The 9 Most Useless Words
Have you ever heard them? What are they? Ready?
Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
I know you’ve heard them. And you’ve said, “Okay,” and closed the door and watched the people who said them walk across your lawn to their car and drive away.
Then you kicked yourself, because there are a gazillion things you need help with, but you weren’t sure what to say or ask or do. Why is that? I know. I’ve been there. I think a lot of people have been there. New moms, widows, sick people, pregnant ladies, jobless dads.
One of the blessings of this life is the many opportunities it gives us to serve others, and to receive service. But it’s so much easier for most of us to give than to receive. It makes us feel love for the person we’re helping. And love feels awesome.
Most of us struggle to be on the receiving end. Why is that? I haven’t really figured all that out yet, but as a physical therapist assistant for many years I discovered that the main reasons my patients fell in their rooms at night was because they didn’t want to ring their call button and ask for help. They didn’t want to be a bother. It’s so hard to need help from others. It’s humbling.
And our brains feed us all kinds of scary thoughts about being a burden and how we might be the cause of someone we love being overworked, or someone we need losing interest in staying connected. It’s usually a bunch of hogwash.
I’ve never met a family member of a patient who said, “I wish Grandma would just die. She’s such a burden.”
That’s just not how it works. We don’t see Grandma as a burden. We see her as someone we love and cherish, that we’d do anything for, and we work hard to keep her healthy so she will be with us just a little longer.
So why, when we need help, in order to be better able to help Grandma, do we get stuck and try to do it all ourselves? Why can’t we seem to get the help we need? We want help, and in the shower we can think of sixteen things we’d like taken off the to-do list by some other lovely person, but when they ask, we draw a blank.
I know what to do. I’ve created a solution, and I’ve used it. Other people have used it, and gotten the help they needed. Once you’ve used this tool a couple of times it gets easier to use it, and more fun to put into action.
If you’re genuinely interested in having more ME time, then careful attention to this resource will help you delegate some of your caregiving duties, and give you a much needed respite.
Caregivers, getting help comes down to this simple fact: Connecting what you need and what others are willing and able to do is often the hardest part.
Having said that, I also realize that many caregivers say they want help, but they’re unwilling to relinquish control of the ship they’ve been single-handedly steering.
It’s scary to listen to your brain tell you that if you let someone else help with a chore, it’ll be even more work for you to tidy up after they do it wrong, or to tidy up before they even arrive to avoid judgment.
So many of us sabotage our prospects for help before they get off the ground. This is because our loving brain wants to save us the heartbreak of disappointment.
Of course no one who walks through your door with the intent to help you is going to do things just like you. My kids don’t even do things like I do, and I trained them!
Somehow we have to let go of the thoughts that others are less qualified, simply because they don’t know how we do it, everything about our loved one, all the medical aspects, or which way the brief goes.
People who want to help can be taught. They’ll take their task seriously and do a great job, even offering to help again if they’re thanked and not criticized.
Friends and family often become scarce when they’ve been accused of not caring or doing something wrong. They may also hesitate to help if they think they know what you need, but don’t feel capable, or if they have no idea what you need. They might be afraid or uncomfortable that your loved one needs personal care.
People need to be shown how much you need help with; easy, time-consuming stuff that anyone can do, and hard, back-breaking stuff that you need muscles for.
If you either don’t know how to ask them, or you can’t think of a single thing you know they can do when they ask, their offer to help may seem hollow to both of you.
Some things you may need help with are things they can do with you—self-care things like a movie, a walk, a trip to the park with the kids, or loved-one things like lifting, cleaning, or moving furniture to accommodate equipment.
I’ve prepared a guide for you to use when you hear those 9 useless and heartfelt words, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” This takes the guesswork out of the situation, so would-be do gooders don’t have to wonder what you need, and you don’t have to wonder what they CAN do.
This helps you because you need clarification, communication and cooperation to get the ball rolling. Once it’s rolling, it becomes easier to implement, and it carves out time so you can remember what you care about (besides your loved one), what you enjoy, what fills your bucket and makes you want to get up in the morning, or lose track of time.
So now you need to:
1. Get the guide.
2. Circle or check things you need help with.
3. When someone says those 9 useless words, whip out your guide and invite them to pick something.
You’ll be freed up for an hour or an afternoon, and they’ll feel good about being able to help..