due to side effects from chemotherapy from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Each new hospital stay has resulted in questions (of course!), new treatments, new and changed medications, follow-up appointments, and home care services.
Dad and Mom have been independent up until Dad’s illness which began in January of this past year. However, Mom doesn’t get around well due to her own physical limitations and is preoccupied when the doctors make their rounds in the hospital. She wants to get the information accurately which causes great anxiety. She will ask a question and as the doctor offers an explanation, she interrupts and asks another question. If I am not there for the doctor’s visit, Mom will periodically call me in distress because she doesn’t quite understand something she has been told.
Mom has repeatedly told me “not to worry” about visiting Dad in the hospital, or going to the Emergency Room when he has had a unforeseen complication which takes him there, or going along to the follow-up doctor office visit after a 6 day hospital stay. She worries that I am already too busy with my own life as a wife, mom, and business woman. While my life is busy, it’s important to me to be sure that Dad’s needs are being met. cam able to help coordinate his care and advocate for him. I am not saying she can’t do it but she cannot possibly be there all the time with him as much as I can’t always be there either. It takes a team.
In one of the earlier months of Dad’s journey with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Mom was surprised by the phone calls of encouragement and offers to help her with errands or hot meals delivered by family and friends and visits to Dad. Mom is very proud and unwilling to accept the help due to her need for independence. What if she accepted help from that person? Why would it be wrong to accept help? What could she possibly need to ask for help with? Isn’t everyone else too busy to help? “They are just being nice”.”Listen, Mom, don’t decline these offers for help”, I tell her. Your friend will stop asking if you don’t accept her offer.
How many times have you been in the situation that when you have offered a friend or family member help they have declined? How many more times were you willing to follow up and see what you could offer and be refused again?
What was the general demeanor of the person declining the help? Did you get the impression that she “had it all together” and didn’t really need or want any help? Why offer again if she’s got it covered?
Even if it’s to take 15 minutes to run to the store for a few items, or to pick up that new prescription at the pharmacy, people offer because they want to feel useful, that they have helped in some way. Some consider the gesture as a way to “pay it forward” for the help and support offered to them in a time of need in the past.
My experience is that if offers are refused, the phone calls will become less frequent. As a nurse and case manager working with families in similar situations, I have frequently cautioned families against turning down these offers for help. The one offering help will become discouraged and give up after the second or third attempt.
There are steps that you can take to accept help:
- As you go about your busy, hectic day, create a wish list of things you could use help with to refer to when an offer to help is received.
- Make a wish list of things that you would like to do to take care of yourself. Do something from your list with the free time provided by someone else’s goodwill.
- Send volunteers on small missions that take a small part of their day but may create a cascade of events if added as one more thing to your day.
- Determine who you can appropriately ask for each task. For instance, you can ask a teenage grandson to mow the grass but not your 75 year old sister who has back problems.
- Delegate regular errands to people who have shown a sincere interest and have followed through and delivered on a request for help. They will welcome your sincere gratitude as payment.
- Build a social network of support for yourself. Look for support groups sponsored by community organizations in your neighborhood. These are often advertised in the newspaper, websites, and on community bulletin boards. If getting out to a support group isn’t an interest to you or seems overwhelming, go online to internet based support groups. Other families are experiencing similar concerns and frustrations. You may learn a new way to deal with a problem from someone in the group and you will be surprised what you can offer to someone else in a similar situation as yourself.
- If a need arises to have someone else provide care, transportation or hands-on assistance for the person you are caring for and a friend or family member offers to provide the help, don’t turn it down. While you know that you are the one person capable of providing the best care, you need to take care of you too. Prepare the volunteer with information they need to do a good job, and then let go. Look at your own self-care wish list that you have created and do it. You must and deserve to take care of yourself.
Maria Radwanski RN MSN CRRN is the owner of Health Calls Home Health Agency, located in Wyomissing, Pa. Visit the agency’s website at: http://www.healthcallshomehealth.com/