Key Takeaways

    • Keep a list of odd jobs and tasks you need help for.
    • Help people in your support network by giving them specific tasks you need help with.
How and why should I accept help?

Being a co-survivor and caring for a cardiac arrest survivor can be a challenging and overwhelming experience. While many people may offer help to co-survivors, it can be difficult to accept assistance from others. In this educational document and resource guide, we will discuss the importance of accepting help from friends and family, the benefits of doing so for the co-survivor and the person needing care, and practical tips on how to ask for help.

The importance of accepting help

When caring for a cardiac arrest survivor, co-survivors may feel obligated to handle all aspects of care by themselves, as well as continue their pre-arrest commitments and responsibilities. However, accepting help from friends and family can lead to better outcomes for the co-survivor and the survivor. By sharing the caregiving responsibilities, the co-survivor can reduce stress, improve their well-being, and provide better care for their loved ones.

For more information on the importance of accepting help, visit Family Caregiver Alliance.

Benefits of accepting help for the co-survivor

Accepting help can provide several benefits for the co-survivor providing caregiving, including:

    • Reduced stress: Sharing caregiving responsibilities can alleviate stress and prevent co-survivor burnout.
    • Better work-life balance: Accepting help can allow co-survivors to maintain their professional and personal lives while providing care.
    • Improved mental and physical health: co-survivors who accept help are less likely to experience negative health effects associated with chronic stress.

Support for the entire family: The emotional impact of caregiving affects the entire family, and accepting help can provide much-needed support for all members.

Benefits of accepting help for the person needing care

For the cardiac arrest survivor, accepting help from others can lead to:

    • Improved quality of life: Receiving care from multiple sources can improve the survivor’s quality of life through increased support and attention.
    • Better care outcomes: As co-survivors share responsibilities, they can better provide comprehensive care for their loved ones.
    • Enhanced social connections: Involving friends and family in caregiving can help maintain social connections for the survivor.
Practical tips on asking for and accepting help

When accepting help, it is essential to communicate your needs and delegate tasks effectively. Though it may feel uncomfortable, accepting help is good for you, your survivor, and the person offering their assistance. Here are some practical tips for asking for help:

    • Be specific: Clearly outline the tasks you need help with and the time commitment required.
    • Prioritize: Determine which tasks are most critical and delegate them accordingly.
    • Create a support network: Develop a group of friends and family who can provide ongoing support and assistance.

Here are some practical tips for when people offer to help: 

    • Think of tasks that they can perform from start to finish.
    • Try to keep a list of household tasks that need doing.
    • Offer them two or three options to choose from. This can help them find something they think they are capable of doing well for you.
    • If you feel awkward asking for help or overwhelmed with the task of responding to people, consider asking a trusted person to serve as your “help coordinator.” Have that person manage other people’s offers for help and answer their questions about what they can do to be helpful.

Co-survivor insight: “I regret not accepting more help at first and for not asking for more help later. I was so overwhelmed at first that I didn’t even know how to accept the help, and then I had too much shame later on to ask for it – it is so silly. People asked to help because they love me and they love Ben. In hindsight, I know that the unintended consequence of my not accepting help was that my support people felt pushed away, and we inevitably felt more distant as time went on. My advice for others is, if people offer something specific, just accept it gratefully. If people offer to help, but don’t offer something in particular, ask them to come up with something themselves. Or ask them to perform your usual chores and tasks like meals or yard work.”

Examples of things other co-survivors have valued receiving help with:

      • Being the point person to keep extended friends and family informed (if appropriate)
      • Receiving a pre-made meal
      • Having someone sit with the survivor while I napped during the day
      • Getting the family to come over to help overnight
      • Taking the car for an oil change
      • Mowing our lawn
      • Babysitting our kids or taking them out for an activity
      • Staying home with the survivor while I work, visit friends, or recharge my emotional batteries
      • Dropping off or picking up tailoring, repairs, or dry cleaning
      • Helping me take the survivor to the beach or to a restaurant
      • Helping to find a counselor or therapist who accepts my insurance and has experience in medical trauma
      • Going for a walk or to the gym with me to get some exercise or fresh air
      • Taking care of me (giving me meals so I remember to eat, putting a cozy blanket over me while I sit with the survivor, etc.)

For more tips on asking for help, visit AARP or Caregiver Action Network.

    Online resources for co-survivor support

    In addition to accepting help from friends and family, co-survivors can find support through online resources and communities. Here are some high-quality, authoritative sites to explore:

    Accepting help from friends and family can significantly improve the well-being of both the family co-survivor and the cardiac arrest survivor. It is important to recognize the benefits of accepting help for the co-survivor, the person needing care, and the person offering to help, and to learn how to effectively ask for assistance and accept it when it is offered. Remember to contact your support network and explore online resources for additional support in your caregiving journey.

    Thank you to our contributors

    Matthew Douma & Kristin Flannery

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