Do you sometimes feel you are doing it all? You spend your life running from one challenge to another, supporting a family member with diabetes in the midst of keeping your own life on track. Yet other family members barely lift a finger to help. It sometimes seems you’re the only one who cares.
It’s a common complaint, but it can be overcome. We’ve put together seven tips and strategies to help you enlist more help from the extended family.
1. Decide what you really want. Do you actually want family members to take over some of the tasks and responsibilities that you’re currently handling? This is an important determination to make.
Some caregivers ask for help and then resent what they see as interference when siblings start taking over. Instead of practical help, what they really wanted was recognition of the role they play and some emotional support when things get tough.
Think it through carefully. For example, try to assess whether you want ongoing practical help or just occasional support like monthly visits or respite care so you can take a vacation. Before you try to communicate your needs to other family members, get a grasp on what these needs really are!
2. Identify all the support needs. Make a list of all the help that’s required by your family member with diabetes. Include everything from larger items to small needs. Decide the specific tasks you would be comfortable to continue doing, list responsibilities that others currently hold, and identify where there are gaps.
3. Arrange a meeting. This doesn’t have to be in person. If some family members live a distance away, a video Skype conference call can conveniently link everyone without the need for travel.
Send an agenda to everyone prior to the meeting, and include the list of support needs. Add as much information as possible so that everyone feels they are being kept fully in the loop. This information might include reports from diabetes healthcare providers, including assessment of general support needs for independent living.
Tell everyone what help you need. If you don’t ask, you won’t get! Keep in mind that other family members may have felt you were perfectly happy and able to do it all. Let them know what’s needed and ask for the family’s shared involvement to find solutions that work for everyone.
4. Don’t be a control freak. It’s the surest way to shut down any inclination to help from family members! It’s an easy mistake. When you have been the primary caregiver, you can’t help knowing more about the situation and needs than others do – but try to hold back your opinions. Invite input from others and consider their views fairly.
5. Invite family members to suggest the best ways they could contribute. Be realistic about the challenges for family members who live far away and allow them to suggest tasks that they could reasonably do from a distance. This could vary from ongoing responsibilities like regular phone-calls and emails to occasional offers like a one-week annual visit to give you a break. If they prefer to offer financial support to cover some needs instead of practical assistance, don’t be afraid to accept it.
Recognize that everyone has different strengths and talents. For example, a sister may only live around the corner but may have a hard time being with the family member in person. Instead, look for support like helping to organize home maintenance or managing bill payments etc.
6. Consider splitting tasks into specific areas. For example, one family member could perhaps take responsibility for overseeing or organizing medical matters while another focuses on housekeeping or shopping needs. This can encourage greater involvement as family members develop a sense of personal responsibility for their specific area. Agree a means of regular communication so everyone stays in the picture about all aspects of care.
7. Be appreciative – say “thank you!” Avoid the temptation to think that no one ever thanked you when you were doing it all. You will get far more help by showing gratitude than by letting previous resentment show.
Does this article hit a sore point for you? Do you have family members who rarely pitch in and leave it all to you? Air your feelings in the Community Forums section of this site. We would also love to hear from community members who have successfully engaged others in sharing caregiving responsibilities. Pass on your tips…we would all love to hear them.