Learn How to Ask for Help

March 12, 2019
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Should a full-time sole caregiver ever ask for help?  The answer to that question is 100% yes. So much yes! I can’t really express enough how important it is to ask for help.  Asking for help when you are the sole caregiver for someone is one of the best ways to preserve your sanity. When you take on the often-unexpected role of taking care of a family member or loved one you are presented with a life changing challenge that usually doesn’t come with much preparation.  Sure, you will usually get training from the therapists and nurses at the rehabilitation hospital before the person you care for comes home. That training is extremely valuable and essential for you to know in order to be a great caregiver. However, what they don’t teach you is how to preserve your own sanity as a full-time sole caregiver, which I believe happens when you learn to ask for and receive help.   

The Lord started teaching me how to ask for help several months before my husband was injured.  We were a foster family through Olive Crest and we had two sweet kiddos in our care starting in August of 2011, just 3 months before my husband had his mountain biking accident.  Those 3 months challenged me like I had never been challenged before. These two precious kiddos had been through some pretty tough stuff.  We had 3 children of our own ages 7 ½, 5, and 3 ½ and our foster kiddos were a (boy) 18 months old and a (girl) just about to turn 5. The toddler was a little behind but the girl was pretty much at the same maturity level as our 3 ½ year old.  I was expected to get them to doctors visits, therapy appointments and visits with their birth father 2 to 3 times per week which sometimes required a 45-minute drive each way. To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. For the first month I powered through like “Super Mom” determined to do it all on my own.  But as we entered month two, I was starting to feel worn out and it was taking a toll on my sanity. I found myself crying out to God in the quiet of an empty van (on the rare occasion that I actually found myself alone) and even sometimes into my pillow at night. I didn’t want to admit I needed help because I thought it meant I was failing.  But our awesome case worker at Olive Crest encouraged me to reach out to my friends and family and ask for help. So finally, I swallowed my pride and did just that. And guess what? It was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I received so many offers to help. Some people offered to watch my 3 kiddos while I took the other two to meet with their birth father.  Some offered meals to take one more thing off my plate a few days a week. Some just sent messages of encouragement and prayers which helped tremendously. I learned that it was okay to ask for help and when I finally did, I was blessed beyond what I imagined.

By the third month we were into a pretty good routine with all 5 kids.  Olive Crest had reached out and asked us if we’d pray about the possibility of adopting the kiddos in our care.  We prayed about it but really didn’t feel God was calling us to adopt them. We loved them dearly but we had peace knowing God had a different plan for them.  That was literally 2 weeks before my husband was injured. God knew.

Life was thrown into chaos for us on November 26, 2011.  Friends and family surrounded me and the kids with all kinds of offers to help, and I was fully prepared and able to accept that help without any hesitation because God had already been preparing me in the previous months as I asked for and accepted help with our foster kiddos. *

I was able to boldly ask for help when Bill pleaded with me to never let him be alone in the ICU after the first night was pretty much a nightmare for him.  I had to ask people to volunteer to sit in a hospital room at all hours of the night so I could go home see our children and get some sleep. I spent most of the day with him in the ICU but with no bed to sleep in there, I had to drive 45 minutes home each night.  It was important for me to be able to see our children who missed both of us, and get some sleep so I could get up the next morning and do it all again. I had to find people to help watch my children during the day while I was at the hospital, get the oldest two back and forth from school, and make sure they got their homeschool work done (we do school through a charter that has 2 school days and 3 home school days each week).  I was amazed at how many people wanted to help and actually did. I still can’t wrap my head around how many people sat up at night with Bill while he was in the ICU for 31 days. Even on Christmas Eve someone was there because I asked.

At the time of his accident, we lived in a rental home.  I needed to figure out a way to get him into our home and into our shower once he was home.  I asked for help and friends came out and built temporary wooden ramps at our front door and out our back door that I was able to get Bill up and down. I got the landlord to approve us making some modifications to the shower and someone who heard our story but didn’t even know us personally offered to do the work free of charge.  I was blown away at how much help we received. I also had to figure out a way to get Bill home in a wheelchair. Someone from our church that heard our story offered her wheelchair accessible van for a few weeks. When a few weeks had passed and she needed the van back because she was planning to sell it, she knew that would leave us without transportation.  She had a Bruno Turny** seat in her other vehicle that she offered to let us have. All we had to do was pay to have it removed from her car and installed in our van. To buy a seat brand new would have been over $7,000 and we paid less than $1,000 for the labor to remove and install the seat. Such an amazing gift at a time when finances were really a huge question for us.

Once Bill got home from the hospital, I needed different kinds of help.    I was so happy to have him back home under our roof again and the kids were over the moon to be able to see Daddy again every day.  But being the sole caregiver for hubby and parenting 3 kids, I was wiped out. I continued to ask for help with meals, childcare for the kids while I took Bill to therapy, and even help stretching his legs.  

