Who do you know?

Building a team of people who can help you is a critical for any long-term caregiver.  We all need folks we can turn to in times of need and ask for assistance. 

The difficulties we caregivers encounter when imagining how to build a team include:

  • Who to ask?  Seriously, it can be difficult to even start to name who might be part of such a team, or whether the folks we know would be willing to participate.
  • What to say? Here’s what I’ve found useful: “You’re my friend, and you’ve offered to help if I need something, well I’d like to add you to my helper-team so that when a need bubbles up, I can turn to you for some assistance. You’re always welcome to say NO.”

  • Why it matters? Because we all have needs, big and small, and getting comfortable asking for help is challenging in itself, so practicing with a modest team of folks who are already willing to say, “I’m in” is a great beginning.

I think it all starts with the question, “Who do you know?” Who always offers to help? Who lives next-door and would be willing to come by in a pinch? Who always brings you cookies or a cake when she bakes for her own family?  These are the people who form the start of your team

Photo of multiple hands coming into the center forming a team huddle

Imagine this as an on-going list of people who might contribute to meeting those needs whenever they arise. The team will change over time, and you’ll always be adding members. Not every person on the “team” list can provide the same services – they’re never going to be interchangeable parts – but the key is to make the team sufficiently inclusive that you invite people with all sorts of skills and abilities.

  • You may have friends who love to cook and, when you need ready-made meals in your freezer, turning to them is both an easy ask and something they’d love to provide.
  • You may know folks who are “handy” so that when the screen door needs to be repaired, or the garage door hinges need to be lubricated, these are the people happy to come and make their contribution to your wellbeing.
  • You may be familiar with someone who loves to sew and would be willing to hem those pants you bought on sale or mend the bathrobe your loved-one constantly wears.

Probably the hardest part of building a team is learning to ask for precisely what you need. This challenge comes with two parts:

  • Knowing what you need – being able to be very specific about what would help.
  • Asking for what you need – which seems to be something that feels embarrassing.

Let’s look at knowing what you need; why is that so difficult? I think it is because when we’re steeped in caregiving, we become so focused on the needs of others that our own needs become completely repressed.  We just go from chore to chore to chore. We get into an “auto-pilot” groove and genuinely can’t imagine looking in the mirror long enough to ask, “What do I need?” or “What would help me get through this?”  These are important questions and giving ourselves permission to both ask and answer them is an essential skill every caregiver needs to learn.

Once we have at least a clue about WHAT would help, the next step is to know how to ask what may, in the moment, feel like an impossible request. Asking for what you need requires both screwing up your courage to show your own vulnerability and formulate the request AND being humble enough to simply put the question out there.

Whenever you can be very specific with your request, the better.  People cannot read our minds and while they may be delighted to help, they cannot know WHAT would be helpful unless you spell it out.  Here’s some of the very specific requests I’ve made lately – every one of them was fulfilled by someone on my team !

  • I need a sitter for Saturday so that I can occupy a table at the local wellness fair and represent my business in the community.  Specifically, I need you from 8 AM until 2 PM.
  • I need someone to take hubby to daycare next Thursday – I’ll have him ready for you to pick him up at 9 AM. Simply walk him into the center around 9:30 AM and you’re done!
  • I need someone to bring a newspaper (my hubby loves reading a newspaper!) and sit for two hours on a weekday morning just sipping coffee & making conversation with him while I run to the Apple store, to get my phone fixed. 

Each time I ask, I remind the team members that “NO” is a perfectly acceptable response – no explanation needed – but I’m also grateful that almost every time, someone will step-up and say, “Oh, Paula, I can do that for you!”

If you’re a long-term caregiver, you’re going to need a team. I can show you how to build one, I can even be part of your team if you need me.  Every person on the team has a unique contribution to make and is likely very pleased to be able to help in their own way.  Our culture seems to make self-sufficiency a gold-standard we aspire to, but knowing how to ask for help is an essential caregiver skill!Wishing you a robust team of helpers and the courage to ask for what you most need!

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.

How Can I Help You?

Through Co-Create 4 Life, you will learn a range of well-being strategies from skillfully implementing self-care to holistic approaches to well-being, rebuilding resilience, and battling burnout. Book a free consultation call today to discuss your options.