It was hard to ask for help after I had a stroke. I was an OT who helped others and a divorcee who knew how to take care of herself. When an independent person suddenly feels helpless it is easy to fall into a pattern of complaining or criticizing. I knew my reaction to feeling helpless would influence how others would treat me. It is easier for me to be gracious about accepting help when I know I have done everything I can for myself.
I learned a kind way to respond to people who are uncomfortable watching me work so hard. When I was in rehab I overheard another patient say "I think I can do it myself, but thank you for offering." I use this gracious way of responding to kind-hearted people who take a risk of being rebuffed when they offer to help. Sometimes this polite refusal is not enough so I invoke the
my-spouse-would-groan rule. I cannot ask someone to do something for me that would have made my husband groan. John puts the four pieces of my artificial Christmas tree together, but I cannot ask him to do all the prep that goes with putting up a real tree (shaping the trunk to fit the stand, etc.). I ask Peggy to tighten the knobs on my kitchen cabinets that keep getting loose, but I cannot ask her to scrub my kitchen floor.
Volunteers do simple tasks that keep me in my home. I can hire people to clean my house.
I cannot get a home health agency to send an aide to change the batteries in my smoke alarms when they start chirping. If I live long enough, living alone at home will wear me down. I foresee the day when I will be glad to pay other people to take care of me. When I am 94 years old I will not be so cautious about asking for help. If my requests for help exhausted people they might think "how much longer can she live?" But I am 69 so I have to be careful about wearing out my support system.