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How Family Caregivers Can Ask for Help

Your adult children may be willing and able to ease your burden

Your adult children may be willing and able to ease your burden

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How to get family to help with caregiving needs when members are less than enthusiastic

Caregivers always welcome a helping hand, and often some of that assistance could be provided by a young adult child who lives nearby. But some millennials may be too involved with their careers and relationships to notice how much a parent is struggling to care for a seriously ill grandparent, sibling or other family member.


How to ask? Here are some useful strategies.

  • Explain your predicament. Author and clinical psychologist Harriet Lerner suggests opening the conversation with something like, “I am feeling so tired and depleted from taking care of mom that I’m worried if something doesn’t change, I will be crawling in that bed with her.” 
  • Make specific requests. Be clear about what you need. Try communicating, “Can you spell me for two hours on a weekend or stop at the grocery store on your way home from work?”  
  • Talk to them about how they would like to contribute and how they could be most helpful. Ask for their suggestions and give options. Perhaps a financial whiz can handle the medical bills. Or maybe he or she would be happy to do the grocery shopping online or take on washing the clothes.
  • Plan for an ongoing conversation. It might take several heart-to-hearts to come up with a game plan. And you can revisit the conversation if the help lessens or the caregiving needs become greater. 
  • Remember that this is not easy. It can be painful for a young person (or anyone) to see a loved one with serious health problems. Let them know you understand how they feel and that it hurts you, too.  
  • If direct requests don’t work, just drop it. Author and consultant Carol Bradley Bursack, who writes the weekly “Minding Our Elders” column, says, “Don’t waste your time and energy by being bitter. Let it be and move forward.”

Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. A New York University journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at Mothering21.com

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