April 2013
The Anticrastination Tip Sheet
From Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook and
The Clutter-Busting Handbook
Message from Rita

Dear Readers,
This month's Tip Sheet is comprised of emails in response to last month's questions about: how to help Caregivers who find it hard to ask for help and sometimes are caring for a person who does NOT want "strangers" coming into the house to help.

If you are not a Caregiver, you are lucky and might decide to skip this Tip Sheet. OR you might file it away in case it's needed by someone some day. Here now is a long list of ideas packed with helpful tips, wisdom, understanding …. and great compassion.

Dear Rita,
I was primary caregiver for my mother. Here are my suggestions for Jesse & other Caregivers:

First, you can't shelter your mom from her discomfort. Why? Because it is not allowing her to grieve her losses, find peace, and live with her new reality. Stopping that alone will lessen quite a bit of your stress. Oh sure, you'll have to help her through her feelings, but it'll be much less physically taxing.

Second, Mom's neighbors were never much help. Seek help from organizations like churches, service clubs, and boy and girl scouts. Also look for county service agencies. The county I live in has an agency called the Aging and Disability Resource Center. It is an amazing bridge between service agencies. They help with lawn care, shoveling, meals, rides, house cleaning, utility payments, rent payment.... To find an agency like this ask churches, social workers, and therapists. In my county at one time I could have been hired as my mother's caretaker and made a very decent salary at the same time.

Third, realize that we all have lessons to learn in life. For caregivers a big lesson is how to ask for & receive help. It's a toughie! But if we don't ask for help and/or allow help to come into our lives on its own, we not only don't learn our lessons in receiving, we also prevent those who are learning to give and keep them from learning the lessons inherent in giving. As a caregiver it helps to think that we are giving someone an opportunity to help/ serve/minister whatever.

Hi Rita,
My long-term sweetheart recently had a debilitating stroke. His family lives in another state, so that pretty much left me to single-handedly care for him 24/7, run interference with his doctors, keep the family informed, and complete the ton of paperwork required to get him some assistance, all while continuing to work full time. Although I was glad to do it, it is exhausting, both physically and mentally.
We caregivers are the worst about asking for help and the ones who need it the most. Everyone tells us to take care of ourselves, but nobody provides the means for us to do so. How about a gift certificate for a massage or a day of pampering? Remember that part of the gift is stepping in for the caregiver, or finding someone who can. This extra step allows them to fully relax and enjoy the much needed respite.

Dear Rita,
I took care of my mother in my home before she died. Here are my suggestions for caregivers:

If your mother doesn't want people around who she doesn't know, maybe you could ask a potential helper to come over for a visit before hiring them. You probably would have to pay for an hour of their time, but you could chat over a cup of tea. Maybe your mother could get comfortable
with the person.

Some churches encourage members of their youth groups to help out neighbors with chores. It's worth asking if someone would be willing to mow or shovel for you. Your mother may not mind since they wouldn't need to come in the house. If you can't afford to pay them, you might bake cookies and write a nice Thank You note. Another note to the pastor or youth minister would also be a good idea.

If you have family members who might be willing to help, ask specifically for what you would like them to do. I asked my brother to come for a couple of hours on Sundays so that my husband, daughter and I could go to church and out to breakfast.
I hope this helps.

Dear Rita,
I was a caregiver for my mother for seven years until she passed away. The worst thing you could say to a caregiver is, "Let me know if you need anything". The best thing you can say is, "What day can I come over next week to stay with your mom so you can go out and do as you please?" This happened to me and it made my day!
Hope this nudges those who want to help but don't know how.
Thank for all your tips,

My reply may not be well accepted, but it may be time for other arrangements for Jesse's Mom, such as Assisted Living. This is also based on not knowing all of the circumstances. If Mom is not allowing people into her home or allowing medical treatment she is putting her health at further risk.

There is data that shows caretakers have a higher risk of health problems and often die before the person they are caring for. So Jesse needs to think about her health too.
As difficult as these decisions are, there comes a time when things just are not working anymore. That is when it is time to have a neutral party, such as a Social Worker, come in and assess the situation and give options.
Why are you worried what people think? That should not even be on the table.

Make a list of chores that need to be done, when someone asks show it to them. Be positive and practical with the list, no job is too big or too small. For those who are not sincere, they will do nothing, others will. Don't worry about those who don't, concentrate on those that will.
I hope this does not sound too harsh that is not my intention. Caretakers are saints, but you cannot do it all alone.

Hi, Rita. Been there, and it is complicated. But having a neighborhood teen or even a college student come to mow the lawn ONLY when Jessie is there with Mom (taking care of the indoor things that need doing) might work.
I think we can all understand the fear of an elderly person having someone working around the home when he/she is alone. Maybe the offer of a Coke or a glass of lemonade when the lawn mower is finished and ready to be paid would break the ice. After several times, the young mower becomes a friend and will be welcome back in the winter to clear snow.
Unfortunately, Jessie is probably still stuck with the indoor chores, but keeping the outdoors neat will keep judgmental neighbors at bay. And you know what? These young people have FRIENDS who also might be looking for odd jobs. Many churches have young people who are looking for service projects. And some high schools expect students to log a number of service hours as a graduation requirement. There are a lot of wonderful, generous teens out there. I hope Jessie can find one, or even a few!

