how caregivers can ask for help

So many caregivers find their requests for help are ignored. So many people say they’re willing to help, but then they never seem to be around when you need them. Why does this happen?

Friends and family

It can be uncomfortable to do, but letting people know you could really use their help is important. Ask a neighbor if they could pick a few things up for you while they’re out. Let your community organizations know you could use a volunteer for a few hours to clear up your yard or keep your mom company. See if your friend would come cook dinner and eat with your family once a week. The more specific you are, the better your chances.

It can be a real challenge to break up tasks into pieces that strangers can help you with, so start small. Hopefully soon certain asks will be taken off your plate without you having to do anything about it — the neighbor who mows your lawn when he does his and the friend who’ll take your dad to the doctor every week.

People will say no and let you down, but people will also help.

Many people want to help, they just don’t know what you need. It’s like that friend you keep meaning to see, but never make real plans with — get specific and it’ll actually happen. People feel good about helping. Think of all the times people have helped you in the past — they’ll be there for you again.

Insincere offers

Sometimes people offer to help just like they ask you how you’re doing today or comment on the weather — it’s just a reflex. They’ll be surprised to hear from you if you call them up and ask them to follow through.

Genuine offers

Other people really mean it when they say they’d like to help, but they don’t know what to do. Often times they’ll come through if you ask them to do a specific task.

It can be frustrating to ask people for help multiple times and have them turn you down. Everyone’s busy, not just caregivers, but there are ways around feeling like coordinating help is more effort than it’s worth.

Apps like Tyze and Caring Bridge help you by saying what you need and when you need it and allowing people to step in when they’re available. When people offer to help, add them to your network of supporters on the app. Make a list of the things you need help with. Ask them in person or over the phone, too.


Medical professionals often have to put their guard up against getting too involved with patients, so they may cut you off or seem cold when you tell them how much you struggle. They may also not take the time to figure out what, exactly, it is you’re asking for.

If you ask direct questions — can I get help with this bill? can I get medication delivered? is there home care help available? — you may have better luck.

Ask yourself this

Do you want help or someone to listen?

If you’re frustrated with someone’s attempts at giving you advice, ask yourself what you’re looking for from the conversation. Do you want advice? Offers of actual help? Or do you just want someone to listen and encourage? Let them know what you want.

Do you want an expert or someone who’s been through it?

There’s a time when you want specific advice and a time when you’d like to commiserate and hear about someone else’s experiences. Remember that an expert may have never actually had to apply his or her advice. Each person’s experiences are unique, so what helped one person may not help you.

What am I asking for?

How much of the background information does someone need to know to understand how they can help you? So many times in life a brief question is more likely to get attention than a long story.

Who to ask

Your doctor likely has no idea how much things cost or what programs are available to help. Doctors also rarely have the time to listen. What you can do is ask your doctor or nurse to refer you to a social worker.

A social worker can:

  • provide counseling for you and your family
  • connect you to support groups and other families
  • help you find financial support
  • help you communicate with the medical team

Many people struggle when a family member is seriously ill or disabled. Social workers can help you cope with the financial, emotional, and practical problems you’re facing.

Written by Michelle Daly

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  1. I’m struggling with this right now :'(

  2. Its called being selfish and needing priorities in check

  3. I offer to help and nobody takes it. I have experience in it and EVeRYONE around me knows it because they watched but my help isn’t needed with family members. Too much Pride I guess. I wish someone would take me up on my offer. I love to help.

  4. These kind of articles really annoy me – “ask neighbours for help even picking up a few groceries when they’re in town”. Yeah, they might do it ONCE OR TWICE before avoiding you and/or your calls, before ‘suggesting’ a nursing home if you’re not coping!!! GET REAL.

  5. I don’t believe a word anyone says any more. I just try to do the best I can by myself. I’ve turned into a very angry person.

  6. Right now I’m feeling really sad because I really don’t have anyone offering help family or friends.

  7. It’s just something people say and don’t mean like “how are you doing?” Most don’t give a crap how you’re really doing. Just something to fill the silence

  8. if one more person tells me they will “pray for me.” i don’t need your prayers, i need your actual, real-world help. it’s just much easier to tell me i’ll get prayers than it is to get down in the muck with me.

  9. I think offering to help is simply polite discourse. After mom died probably 99% of people offered sincere help, whatever was needed. Well I actually did and do need help because I stupidly injured myself but I knew even though they thought they meant it they really didn’t.

  10. The majority of people don’t want to be restricted and would rather have someone else take care of it……….anybody but them……

  11. I asked for help from my siblings twice…..first time the response was we are all busy, we have jobs and lives ! They were in denial and thought I was exaggerating things. Second time I was told that if I needed help that bad, I should put Dad in a home !!! I never asked again, in fact I haven’t spoken to 4 of my 6 siblings since then and it’s been quite a few years.

