As a caregiver, people would come to me to offer help. Sometimes they would offer to do specific things: “Dave, we want to come over and clean your house!” It’s truly wonderful that people would be so generous with their time and energy to offer to do such a big job, but there was a problem.
I didn’t want them to clean my house.
We already have that taken care of and, besides, I don’t want my friends going through all my stuff. I don’t want to disappoint them because they really do want to help; I know I certainly would if the situation were reversed. But, it would be very stressful for me if they were cleaning my house which is ironic since their offer was intended to reduce my stress rather than increase it!
This is the conflict – refusing an offer denies people the pleasure of helping, but accepting help you don’t want results in more stress rather than less.
What to do?
First of all, take care of yourself and never accept help that you don’t want. Some people in their zeal to be helpful decide what you need and then become insistent. Only you can decide what tasks performed by others would add to your stress rather than reduce it and I suggest that you stand firm. It doesn’t matter if they disagree or don’t understand. Your well-being is the only thing that is important here, not theirs. Try to redirect the energy by suggesting that they do something else instead, something that won’t be stressful for you.
Then there is the situation where people offer to do something that you would really like them to do, but you are concerned that they would hate doing it. For example, people offered to pick up the horse manure for us, but I was hesitant because I thought they would hate it.
My advice in this situation is to accept the help. Here’s why: it’s not your job to protect people from offering to do something they don’t really want to do, and it’s not your responsibility if they end up doing something they don’t really want to do. If they offer to pick up the horse manure and I accept and then they hate it… not my problem!
This article is one in a series on coping strategies for patients and caregivers alike.