Asking For Help

A female Caregiver Asking for help

Our neighbor Allen, who lives directly across the street, is tall, well over six feet. He carries his height on a solid frame. I see him out jogging from time to time and working in the yard.

My husband Steven is average height, about 5’8”, and he weighs about 135 lbs. That in itself is a not problem. In fact, it is actually a good thing because Steven has multiple sclerosis and can no longer walk. Now and then, especially during transfers from toilet to wheelchair, Steven’s legs give out and he ends up on the cold tile floor. The confined space of our bathroom, designed before the ADA, makes these situations challenging and uncomfortable for Steven. In those moments, once I’ve ensured Steven’s safety and provided comfort for his body, thoughts of Allen come to mind. Allen is often my lifeline in these situations, ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Dependable Neighbors: A Lifeline in Caregiving

Somehow, miraculously it seems to me, Allen is usually available when I need his help. Despite a busy travel schedule, he’s at home more often than not when I call.

I’ve come to think of Allen as my white knight. He comes over at a moment’s notice and with a few deft strokes manages to pick Steven up and return him to his wheelchair. There’s no way that I can do it by myself. I’ve tried. At 5’1” and 109 lbs., I just don’t have the strength or the leverage. It’s such a comfort knowing that Allen lives across the street and is so willing to literally lend a hand. Everybody, or at least every caregiver, needs an Allen – someone to call on for immediate assistance in times of crisis.

If Allen isn’t home, or I’ve called too often, I can turn to Tony next door.Tony isn’t as tall as Allen, but he is younger and very strong. Tony is always willing to help at a moment’s notice, which is most important.

When Steven’s fever spiked to 102 degrees and he was too weak to move, I immediately called Tony at 6:30AM. Tony responded instantly, assisting me in getting Steven out of bed and into his wheelchair so we could rush to the emergency room. His prompt action and support were invaluable during that critical moment. He also called that night when he got home from work to find out how things were going.

Asking for Help: The Importance of Building a Support Network

One Sunday, Steven slipped from his wheelchair during a transfer, with neither Allen nor Tony available for help. It seemed we were the only ones at home on that lovely sunny Sunday. Bereft of neighbors (or at least those I felt comfortable enough asking), I called the fire department. If they’re asked to get cats out of trees, I reasoned, surely they can help lift a man off the floor. Sure enough, three members of the rescue squad showed up within fifteen minutes. “Any time ma’am” they said with a smile.

I’ve become very good at asking for help, in putting necessity first and pride last. I’ve learned caregiving requires a team effort and recognizing when tasks exceed individual capabilities is crucial.I’ve learned the vital importance of proactively establishing a support network, ensuring there are reliable people to call during emergencies. I’ve also learned it doesn’t just happen. It requires an effort and a breaking down of barriers. You have to let people into your life, to tell your story, to let them see your vulnerability as well as your strength.

We didn’t know Allen lived across the street when we bought our house. Tony moved in next door a few years ago. As Steven has become increasingly disabled, we’ve learned the importance of establishing a reliable support network. Every caregiver needs an Allen or a Tony. Every caregiver needs a few people to call on who can respond quickly in an emergency. Across the street or next-door is ideal, but even five or ten minutes away can work.

Embracing Support: The Key to Caregiving

I’ve learned that many people do actually want to help. They need to be asked and then told what kind of help they can actually provide, and once they’ve provided it, they need to be heartily thanked.

We need to let other people into our lives, and perhaps that is the hardest part, to let them see the intimate difficulties with which we deal. But once we do, life isn’t quite so scary anymore, and we don’t feel so alone. For a caregiver, or at least for this one, that is very, very important. My wish for you is this – that you find the courage and the strength to reach out for help and find an Allen or a Tony to respond.