We have come a long way in the past 7 years since he came home from the hospital.  I have had to ask for help on and off many times. The greatest sources of help come from my Mom who blesses us weekly with her help and our church family.  I can’t stress enough the role our church family has played in our lives since Bill was injured, actually since we had our foster kiddos. We saw the hands and feet of Christ in action as people from our church, some that didn’t even know us personally, stepped up and answered the call to help.

Now we are in a much different place mentally, emotionally and financially.  We are excited to now be able to extend help to others by bringing meals, helping with financial support and sharing our story to encourage and bring hope to others.  My husband’s spinal cord injury was a life-changing event in our lives, but because we learned the power of asking for help and graciously receiving it, we have been able to persevere and come out stronger on the other side.  

I would like to encourage you not to be afraid to ask for help and when you do, be specific about what you need.  If someone offers to help you, give them something they can do, even if it seems trivial. So many times, when tragedy strikes, people want to help but they literally don’t know what to do.  They will say things like “let me know if I can help” or “if you need anything let me know” but often we don’t give them an answer because…well it’s usually pride. At least that was the case for me.  I didn’t want to admit I needed help and I certainly didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. The truth is people really DO want to help if they are offering, but if they offer several times and you don’t give them a way to help, they will stop asking.  Letting others help is also a way for them to check in with you to see how the injured person is doing. I know for me, I struggle to want to visit someone in the hospital or even when they come home because I am terrified of causing them pain by talking too much or keeping them from resting or just having awkward silence.  I worry that their injuries will be too much for me to look at or that they will act different due to injuries or medication. It just seems uncomfortable to visit just to say hello, but when they ask me to bring a meal it is an easy way for me to show I care and gives me a reason to visit with no pressure.

There are many ways you can ask for help. Start with the people you can remember saying “let me know if you need help with anything”!  It may seem obvious but sometimes we overlook these offers. You can ask a friend or family member to create a meal sign up for you during a particularly difficult season or hospitalization.  There are tons of free websites that make this very easy to set up and manage. These are some that I have used: www.mealtrain.com  www.signupgenius.com  and www.takethemameal.com.  Once the link is created it can be shared via Facebook, email, or text with anyone that might be able to help.  Send out an SOS message via text, email or Facebook to friends and family asking for help, and when anyone offers, give them a specific way to help like: “I need toothpaste and toilet paper but I can’t get to the store, can you please help me?” Or, “I have a dentist appointment on Tuesday at 10am and I need someone to stay with (insert name of the person you care for) for two hours.  I will show you everything you will need to know. Can you help me?” Obviously not everyone is going to be able to help every time and you certainly don’t want to over ask, but those times when you truly need help, don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t let one person saying no stop you from asking another person. If you belong to a church, I would highly recommend reaching out to them, the church is there to offer support and help.  If you aren’t part of a church body, try to find a church in your area that you can connect with in some way. Many churches will even send a pastor or church member out to visit with you which would be a great way to may a connection and ask if they have any other services that you could benefit from. Join a Bible study or small group to get to know others even better. We have been blessed by friends from both of these kinds of groups that are truly closer to us than some of our own family members.

The role of sole caregiver is challenging, rewarding, frustrating and exhausting.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some help. I will caution you to not be “overly needy”.  Ask for help when you really need it, not for every little thing that comes up, or people will get tired of helping and you will end up burning bridges.  You might make a list of the people who have helped and the dates they helped to be sure you leave time in between asking. Be humble when you ask for help and graciously thankful when you receive it, these will go a long way towards making others want to help you again.  

*{Olive Crest knew that our foster kiddos would need an adoptive home so they had already been searching for one.  They moved them to a respite care home (temporary care by a certified foster family) and within two weeks they had found a couple that was a good match for the kiddos.  I am happy to tell you the kiddos were adopted by that couple and we are blessed to keep in touch with them and have even visited them once in Maryland while on vacation.}

**We currently have a Turny seat that we removed from my van and are not planning to use.  It has been well used, but has a lot of life in it still. We’d love to bless someone with the seat.  All we ask is that you arrange to have it picked up from our home. It is extremely heavy, like 200 lbs.  If you live in the San Diego area, please send us a message and let us know you are interested.

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About the Author: Julie Davis

Julie is the wife of Bill Davis and serves as both his spouse and caregiver. Julie has learned to embrace the struggle and thrive in the midst of insurmountable circumstances with her husband Bill. She has a heart to bring hope and healing to spouses, caregivers, and paralysis survivors for the glory of God.

You can connect with Julie by joining TWP Wives of Paralysis Survivors on Facebook

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