It was a beautiful day in Costa Rica. We had just arrived at our secluded beach destination on a Catamaran Sunset Cruise. The boat captain encouraged us to jump off the side of the boat into the Pacific Ocean and swim for shore. We were offered life jackets or “pool noodles” to assist our swim. Most took a “noodle” and the group swam for shore.
The waves were strong, but the desire to reach the beach lured us. As my family members and I celebrated our arrival on the beach, we heard a faint call for help. There was a young, athletic male struggling in the waves. He wasn’t swimming at all, just bobbing. Several people swam to him, including me and members of my family. We offered him our “noodles.” He gladly accepted and we safely got him to shore.
As I reflect on the situation, I think how much this scenario reminds me of adult children taking care of their aging parents.
Often when adult children take on the responsibility of helping an aging parent, they do it without thinking of the risk to themselves. They jump in with or without assistance and assume they will be successful. Yet when the time comes, do they know when to call for help?
The truth about drowning is that it often doesn’t look like a struggle to a bystander. The person drowning often doesn’t even call out for help. Adult children who are caretakers do the same thing. They suppress their struggle and to the untrained eye of other family members and friends, it’s hard to tell that they are drowning in their responsibility.
I find that when families go through a crisis, friends, family, neighbors and even co-workers reach out with offers to help. Sometimes they offer a meal, to run an errand or to sit with the loved one, and often we turn the help away. At times, we may be too prideful, thinking we can handle the situation, only to find ourselves just barely keeping our head above water. Take the help! Save yourself!
Don’t keep your struggle silent. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It is a tactic for survival. Let siblings and other family members know that while you are strong and capable, their help will be beneficial to your health and well-being as well as that of your loved one. You don’t have to go through this alone.
There are a variety of professionals in Berks County who can help, too. The Berks County Area Agency on Aging offers links to community support and resources for seniors. The website, www.co.berks.pa.us, has helpful guides with listings of services for seniors, care at home (in-home caregiving, home health, hospice) and housing options.
A new program called “Berks Encore Care+” is offered by Berks Encore, another leading non-profit provider of senior services in Berks County. According to the Berks Encore website, “Berks Encore Care+ is a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults. Aging Life Care Professionals provide guidance and expertise to help families take action and make decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love. As a result, worry, stress and time off of work for family caregivers are reduced.”
You are not alone! There are people who will help you. Although it may feel like you are drowning, just call out for help.