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Songs for Family Caregivers: “Help!”

This post is the third in a series for National Family Caregivers Month, with three songs that give us a glimpse into what the caregiving experience may be like for the people you know. The first two posts dealt with the wealth of memories that caregivers hold (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me”) and the consideration that family caregivers may need reassurance that they are still needed and relevant, even after professional caregivers begin providing services (“As Long As He Needs Me.”)

Today’s post deals with another aspect of caregiving: the fact that family caregivers may need help asking for HELP.

We professionals in eldercare encounter family caregivers on many points along the caregiving journey. Sometimes, by the time they reach us, caregivers have already been through the wringer and know that they can’t do it all on their own anymore. Some are more than ready to accept our help and take time for their own lives.

Sometimes, though, we encounter caregivers who aren’t yet ready to ask for help, with caregiving for their loved ones or for their own physical and mental health. These may be the folks that we meet in the physicians’ office, or in the hospital or rehab unit, or during medical home care visits.

Maybe they’re dealing with a crisis, and they’re just waiting for things to get back to normal.

Maybe they’re dead set on getting all the treatment that is available, even as options diminish.

Maybe they aren’t ready to let go of the promise to keep mom or dad at home until the end, even though they aren’t sleeping, and they can’t keep working, and mom keeps trying to get out the back door at all times of day and night.

Sometimes we professionals can recognize someone’s need for help before they can, before they are psychologically ready to make that admission, let alone ask for help. Sometimes it is our job just to be ready for that caregiver to be ready. And sometimes it is our job to help them identify and ask for what they need.

Here’s is where The Beatles come in. John Lennon wrote the song “Help! for the 1965 film of the same name. (If you haven’t heard it before, check out the YouTube version.) I doubt that Lennon was thinking about family caregivers when he wrote this song, but the lyrics fit the caregiving experience to a T. Check out these two verses:

When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in anyway.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors.

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
My independence seems to vanish in the haze.
But every now and then I feel so insecure,
I know that I just need you like, I’ve never done before.

Wow, just look at those ideas – “when I was younger, so much younger than today,” “now my life has changed in oh so many ways,” “my independence seems to vanish in the haze” – I’m sure I couldn’t come up with better lyrics to describe the caregiving experience of many folks I know.

These verses are framed by multiple voices singing the chorus:

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground,
Won’t you please, please help me?

The great thing is that this song isn’t whiney or pathetic in any way – two feelings that many caregivers probably wouldn’t embrace. Instead, there is this chaotic energy to the song, like saying, “my world is spinning out of control and it’s going to keep spinning unless you HELP me!”

This is a much closer match to what caregivers may be experiencing – a world spinning out of control rather than a plea for pity. I think the tone of this song puts the focus back on the impossible situation rather than the caregiver’s perceived failings.

So what does this mean for you?

If you are not in a position to help the family caregiver directly:

When your primary role is caring for the senior, you are in a great position to encourage the caregiver to seek help for themselves. That may take many forms:

  • Telling friends and neighbors that they need help checking in during the day.
  • Hiring a housekeeper or private duty home health agency to help with day-to-day tasks.
  • Speaking to a pastor, rabbi, or other spiritual advisor.
  • Seeking therapy from a mental health professional.

If you’re not sure how to suggest something like this, please ask a colleague (or discuss further in the Soundscaping Source Member Forum). Remember that by helping a family caregiver to get help, you’ll ultimately be helping the senior in your charge as well.

If you work with family caregivers directly:

Introducing this song says, “your life is crazy! Let me help!” rather than, “I feel so sorry for you. You must be so sad.”

A creative extension of this song would be adding new verses or re-writing the chorus. Ask the caregiver, if you could have the help you wanted, what would it be?

A new version might look something like this (new lyrics are underlined):

Help me get some sleep, I’m exhausted!
And I do appreciate you being ’round.
Help me figure out what to do now!
Won’t you please, please help me?

And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
I’m always fixing problems, each and every day
Every now and then I think I just can’t go on
I know I need somebody else to keep me moving on

Of course, we are not making any attempt to improve on Lennon’s lyrics – just an effort to get thoughts and feelings out into a new format. (Rhyming not required!)

Try this: Play a recording of “Help!”, sing your new lyrics, be a little goofy – then reapproach the topic of asking for help. Sometimes just by writing the words down, feeling the chaos of the song, a caregiver can reach a new understanding of what help they need and deserve.

8 comments… add one
  • Love how you have connected the already strong lyrics with a song writing opportunity, Rachelle.

    • Yes, it’s kind of tricky following John Lennon, isn’t it? 😉

  • Dear Rachelle,

    I love rewriting songs as a way of dealing with stress and I love the Beatles song “Help!” I’ve had more caregiving responsibilities since Hurricane Sandy hit so I took a stab at rewriting the song to express myself. Here it is:

    Now that I’m a caregiver I have so much on my mind,
    I never needed to reach out as much as I now find,
    With these new responsibilities, I’m not so self assured,
    So I need to have an open mind, and open up the doors.

    And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
    My privacy has just vanished in the haze.
    And every now and then I feel so insecure,
    I know I need to reach out more than I’ve ever done before.

    Great post! Thanks!

    With gratitude,
    Andrea

    • Wow, Andrea, thank you so much for sharing your version! I’m glad you found this to be a helpful exercise.

  • Rachelle,

    This is one of my favorite of your posts. I love the song, I love the interpretation, and I am all fired up about ways that this could be used for caregivers AND others who feel overwhelmed. Thanks once again for sharing your unique expertise.

    Warmly,
    Ann

    • Thanks so much, Ann! I hope you can use this to help a lot of people you know.

  • Love this post! As a caregiver, (we have 24/7 professional help as well) it is so hard to ask for help. The thing is, even if you ask in many ways, in polite ways, in angry ways, in pointed ways, you dont always get it.

    • That’s a good point, Kathy. I’m so sorry you’re not getting the help you need. That’s something we professionals need to do better – helping someone find what they need, if we can’t do it ourselves.

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