By Wendy Garson, LCSW-C
Asking for help is something most of us don’t like to do — and something everyone has to do at some time. This is a dilemma particularly for people with disabilities and for the elderly. We seem to be more comfortable offeringhelp to others, but it’s not always clear how we can best be of help.
Who needs our help? The challenge is to look beyond the obvious; disabilities are not always immediately evident and age does not always determine need for help. There are degrees of disabilities: a person with low vision may need as much help as the person walking with a white cane. The person who appears to be healthy may in fact have a dementia and need some assistance.
What is the right way to help?
There is truly no small act of kindness. You have only to ask someone who is unable to drive whom you have just taken to a doctor’s appointment, or the person who is recovering from an illness and cannot cook, to whom you delivered a dinner. The kinds of help that we can provide are limitless. Observe the smile on the faces of residents in a nursing home when they are entertained by a group of children, or the appreciation of a homeless man when he is handed a knitted scarf at a shelter.
When is the right time to help? The “right” time may or may not be crystal clear. If you see a person unable to reach an item on a shelf in the grocery store, you can certainly offer to get it down. If you hear a person having difficulty hearing directions, should you intervene? So often the hearing impaired just need someone to slow down and speak directly to them. It never hurts to ask if someone needs help. Let the person tell you what he or she needs. For some people there is never a right time and the offer to help needs to be made, regardless. Even when we know the time is right, such as during shiva or after the birth of a child, we need to recognize that help is often needed before or after a traditional or obvious time period. The decision of when someone should help and for how long should be made, whenever possible, between the person providing the help and the person receiving it. Perhaps the best answer is that the right time is when your intuition tells you!
Why are there some people who will never ask for help? What gets in their way? For many people pride is the obstacle that gets in their way of asking for help even when it is obvious they are in desperate need of assistance. This can be a problem for both the young and the elderly. Lack of knowledge about community resources is another reason why many people never ask for help. If you don’t know where to go or what’s available, it is difficult to ask the right questions. It is amazing how much we take for granted when we have lived in the same town all our life or have learned about our community because of our job. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Finally, what stops some people from offering help? For many the answer is simply time; for others it may be lack of confidence in their own abilities. Some might answer that they don’t want to upset or embarrass someone, while others might say they have never been asked. The good news is that most people offer and describe helping someone as one of their favorite things to do. Isn’t it interesting how easy it is to forget this when we are the person asking for help?
By Wendy Garson, LCSW-C, Service Coordination, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.