How to ask for help as we age

An inability to perform what used to be simple tasks such as preparing food, dressing or household chores can make life unpleasant and much more difficult than it should be. It can also feel like the thin end of the wedge, and the first step to losing our independence.
If you have ageing relatives the solution seems simple. The person in need should just simply open up and contact a family member or reach out for the home support they need. However, sometimes psychological barriers mean this doesn’t happen.

What are the barriers to asking for help?
According to psychologist Merryn Snare, from Merryn Snare Psychological Services, there can be a whole range of psychological barriers preventing people from taking action. These include a generational expectation that they have to do everything themselves, fear of losing independence and even fear of the financial cost of help.

Sometimes, too, people who have realised they are not physically capable of doing what they used to do often suffer what Snare calls a kind of loss and grief – not in the context of having lost a loved one, but in that they often feel the oppressive symptoms of the loss of their own capability.

“These things don’t even have to be major things, they can just be part of the general ageing process. Whether it’s a loss of physical capability or a loss of their eyesight, focusing on these issues can become almost oppressive because they’re tied in with the person’s idea of self worth,” says Snare.

Why do we have these barriers?
Most people have expectations about what they should be able to do and when they can’t do these things they can feel worthless, explains Snare.

“If they feel as though they’re failing or they are not able to do what they want to do, it’s like a vicious cycle. They feel their sense of self value deteriorating or they feel that they’re worthless and that keeps them from seeking help to find that feeling of self worth,” adds Snare.

Fear of losing independence and burdening loved ones is also a reason many remain tight lipped, says Snare. “It’s the idea that they will have to give up their lifestyle that they have enjoyed for so long or be forced into a living arrangement that would make that impossible or the idea that they will become their children’s problem,” says Snare.

Loss of face can be another reason. “They don’t want to show that they can’t manage things themselves so there could be a fear of ridicule – it’s unlikely that they would be ridiculed, but it’s that expectation again that needs to be met,” says Snare.

One often-overlooked reason is the worry about how safe it is to allow strangers into their home environment – their own haven. “As we age we often feel vulnerable and that vulnerability can lead to self isolation or reclusive behaviour. There can be a lack of trust and lack of faith in allowing other people into our homes to provide the care we really desperately need,” says Snare.

How can we achieve change?
Ironically the psychological barriers that people impose on themselves have the very opposite effect that the person intends them to have. By not opening up and asking for help people often end up losing their independence, losing their quality of life and sometimes even their social contacts.

As people allow help into their lives they can often reclaim many of the things they were unable to do beforehand and this invigorates their outlook on life. “When they find help it begins to actually meet their expectations and this can often be a great source of joy,” says Snare.

Snare explains how that help doesn’t necessarily need to be a full time carer. It might be help with odd jobs around the home, someone coming to help cook a meal, tend to the vacuuming, or cleaning the house. “From my understanding there are different levels of help in the home. It’s often when people open up to this help, that they feel like a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders and they are able to get on with enjoying life again,” Snare says.

Snare’s top tips to overcoming the barriers to asking for help

• Approach a GP 

Your local GP is usually the first point of contact as you age so you most likely already have a close relationship with them, says Snare. Chatting with your GP about your concerns is a safe and anonymous way for people to talk about the things that they are deeply worried about. “GPs are often in contact with a lot of essential support services and they can usually direct the person to find the kind of help they really require,” says Snare.

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Your GP can provide advice on how to get assistance as you age

• Investigate what options are available

Gathering information about the types of help there might be out there for you is a great way of overcoming some of the anxieties that you may have. In-home care service providers are very approachable these days and are happy to answer any questions you may have over the phone. But if you don’t know where to start, a great place is your local council, says Snare. “Contacting the council is a good way to find out what services might already be available to people, and for little or no cost,” she says.

• Consider what you might be missing out on

Snare says a good way to overcome psychological barriers is to reframe your current situation. To do this yourself look logically at all the things you would like to be able to achieve in a day and then a week and compare it to the number of things that you actually can do. “With my clientele I’ll look at everything they have got happening in their day or week and everything they might want to do and I’ll even use myself as an example to show them that I couldn’t possibly do everything they have in mind. I might say something like ‘Well it takes you a lot longer to do the housework or gardening now that you are older so you might need help with that’. By reframing the situation exactly how it is now, you can really help people see past the barriers,” Snare explains. If you need help doing this, a qualified psychologist or counsellor can help you achieve this, she says.

• Take on a small amount of help to test the waters

Often a good compromise is to take on a small level of care that you know is not going to jeopardise your independence or make you feel like you are losing your sense of self worth, Snare explains. That may be getting meals delivered to your home, having someone come around and take you shopping once a week or just cleaning your windows or doing your gardening. “By testing the waters with a small level of care, something simple, you can get an indication about how the care will change your life and then might feel more comfortable about accepting more help later on down the track, “says Snare.

How in-home care service provider Just Better Care can help
In-home care service provider, Just Better Care, can take away the anxiety and stress associated with asking for help by providing personalised advice and support. Just Better Care service providers offer in-home care services right around Australia. Their highly trained staff will work with the person needing care and provide guidance on the services that are available to best suit their individual needs, preferences and budget. Whether it’s help with the cooking, cleaning or simply help with shopping, Just Better Care provides tailored support options to assist individuals to remain living confidently in their own home.

For more information about how Just Better Care can help provide personalised in-home care services for you or your family member call 1300 587 823 or head to their website.

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