Create your own helpful network

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Asking for help to deal with life's challenges can make a big difference. Finding it difficult to reach out? Here's advice on how to create a network to help yourself and others.

Dealing with everything from day-to-day problems to intense challenging times is always easier with help, that's especially true if you're not feeling well or are older and struggling to live independently. A lot of services and support are there for the asking; unfortunately, some of us have difficulty with the asking part. But there's no need to be embarrassed or ashamed. After all, most of us want to help when we can.

When it's needed

Depending on your situation, there are an endless number of things you could need help with, both big and small:

  • meal preparation
  • grocery and other shopping
  • rides to doctor appointments
  • house cleaning and other maintenance
  • assistance with financial matters or filling out forms
  • home-care relief
  • advice to deal with your own issues and needs
  • someone to talk to on a regular basis
  • overcome grief or loss
  • feel less isolated, lonely or depressed
  • a reason to get out of the house

Getting the help you need is probably easier than you think and comes with some surprising benefits.

Connect with a helpful social network

Asking for help is easier when it involves someone you already know (even as an acquaintance) rather than a stranger, so it's important to be part of a network — even a small one. Being connected with others is important for all of us, but it's especially true for caregivers, people who are ill and seniors living alone. Asking for and getting the assistance you need may help:

  • boost your feelings of self-worth and belonging
  • increase your feeling of security
  • improve your overall psychological health and sense of well-being

Setting up your own social network is a good way to stay connected with others so that you can be there to help each other when the need arises. You can do this by staying connected with friends, family and neighbours and engaging in regular communication with them:

  • Check-in regularly with people in your network. If you live alone, you could set up a regular, daily check-in time with someone else in the same situation.
  • Know your neighbours and each other's living situations. Just remember to be a caring, rather than a nosy, neighbour.
  • Don't ignore phone calls or emails. Let people know that you're okay or that you need help; find out how they're doing and if you can help.
  • Say thanks. Let others know how much their help means to you.
  • Listen carefully. Everyone has issues they need to deal with and often you can help others just by listening.

Build your network

The most natural place to start looking for help is, of course, with your family and friends. But beyond them, there are many ways to create a helpful social network, including through:

  • volunteer work
  • religious organizations
  • community services
  • your healthcare providers
  • hospital out-patient services
  • local chapters of national health or caregiver organizations
  • retirement groups
  • work colleagues (current or previous)
  • searching online, including online support groups
  • hobby, recreation or sports clubs in your area

When you have a strong social network, you'll feel good just knowing there's someone who can help — even when you don't need it — and that you're there for others.

Useful links

Use these links to find more information or tips about ideas expressed in this tip sheet:


 

References
  • Mayo Clinic, Stress Management, website
  • FamilyDoctor.org, Caregiver Stress, website
  • Helpguide.org, Home Care Services for Seniors, website
  • National Family Caregivers Association, Tips & Tools, website
  • LifeStation, Safety Tips for Seniors Living Alone, website

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