    • I hope everything is in your name and you have durable power of attorney, if not get started immediately. A good lawyer can help.

    • it’s all been done 🙂

  12. That is a good question and I have asked it many times. I think part is an instant conviction, but then it passes.

  13. Also between any medical help, IHSS or anything this process has BEEN an absolute NIGHTMARE! Exactly where is our help especially for standing up taking the objective & doin whats right, why do we suffer? I still have no answers…. caregiver 7yrs for my grandma dimentia/Alzheimer’s shes 91

  14. When it all boils down it is just the caregiver and their loved one . I had hired help 24/7 or for most days and nights except on Sunday. Then when someone got sick and I had no fill in it was just me and my mother. I was thankful to have hired help,but even then I was there too because two people were needed. I did all the cooking too. Then it got to the point I could not take care of lifting her if no one was there so I had to place her in a facility. She still had me there from early morning to night and her personal caregiver.
    I think just living that live for 7 plus years made me a different person. I watched others go on vacations and carry on with life. Of course my mother was my responsibility and no one else’s, but to have others tell me that I gave up my life really hurt. It was my life for those years. I did not give up my life, it was my path, but I still wanted breaks from it that could not happen. My precious passed away in January and now I am lost stumbling without her.

  15. What gets me is when people say, “Don’t you have any family or friends who can come stay with your mom even for a couple of hours so you can have a break?” First of all, if I did, don’t you think I would have reached out by now? And secondly, what about YOU?! If you are so concerned, how about YOU come and visit just for a couple of hours so I can take a short break?!”

  16. Often times I just gave up even asking- the ball droppers just stressed me out- I needed that energy for other things

    • Yes Susan we so can relate to honestly bite the bullet & jus do it yourself. Less stress if that makes sense!

  17. There is one thing I wish I knew when I would get “suggestions” from family of what I should do: Say to them, “That’s a GREAT idea! Thank you for offering to do that.” It may be worth a try!

  18. The social worker we used didn’t have any answers. I had to do my own research to find any help. Social workers aren’t always the answer to our problems.

    • Truth, social workers are a joke, we never could get any answers, their paper work was ALWAYS a mess & NEVER do they have any follow through, oh & good luck ever getting ahold of them when you need them or have a question

    • Or getting them to call you back on an important issue! Even promising that they would.

  19. For some (not all) I think they offer help simply because they feel like it’s the polite thing to say whether they plan to or not.

  20. Because some people have it in them to care give and some people don’t. Doesn’t mean they don’t care…just means … they would if they could.

  21. Because people r just busy trying to survive themselves. Take no offense

  22. Because people aren’t empathetic with others, communication is lost and people just don’t care.

  23. – Because people don’t want to think about old people.
    – Because people are consumed by their own lives.
    – Because even though people feel a sense of obligation and guilt, mostly people are selfish.
    – Because it’s hard
    – Because they can’t cope emotionally themselves and to help someone would be admitting their own needs
    – Because …

  24. You fight!
    You fight to get answers from support groups. Insurance companies. States Funded Programs. You fight with family members. You fight your emotions.
    It’s an ongoing fight to get help to care for a loved one.
    You even fight after you put them in a Nursing Home.
    Blessings to all caregivers.

  25. Exactly, ive been careing for my spouse 247, 365, no weekends, days, or vacations off, been 10 yrs now

  26. You finally just realize it’s all on you and stop wasting energy on those who have constant excuses.

  27. You can hint at needing help, you can ask for help and you can beg for help, but the chances of actually getting any real help is slim to none.

  28. Noone wants to help with my MIL except one sweet Grandaughter. She is so mean, and wont cooperate with anybody but her. And sometimes not even then.

  29. Most of my requests have fallen on deaf ears or those that want to help, well they just do not have a clue about the needs. Not everyone can help and not all of us have funds to get outside help.

  30. I had people who would help, but my Mom was resistant to it. She wanted me and only me. My aunt offered to fill in many times but my Mom said No because she didn’t like my aunt’s jibber jabber personality. I even brought in a Social Worker to my Mom’s home in search of advice/help and my Mom just tuned her out.
    She didn’t even want her sweet neighbors to visit her in the hospital, or while doing rehab in a nursing home or in her own home. Her neighbors were so sweet that they ignored my Mom’s request for no company and visited anyways at least once. In essence they were doing it more for me than her so I could take a breather.

    My aunt was my salvation. She respected my Mom’s wishes of no company in the hospital but would come and meet me and take me out to lunch for a break.


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