When Your Parent Won’t Ask for Help

Occasionally, your dementia-caregiver Dad needs a hand.

He always resists asking for it.

Here’s a research-based approach you can use to 1) recruit support for Dad, and 2) follow up to let helpers know they made a difference.

Man driving open convertible with 2 dog
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Why Dad feels vulnerable asking for help

In her book Reinforcements, researcher Heidi Grant finds that we help others because we see ourselves as helpful. When we ask for help (and when we ask the right way) people say yes for their own reasons.
One thing stands in the way. Asking for help means taking a risk.

When Dad says he’s avoid asking for help because it’s easier to do things himself, he’s right.

The “I’ll do it myself” approach helps Dad avoid something called social pain. What Dad is yet to realize is that there are risks that come with a lone wolf approach to Alzheimer’s caregiving, both physical and emotional.

Imagine what a great gift you’d be giving if you stepped in and managed support for him.

How to get the help Dad needs

1. Make Explicit, direct requests for help

2. Be Reasonable

You are likely to find a helper to bring a hot meal on a specific night.

You are less likely to find a helper to bring a hot meal every Thursday night.

3. Take what you get

Maybe your potential helper is available at a different time of day, another week, or alternate month. Perhaps they are better at visiting with your loved-one than preparing meals. Listen. Consider if you can accept what helpers offer.

4. Respect your potential helpers. Know the reasons helpers help.

  • They help because it’s who they are
  • They help because they choose to help
  • They’ve been there
  • They’re there right now
  • They feel the same way

ALWAYS Let the helper know their help was effective

Helpers are most satisfied when they know their help was effective. You make this happen when you communicate with those who helped through thank you texts / emails / calls or snail-mailed notes.

  • Let the helper know the test they drove Mom to was successfully completed on time, and why that was important.
  • Let the helper know how comforting it was to Dad to have a hot meal waiting after a long day at the hospital.
  • Let the helper know that the get-well card campaign she started has lifted your parents’ spirits day after day.

 

To learn to effectively overcome social pain in order to ask for support, read:
Halvorson, H. G. (2018). Reinforcements: How to get people to help you. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Phone support for an Alzheimer’s caregiver parent (Plus/Delta Review)

ALZHEIMER’S, YOU AND YOUR SUPPORT

IMPROVEMENT OPPORTUNITY: BUILDING TRUST

My Dad considered Mom’s Alzheimer’s care to be his duty. To Dad’s credit, he took full command of Mom’s care and served her with honor.

I knew Dad would eventually need to trust others to help him. One countermeasure I tested to build this trust was to encourage Dad to call me for help.

HOW IT WORKED

Back then, Dad was yet to own a smartphone or a computer.  He also had yet to understand how these tools could make his life easier. I invited Dad to call me to ask for help getting things he needed.  He could call when he needed the phone number of the local shop that sharpened lawn mower blades. He could call when he was yet to have the time to go from store to store to shop for replacement vacuum cleaner bags only Mom knew where to find. I’d do the research and call Dad back, always careful to swap the information he requested for updates on Mom, her behaviors and her well-being.

As the strain of caregiving increased, and Dad’s trust that I was there for him grew, he began to call me for other kinds of support.  Dad’s calls took on a new tone. Mom had misplaced her engagement ring that morning and Dad had spent three hours on the hunt.  Mom had wandered away in the middle of cleaning the bathroom sink and now Dad had to finish his chores and hers as well. Dad was exasperated and needed a friendly ear.

As Mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed, and Dad’s trust in me to support him grew, so grew the complexity of the support issues.  How can Mom get an accurate eyeglass prescription when she always tells the Optometrist her vision is fine? Is cataract surgery a good idea for Mom considering that she has Alzheimer’s?

WHAT WENT WELL (Plus)

  • Phone support kept parent/adult-child lines of communication open.
  • Frequent calls kept me in the loop on daily events in my parent’s lives.
  • Gathered valuable intelligence during daily chats that would have been missed with a once-a-week call.
  • Built Dad’s trust that help could be found to meet his caregiving needs.
  • Built Dad’s trust that I could help from 2 hours away.
  • Became an ear-witness (we had yet to have video chat) to Dad’s need for more sleep.
  • Became an ear-witness to Dad’s need for more private time.
  • Kept up-to-date on new evidence that the Alzheimer’s was progressing.

WHAT I’D CHANGE IF I COULD DO IT OVER (Delta)

  • I’d set firm boundaries around the days and times that I could welcome Dad’s calls.
  • I’d provide Dad an emergency plan to follow when he needed support on my off hours. (For example, the phone numbers for The Alzheimer’s Association’s National 24 x 7 hotline (1-800-273-3900); Dad’s local Area Agency on Aging; Dad’s local Department of Social Services.)
  • I’d keep a log of call date / time / topic.
    • Use to identify our knowledge gaps
    • Use to spot trends in calls
    • Use to identify when to bring in outside expertise
  • I’d care for my own emotional and physical health by involving others sooner.

Your friend on the journey,

Barbara

Yes – Professional Women and Men Need Alzheimer’s Support Groups!

ALZHEIMER’S, YOU AND YOUR SUPPORT


Recently, I had the honor of meeting two fine people who each had been an Alzheimer’s Caregiver to a Loved One. The woman had cared for her husband through Alzheimer’s; the man cared for his wife through Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Their stories, their bravery, and their strength reminded me of the sturdy threads of love that link together all Caregiving efforts.

These lovely Caregivers gave me a special gift that day: a special moment of being understood.  A moment where I could share my experiences as an adult child of someone with Alzheimer’s (I call myself an ‘Alzheimer’s Kid’).  A moment when each one of us could nod in agreement that – yes – we had indeed all lived through many similar experiences.

It left me wondering…”Is this what it feels like to be part of a support group?”

You see, somehow, I stumbled through my Mom’s entire Alzheimer’s journey without ever knowing that all family members benefit from participating in an Alzheimer’s Support Group. 

So today, I’m extending the invitation to you.  If you are a Caregiver, or a Caregiver-to-the-Caregiver – call your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (or your local Hospice or your local Assisted Living Facility) and ask for the time and location of an Alzheimer’s Support Group near you. Support Group acceptance helps you be more accepting with your Alzheimer’s Loved One.  Is there a better gift can you give your Loved One than that?

As you look forward to your first meeting, re-read the stories below, and look forward to being part of a community of people who ‘get’ where you are and what you are living through.

Alzheimer’s Kids Can Join Support Groups Too

Support Dad with his support group
 

~Peace,

Barbara