Building Your Support Team

April 2011

Caregiving can be stressful, but there’s no need to go it alone. Here’s how you can start sharing the load with friends and family.

It’s no secret that providing care for a friend or loved one takes an incredible toll on your time, energy and emotions. Getting friends and family members to help you with caregiving tasks is one of the best ways to alleviate some of your stress. Remember, asking for help does not signal weakness, but rather a strong understanding of the demands related to caregiving and the need to recognize the limits on your time and energy. Here are some tips on asking for help from your friends and family.

When starting to involve others, make a list of the things that need to get done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, as well as which responsibilities require a skilled medical professional, such as an occupational therapist, nurse, or doctor. From this list, think about what duties or chores would be the easiest for others to take on, and which are your responsibility. Consider asking your friends and family for help in completing the non-skilled caregiving tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, or driving your care recipient to appointments.

Asking others for help is more likely to be greeted positively if you use terms that are tangible and specific, and that give a clear picture of the time and energy needed. Try asking for specific things with a particular date and time, such as, "Could you pick up groceries for the upcoming week?" or "Are you available to drive Pat to the physical therapist next Thursday at noon?" People are more likely to agree if they know what to expect from the beginning.

How to Ask:*

  • Consider the person's special abilities and interests. If you know a friend enjoys cooking but dislikes driving, your chances of getting help improve if you ask for help with meal preparation.
  • Avoid weakening your request. "It's only a thought, but would you consider staying with Pat while I go to the bookstore?" This request sounds like it's not very important to you. Use "I" statements to make specific requests: "I would like to go to the bookstore Sunday. Would you stay with Pat from 9 a.m. until noon?"
  • Resist asking the same person repeatedly. Do you keep asking the same person because he or she has trouble saying no? That person may burn out before long, leaving you without anyone else to turn to. It’s best to have more than one person helping you out.
  • Pick the best time to make a request. Timing is important. A person who is tired and stressed might not be available to help out. Wait for a better time.
  • Prepare a list of things that need doing. The list might include errands, yard work, a visit with your loved one. Let the "helper" choose what she would like to do.
  • Be prepared for hesitance or refusal. Try not to take it personally when a request is turned down—the person is turning down the task, not you. Try not to let a refusal prevent you from asking for help again, the person who refused may be happy to help at another time.
For More Information

LGBT Caring Community Online Support Group. FCA: Family Caregiving Alliance
Find support from other caregivers online: FCA offers a place for LGBT caregivers of adults with chronic health problems to discuss the unique issues of caring for their loved ones.

10 Ways to Deal with Caregiver Stress. AARP.
Tips on involving others, and other stress-busting techniques, for caregivers.

* Used with permission of Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving. For more information, visit or call (800) 445-8106.