None of us becomes a caregiver because it is easy. You do it for a multitude of reasons. You become caregivers out of love, respect, devotion, necessity, obligation, and sometimes because nobody else is available to do it. We take on this role not always knowing there the responsibilities it entails. It is a job that most of you do not get paid for. It is a role whose description and demands evolves and changes with the needs of the person you are caring for.
You don’t do it for accolades. Although it feels good to get a thank you, a comment acknowledging what you are doing, or a note of appreciation. The other side of that coin is when you give your heart and soul to the role of caregiver it hurts on a deep level when you receive criticism from family, friends, and especially from the person you are taking care of.
Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself and cope with these challenging times:
- Try as best you calm to not get angry and defensive. Many times those criticizing have no real understanding of all that you do, how you do it, and why you do it in your role as caregiver. They are coming from a place of lack of knowledge and understanding. If this occurs in the presence of the person you are caring for this confrontation can upset or confuse them. The unintentional result can be harmful to the person you are caring for.
- Invite the critic to participate in the caregiving. This should not be done at a moment of anger. If there is a time where you can’t be there, ask them to fill in. It will give them hands-on insights on the specific caregiving tasks you engage in. Discuss how it went for them. Ask about their suggestions on things that arose and how they handled it. What worked well and what did not have good results?
- Evaluate what the best way to respond works best for you. Sometimes reacting immediately can have bad results because something is said that you regret. Take a moment to think about what is most effective. Do you need to give yourself time to think about how you want to handle a criticism? Would you like to respond in person, by email, or an old-fashioned letter. What feels most effective for you?
- You need to be able to discuss your feelings. Sometimes people say things and don’t understand the impact of their words. It is important to let the person doing the criticism know how you feel about their comments. Some circumstance don’t allow for this. Maybe the person criticizing you is the person you are taking care of. Find a trusted friend, counselor, another relative, support group member, or chat room confidant that you can just talk to in an open and candid way. Allow yourself time to vent, vent, vent!
- Take a moment to think about the reasons behind the criticism. Some people criticize others out of guilt. They can’t help in the way they like. Those being cared for may feel guilty about being a burden, or loss of independence, and it comes out in critical statements. Sometimes thoughtless statements come from a place of concern. There are moments someone you know sees you struggling as a caregiver or is grieving the loss of the person they knew. They may say things like “you should think about a nursing home” because they think it might help even though it is not what you want to hear.
Unsolicited advice is never easy to hear. Underneath it all there may be kernels of wisdom or information you can incorporate in your role as a caregiver that will be useful. Allow yourself to remain open and be attentive to these moments. It ultimately can help you and the person you are caring for if you use the suggested strategy.
Nobody understands the relationship between two people except those two people. This is true of all relationships including the caregiver relationship. Never forget to allow yourself moments to self acknowledge the good things that come from this role you have taken on. Do not berate yourself for moments you do or say something you regret. Be kind to yourself regardless of what others say to you. Caregiving has moments of stress and moments of intimacy that can be rewarding and fulfilling. Take those moments in and internalize them. They will help sustain you.
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW is the author of Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents. Role Reversal is the winner of 7 major book awards. Ms. Waichler has been a medical social worker and patient advocate for 40 years. She has done freelance writing, counseling, and workshops on patient advocacy and healthcare related issues for 17 years. You can purchase her book at this link: http://bit.ly/RoleReversalBook
Website: → Iris Waichler
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