Dr. Escabi: We all need help sometimes
Life takes a toll on the body; that is a fact. If nothing else, even when we go at it with a healthy lifestyle, our bodies — our very cells — are designed to get old and eventually fail.
Why is that important? Because at some point or another we may not be able to do what we used to, how we used to, or how we’d like to. Colloquial as it may seem, Toby Keith said it best: “I ain’t as good as I once was.”
The process of aging — and similarly the reality of illness — often creates a series of struggles that may affect people in different ways. There are also different perspectives, that of the aging or of failing health that can’t always come to terms with the new normal, and that of friends and family that are on the outside trying to look in, but not always able to understand or relate.
So, if people can’t quite keep up, understand or otherwise accept these changes, how can we expect them to ask for help? How can everyone else know when and how to offer help?
This is an issue they don’t teach in medical school, yet is a very real part of what I see every day, especially when the people I care for as a family physician span all age groups. So, this one, more than textbook knowledge, comes to you all courtesy of a blend of life and professional experience.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t cheat and do a little bit of research to see what others were saying.
Let’s first tackle this from the side of those wanting to help. It is hard to see a loved one struggle. It is harder still to feel helpless — first about being unable to stop an inevitable process, and then about being incapable of helping them through it.
Reasons for not being able to help, in my opinion, can be seen one of two ways: the person not wanting help, and the perception of the concerned that the ill or the old may not want help or may be offended by the gesture.
Some people may not want help. Not accepting or asking for help could be a desire not to be a burden, or a simple matter of pride in accepting that the body isn’t able to do what it used to. It could be a more complicated matter as accepting, particularly in the case of illness, that there may be something progressive that may only get worse if we acknowledge it is there.
In a way, the first one may be the easiest to tackle. Those wanting to help may get away with simply doing what they know needs to be done.
However, helping someone that doesn’t want to admit they need help, due to age or illness, is tougher because helping may drive them to feel like they are conceding; that they are accepting defeat against the unrelenting progress of age or illness. In those cases, it may be best to just remind them you are there, willing to help at a moment’s notice. Allow them to come to terms with their condition, but remind them all along they are not alone.
Now, what if we are on the other side of that situation? What if we are the ones not wanting to ask for help, or not knowing how? For this part, I found an article by Toni Bernhard that summed up what I wanted to say, while at the same time confirming this is a universal struggle. Maybe if we realize our issues are similar to the issues others have, we may not feel we are fighting an impossible battle.
She breaks down the process of asking for help in three parts:
1. People are sincere in their offer: they mean it
2. The responsibility falls on the person needing help, not the person offering, to follow-up or ask
3. The best way to take them up on their offer is to give them a specific task to do
Ultimately, that is all for naught if we don’t come to the realization we all need help sometimes, but more importantly that it is alright to receive help. There is no badge of honor for drowning when there is a hand within reach to pull us out.