A Cry for Help: Requesting Caregiving Support

“All that I need
Is to cry for help
Somebody please hear me
Cry for help
All I can do
Is cry for help”

–A Cry for Help, song & lyrics by Rick Astley

The year was 2012: my partner was 53 when health issues began creeping up on him. It first started with an diabetic ulcer, which he chose to ignore until it became almost too late.

The second emergency progressed until he could barely walk. It took me over 6 months to get him to the hospital with the threat, “Either you go NOW, or I’m moving out! I’m not going to watch you die!” December 29, 2014 he was admitted to the hospital. The result: emergency surgery to repair a ruptured disc. His prognosis wasn’t good: paralysis or death. Again, he waited until the last minute to take action.

During that time, my partner and I often discussed his health, his progress (or lack thereof), my concern for his well-being and my ability to assist. Choices needed to be made. His decision was to do what he could with the time and finances he had. With an intense hatred for the health insurance industry, his choice was to wait until catastrophic insurance kicked in to take care of medical needs. Tough love kicked in and I mentioned that I couldn’t build a business and care for someone who couldn’t care for himself.

Also during this time, I consulted with friends and family on how to help. Against my partner’s wishes, I informed family members of health updates, medical procedures, medication compliancy, and, most importantly, my need for help!

While I received verbal support and appreciation for all I was doing, there was no offer for help—either financial or physical. I tried to get everyone to rally together to let him know we love him and want to help, but I couldn’t get anyone to rally.

By March 2016, he was in so much pain and couldn’t work anymore. He was relying on me more and more and had failed to mention that he was behind in rent.

My panic skyrocketed!

It was time for serious intervention so I called his closest friends and siblings. In tears. Desperate for help. Most were unable to help, but offered their sympathy and understanding despite me saying I had to leave him. I received some unexpected financial support, which helped with the immediate crisis. Still, I made a tough decision as to my own well-being and business, which were seriously suffering.

Then I called his adult children, who up until this point were grateful for my involvement in his life, even though they weren’t too fond of me. That’s when all hell broke loose:

“I thought you loved Dad! Now you’re leaving him?”

“What kind of a person are you for abandoning him? You are a wretched, selfish person!”

Of course, these comments were filled with much more insulting words and phrases.

I was devastated. I questioned my worthiness, my abilities, my future. And I wasn’t even married to him.

“Why must we hide emotions?
Why can’t we ever break down and cry?”

–Rick Astley, A Cry for Help

The result: I told him of my conversation with his friends, siblings, and children. I told him I was moving out, of which he wasn’t pleased, but he understood. He took action to apply for financial programs and disability services. He purchased tools to assist with daily living. He maintained regular doctor checkups and is now consistently keeping up with his medications. I am eating, sleeping, feeling better, and back to focusing on my business. We are still ‘a couple’, but living under different roofs.

Before you find yourself in a similar black hole, here’s the advice my partner and I discussed on how others can cope:

Keep family informed. The caregiving recipient may insist others don’t need to know everything, but it’s important they know what’s happening, the progress, any complications, and updates. This will prevent accusations of, “Why didn’t you tell me that sooner?”

Seeking help. It doesn’t need to be around the clock, but visits during hospital stays, important work meetings, or offering the caregiver a weekend getaway is a must for the caregiver’s wellbeing.

Put feelings aside. You may not like a family member or vice versa, but constant animosity only intensifies the situation.

Avoid criticizing the caregiver’s attempts to help or request for help. If you disagree with a method, discuss it with those involved. Name-calling and back-stabbing build a wall that helps no one.

Ask the caregiver what they need. Time, support, and finances are the biggest caregiver’s needs, but as mentioned above, sometimes all that’s needed is time away. Or a shoulder to cry on.

Ask the caregiving recipient what they need. The recipient may have certain wishes too. Get clear on whether or not that person seeks or wants assistance and find a compromise to accommodate both. This is TOUGH!

Seek out resources. With family caregiving on the rise, more resources are becoming available to help. You can help the family caregiver by doing the research for him/her!

Acceptance. Be aware that there is only so much you can do as a caregiver. Do what you can but know that you can’t force people to participate, comply, or help.

As with all things in a relationship, communication is the key to success. For caregiving to be a success, open the discussion with family before the need becomes a reality.

Kristen

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