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Carer support from friends and family

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What’s the most important piece of advice for any carer? Don’t go it alone. Most people are more than willing to help, but not everyone knows how. Here’s how to help people to help you.

1. Get everyone involved

It’s all too easy for the bulk of a caring role to fall on one person - perhaps you’re seen to have the most time, or you live nearest or you have simply been the most willing to take on the task. But in an ideal world, everyone who knows the person you care for can contribute and share in their care. Some carers find it helps to call a meeting about the situation. By getting other family members, friends, neighbours and even co-workers together, you’ll send a clear message that you’re open to accepting help and that everyone is welcome to contribute. Even those who don’t live near can do their bit, by researching treatment and resources on the internet, for instance, or organising weekend visits to give you a break.

2. Be specific

What needs doing may seem obvious to you, but it may be less clear to those who aren’t as closely involved. This is where a written list of daily tasks comes in useful. Write down everything the person you care for needs help with, including household chores, transportation, personal finances, and the tasks of daily living. Add how often each task needs doing. Then, work out how many of the items on your list can be assigned to other family members or friends. It may take a little time to sit down and compile, but it means that the next time someone says, ‘Let me know if I can do anything,’ you’ll be ready to give them some choices - could they do your shopping along with their usual supermarket shop? Could they sit with the person you care for while you go for a walk? Could they help with form-filling?

3. Getting more help

Some family members can seem more reluctant to help out than others. But changing your approach to the situation could give you the breakthrough you need to shift the family dynamic.

  • Forget the past. It may be hard not to accuse someone of behaving badly or letting you down, but what’s important now is the future, and getting the help you need. To do that, you need a new approach.
  • Talk in neutral terms. Use phrases like ‘the situation with Mum isn’t working’ rather than ‘you’re not doing enough to help Mum.’
  • Don’t simply ask for ‘more support’- give specific examples of ways in which the family member in question can personally make a difference. Could they take over weekend care twice a year so you can have a break?
  • Keep in touch. Give friends and family regular updates about medical treatments, changes in care and how the person you care for is feeling, over the telephone or by email, to make sure they feel involved.
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