Guest blogger Joni Aldrich addresses the importance of being able to ask for help when you need it. Here are her tips on how to ask for and accept help and on how to identify who is best for each situation.
As you go through any type of life crisis, you may need support from people who care. As you seek help, consider it a delegation process—not a burden.
Many of us are too proud to ask for help from others, even if we realize that people care and want to offer support. Get past that, and accept help with heartfelt gratitude. Sooner rather than later, make a “third cousin Dave twice removed on my mother’s side” list. These are people that you know who can help. With this list, you can start organizing and defining resources. Is Aunt Sally available to cook? Is Tom available to provide transportation to and from appointments? There may be many even more critical needs in the days and weeks ahead.
Try to include multiple people for each task on your “to do” list. You don’t want helping to become a long-term burden or depend on someone to the point that they burn out. Availability may be a concern. While people can’t take time away from work or school, they will usually be glad to help during their free time. Others may have health problems. Your life may be progressing differently, but the lives of others will be ongoing. You’ll have to work around these concerns.
On your list, make a column for strengths, constraints, and contact information. Start notifying key people. Explain what you’re going through, discuss the need that you feel they can help with, and then ask if you can count on their support. Make note of any concerns that come up in the conversation.
Your resource list should include but not be limited to the following categories:
Medical—These are people such as doctors (even if their field is podiatry), nurses, pharmacists, and therapists. If you have contacts in the medical field, they can help you to sort through your treatment information, offer advice on medical decisions, and explain the lingo. See if they can be available to go with you to your appointments during critical visits.
Family obligations—Include people who are available to help with elderly parents, children, or pets. This can be a sensitive area because you need complete confidence and trust in your resources to help in this area.
Personal—Many of my friends received calls late at night and listened patiently while I cried out my pain and fears. My friend Becky was there to help me when I received bad news about my husband’s cancer from the doctor while I was at work. True friends have a significant role when life’s dramas threaten to overwhelm you.
Technical—You may need help from people with computer savvy. If medical treatment requires that you must be away from home for long periods of time, you will need a computer, preferably a laptop. Convert to e-bills so that bills can be received through the Web no matter where you are. Also, e-mail is a great tool to update friends and family. Many treatment facilities have free wireless service.
Mental—These are resources such as social workers, counselors, and support groups. Your hospital or treatment center will have personnel available to help you through your mental exhaustion and the overwhelming stress involved in getting through any crisis.
Spiritual—Include on your list churches and other spiritual support groups. Faith and prayer are especially important to people going through traumatic life events. It can be soothing to the patient and caregiver to receive visits from ministers, rabbis or priests.
Organizations—Are you a veteran? The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) is a potential resource. Are you a member of the Elks Club, Rotary Club, Shriner’s or Lions Club? Is there a local branch of any of these charitable organizations in your community? It doesn’t cost anything to ask for assistance.
General home front—These are the people who can help you with things such as watching your house, yard work, and collecting mail, if you have to be away from home for a long period of time.
Financial—Who can help you with bill payments, cutting expenses, and providing tax assistance? Seek helpers to work with you to streamline your bills. During tax season, I recommend a good tax accountant. This is one burden you definitely don’t need, especially when your head is full of more critical stuff. They can also help determine the proper filing of your medical expenses.
Information—If people aren’t supplied with an accurate update, the rumors can run rampant. You won’t, however, have time to call or write everyone. Set up an informed spokesperson for each of these groups: family, friends, work, church, neighbors and organizations. Provide each spokesperson with a list of people to notify by e-mail or phone as your situation changes.
About Joni’s books (available at www.BasketofCare.com):
The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Understanding with Compassion: Help for Loved Ones and Caregivers of a Brain Illness Patient: Joni’s co-author on this book for caregivers of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke patients is an MS in counseling and an expert in brain illnesses. You cannot bring the brain illness patient back into our world, but you can visit them in their world.
Would you like to send something special to someone that’s going through a health-related hardship this holiday season? Instead of a poinsettia or fruitcake, why not send them a Basket of Care (www.BasketofCare.com)? These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor, and chock full of items that will lend comfort. Care baskets include such items as warm blankets, angels, slipper socks, hope messages, note cards, and books by Joni Aldrich. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the way to say, “I care” over the holidays.