The Anticrastination Tip Sheet
From Rita Emmett
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook and
The Clutter-Busting Handbook
Message from Rita
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.
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
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.
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.
I took care of my mother in my home before she died. Here are my suggestions
If your mother doesn't want people around who she doesn't know, maybe you
a potential helper to come over for a visit before hiring them. You probably
to pay for an hour of their time, but you could chat over a cup of tea.
mother could get comfortable
with the person.
Some churches encourage members of their youth groups to help out neighbors
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A FREE AUDIO: CARE FOR THE CAREGIVER
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
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
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:
Author of The Procrastinator's Handbook,
The Clutter-Busting Handbook and
Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress: A Handbook for the Overworked, Overscheduled,
Des Plaines, IL 60018
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