July 17, 2017, by Paul Cavanagh, Caregiver Exchange
And yet, family caregivers are often reluctant to ask people in their social circle for help. Maybe it’s because they already have a parade of health care workers passing through their home and they aren’t keen on dealing with yet another person under their roof, no matter how helpful that person might be.
Or maybe it’s because they think their friends and neighbours don’t want to be involved. But according to Constance Russo, Manager of Volunteers for Huron Hospice Volunteer Service, that may be a false assumption. When talking with family caregivers in her largely rural area, she reminds them “this was how barns got built.” Neighbours helping neighbours.
In fact, many family caregivers she sees have already received offers of help from people they know. But they’re uncertain what to do with these offers.
Russo introduces them to Share The Care™, a step-by-step approach to organizing a group to care for someone who is seriously ill. It shows people who are interested in helping how to come together to lighten a family caregiver’s load by sharing responsibilities.
(Share The Care doesn’t just work in rural settings. It actually originated in New York City. Not many barns in New York City.)
Not everyone who Russo sees is ready to think about asking others for help, though. That’s particularly true for people who’ve just learned that someone close to them is dying. “Everything’s going in slow motion,” Russo says, describing their experience. “But the world’s still speeding around you, and you’re stuck in this moment.”
Russo often shares this description with family members to help them make sense of what they’re feeling and to show them that she appreciates what they’re going through. Once she connects with them on this emotional level, she can begin to talk with them about how to cope with the situation they’re facing. Part of that is learning how to get help from others.
When she feels they’re ready, she encourages them to make a list of friends, acquaintances, people they know through church or associations, anyone who might be willing to offer a hand. They’re often surprised by how many people want to help when asked, even if it’s just in some small way. “And it grows from there,” she says.
Putting all the pieces in place takes time, though. Sometimes she encounters families who wait too long. “They may feel like they have it under control,” Russo says. “But then they’ve taken all the time off work they possibly can, and they’re at their wit’s end.”
Huron Hospice Volunteer Service is one of several agencies in South West Ontario promoting Share The Care and encouraging the use of social networks to support people with serious illnesses and their families.
How to organize a Share The Care group