Your caregiver is in a very difficult situation when the family and the patient do not want the help. However this can come close to being called Elder Abuse (which if needed may be a lever to get the help even if they do not want it.)
My wife used to work for a County Commission On Aging and her job was to interview people such as your caregiver's patient and make recommendations on the services available in the county for the assistance needed. This was conducted through the County Social Services department and was done with all of the patient confidentiality and rights in mind.

Hi Rita,
While it may seem that the neighbors are judgmental, they may, in fact, be clueless. Pick a neighbor and ask: “I am the caregiver for my mother and am finding it more difficult to keep up with the outside work. You do a wonderful job maintaining your yard and I wondered if you or someone you know might consider taking over our mowing (or whatever) for a fee. I really need some help.” Might be surprised at the answer.
As far as Mom’s comfort zone, try to remove the emotions and the parent/child relationship. We had a meeting with parents AND doctor and discussed what is reasonable care. Having the doctor’s input on what is reasonable was huge. You might say: “In order for us to help you, we need to have some time with friends, to go shopping, to exercise (whatever your list is). I know you are not comfortable with someone here that you do not know, but we will need to bring someone in and get to know them so that I can take care of myself and we can continue with the living situation you are most comfortable with. As much as I love you, I cannot continue without some help or time to take care of some things.”

Places to look for help outside the usual public agencies might be a local college social work or human development department for a loving or energetic student interested in the elderly, a local church, or yes, even a neighbor who might not appear to be interested but might actually appreciate being asked to sit with Mom while you run to the store on Friday afternoons, for example. Also consider Lifeline, Medical Guardian or other assistance programs where you are free to leave for an hour here and there and assistance is at the touch of a button.
This is always difficult; sometimes you cannot provide what the elderly person wants. Encourage compromise so that you can have more of what you need and your mother is still cared for as close to her wishes as reasonable. Your health will suffer if you do not get a more comfortable routine and your mother’s life will change quickly and dramatically if that happens. Good luck!

Hello Rita,
I am a caregiver for 8 years now. My mother-in-law who lives with me also was afraid to have anyone else in the house. I introduced a lovely lady from an agency, who is her own nationality so she would be comfortable and use her native language if she chose.
The key is that we did this a little at a time. Soon she valued this lady as her personal friend and it helped me very much. The shut-ins are very lonely and soon realize that if you find the perfect fit of a helper, they have another friend in their life. Now we have her help more than 20 hours a week. This is a blessing. Not cheap, but a blessing! You have to make this change very slowly and positively. It is a hard thing for anyone to accept that they are no longer independent

I am a nurse who has met many family members who have come up against the same problems this family has. When loved ones, especially parents, don't want to do something for their own benefit, then it needs to be discussed not as "what I want or you want" but it is a safety issue. Then the onus is taken out of either person's preferences or control.
Perhaps, members of the family could be present when the work is done, so the mom does not feel unsafe, till she gets to know the person. This way the mom gets the double bonus of getting the work completed and having time with her family.
The mom may have a myriad of reasons for not wanting to get those things done. Embarrassment, that she can't do it anymore. She is afraid it will cost too much. Perhaps, even dementia might be in play here. This family should keep watch for her future choices in the house, which could jeopardize her safety. Hope this helps.

Hi Rita,
Finding ways to lighten the load is really a challenge for caregivers. Does Mom have a friend who may also have a caregiver? Have tea 2 or 3 times with this friend and other caregiver. Then, leaving Mom and her friend with 1 caregiver for an afternoon while the other caregiver gets some errands done may be acceptable. Then, switch caregivers the next time. One caregiver may be able to get errands done for both, lightening another bit of the burden.

We will email you a link to a free audio of an interview with Rita discussing "Care for the Caregiver" with the purchase of any item on her web (www.RitaEmmett.com). And of course if you just bought something from our web recently, let us know and we will send this to you.
In it, Rita discusses unique needs of caregivers and the alarming statistic that more people enter nursing homes because of "caregiver burnout" rather than because of a worsening of their condition
You will hear Rita repeatedly make a strong point that self-care for Caregivers is a necessity, NOT a luxury. Plus she explores what makes Caregivers prone to depression and burnout, then offers ideas for how that can be prevented.
She also explains that Caregivers are usually great at giving, not so great at receiving and terrible at asking for help, and offers ideas for changing that dynamic.
This is an audio that should be shared with everyone you know who provides care for others.

Please share this Tip Sheet with 2 or 3 friends who would be interested. And feel free to use this message in your blog or newsletter, as long as you include my bio and contact info:

Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook and
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled, and Overwhelmed
2331 Eastview
Des Plaines, IL 60018

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