4-minute read

I’m a Caregiver and I Need Help

Not sure how to ask for help? Read on for practical tips on how to get support from those around you.

Caring for yourself as a caregiver
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

I don’t want to bother others with my problems. They won’t understand anyway.
It’s just easier to do it myself than explaining to someone else what I need.

I should be able to take care of this on my own. I don’t need other people to help me.
No one else has stepped up.
No one can do as good a job or get it right.
I don’t trust other people, especially “strangers”, to take care of my loved one.
I’ll feel bad if I don’t do it.
People will think negatively if they find out.
I don’t know how or where to get help, or who and how to ask for it.
Getting outside help is expensive.

Sound familiar? These are some common reasons caregivers give for going it alone. Because of the seemingly infinite responsibilities caregivers find themselves saddled with, asking for and accepting help from others goes a long way in reducing caregiver stress and burnout. But for many, this is easier said than done. How do you not just care hard, but care smart? Here are some ways to marshall the goodwill of others.

1. Share your situation

If someone asks how you are doing, resist the instinct to reply with, ‘I’m fine, thanks.’ Instead, take it as an opportunity to share your situation and ask for help. Use ‘I’ statements to explain your predicament and steer the conversation towards a request. 

For example, ‘I’ve been so tired from waking up multiple times every night to check on my son and talking to him into the wee hours, that I can’t concentrate while driving my daughter to school. Would you pick her up on the way when you send your kids to school, please?”

People are not mind-readers, no matter how close they are to you. So be honest and open about what  is going on with you and the person you are caring for, as well as about what you need from them. If you are still unsure, try rehearsing what you will say or write it down on a piece of paper. All you might need is a listening ear and sharing your situation with an empathetic friend is exactly what the doctor would prescribe! If you would like someone to call you instead, set up a regular check-in for others to contact you.

2. Make the ask

  • Make a list of how others can help and keep it handy. You can categorise it by task type and regularity, so that it is clear. Assign names to tasks as well as timings and remarks, so you can coordinate assistance. Keep the list open as your caregiving situation evolves.
  • Find potential helpers. Look within family, friends, neighbours, groups and associations you belong to, as well as from your workplace. Ask how each person can and would like to help, and play up to their strengths and interests. Offer various options using your list above so people can choose what they would like to do. 
  • Be specific. 'I would like to attend a weekly caregiver training on schizophrenia. Would you be able to accompany Dad at home for three hours every Wednesday night?' 'Can you recommend a reliable house cleaning service that is within my budget?' 'Would you mind covering my duties when I need to leave the office for home emergencies?' 'Can you text or call my sister every week to find out if there’s anything bothering her?' 'Can you pay for respite care once a month?'
  • Get creative. Someone located far away can still help with refilling prescriptions online and ordering groceries or food. If you know a fellow caregiver who’s supporting someone with a similar mental health issue, take turns watching both of them together so you’ll each have some free time. 
  • Outsource. If finances permit, consider what can be outsourced to hired help, community services and professionals.

3. Say ‘yes’ and ‘thank you’

There is no need to be bashful about accepting help. When someone accepts or offers, say ‘Yes please, I would really appreciate it’ and let people feel good about helping you. Express your gratitude with a thank-you note (or e-mail or text) or a lunch treat.

4. Handling rejection

Be prepared for hesitance or refusal when asking for help. Try not to take it personally, as the person is turning down the task and not you. Consider that this may be a painful situation for them too or that they do not understand what you are going through — mental health issues are complex and people process differently. Instead, move on to alternatives. Plan for backup help as the assigned helper may be unavailable sometimes.

If the situation allows and you are comfortable doing so, you can try asking these follow-up questions: 

  • Would you think about it?
  • Can I ask you again later?
  • What can you help me with?
  • Would you know someone who can?
  • What would make it easier to say ‘yes’?

To flip the old adage, caring can do with some sharing! When you allow others to care for you, a virtuous cycle is created for you to better care for others.

Want to know more? Here are the articles we referenced to compile this resource: 

5 reasons why carers don’t ask for help

Taking Care of YOU: Self-Care for Family Caregivers

8 Tips To Ask For The Caregiving Help You Need

Getting Caregivers to Ask for Help – Viki’s Four-Step Process

Step into the shoes of a caregiver
Explore our first multi-plot interactive video, A Quiet Ripple, that shows what a mental health caregiver might experience - from dilemmas, to a need for support. The choices you make will impact how the story ends. Experience it to better understand the lives of caregivers.




Angela Wu

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