Who “Owes” You, Working Caregivers?

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Working caregivers often describe feeling like they are walking a tightrope. Managing a career, planning their own financial future while balancing the needs of kids and older loved ones is overwhelming for even the most organized person. In order to survive, working caregivers must become comfortable with the concept of asking for help.

Often when I tell caregivers, especially working caregivers, to ask others for help, they balk. There’s nobody else, they will say. Who else will do it? This always makes me think of my old basketball coach Mr. Block with the Philadelphia Mayfair Monarchs.

Mr. Block was one of the kindest and most dedicated people I have ever met. In addition to being a great coach, he instilled a sense of responsibility and an attitude of true teamwork in his players. He really did not care if we won or lost but expected us to do our best. He was most concerned about the spirit in which we played the game.

Mr. Block was a working caregiver during the many years he led the Mayfair Monarchs. His father was in a nursing home during that time. When Mr. Block was in town, he went to the facility every day to help his dad eat a meal. He felt that when his dad received a little extra attention at mealtime, he would eat more and be a bit healthier. While this type of commitment would not be practical for many working caregivers, Mr. Block felt this was important.

Mr. Block traveled at least a few times per year with his teams to different cities and towns and even took some teams as far as Hawaii. While many working caregivers committed to the nursing home feeding routine might opt not to travel, Mr. Block was savvy. Instead of saying, “there’s nobody else,” he looked to his social support network. Several months before each trip, Mr. Block would post in the team newsletter that he was looking for volunteers to visit his dad while he was away. When a team member’s parent responded to Mr. Block’s ad, he would explain what was involved and gauge if that person would be comfortable feeding his dad a meal at the nursing home.

The players’ parents who did this typically were happy to help out. Mr. Block was teaching their children valuable lessons and was a great role model. Many of the volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to “give back” to Mr. Block for all his kindness to their families.

So, working caregivers, who “owes” you a favor? While I’m confident Mr. Block never believed his team members’ parents “owed” him, he was wise enough to consider them as potentially willing volunteers. Do you have a neighbor you’ve helped out by babysitting her child when there was a snow day a few times last year? Maybe that neighbor could lessen your load by doing your grocery shopping while she does hers? Do you have a friend who you picked up from the airport recently? Maybe he wouldn’t mind hanging out with your ill father when you are running late getting home from work. Mine your social network. Consider anyone and everyone who might be all too willing to do you a kindness, especially those you’ve been kind to in the past.

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