If you’ve been a caregiver for any length of time, chances are you’ve experienced your fair share of unsolicited advice. While the person usually means well, it can hurt when they speak out of turn. When all you hear is criticism, it’s hard to turn the other cheek, smile, and move on.
I had to laugh as I read through this list of 10 things caregivers don’t want to hear:
10. Doesn’t Medicare (or your insurance) pay for that?
9. It must be hard to work and take care of your husband, so why don’t you just quit your job?
8. Your mother belongs in a nursing home. OR: I could never put my mother in a nursing home.
7. You have to take care of yourself; your husband (mother, father) needs you.
6. Why don’t you get your family to help out more?
5. I don’t see what you’re complaining about. Dad seems fine to me.
4. I don’t know how you do it. You must be a saint.
3. Just call me if you need some help.
2. I know just how you feel.
1. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
See yourself in any of these? Ever had to bite your tongue holding back a not-so-nice response?
While sometimes it is appropriate just to hold back and move on, if you find a continuing pattern of criticism or “suggestions” from the same person, it might be time to correct their behavior.
1. Acknowledge their concern and ask for suggestions
Many siblings fight over differences of how to care for mom or dad. “You let mom eat that?” or “Why didn’t you let dad do this?” It can be frustrating, especially when they don’t contribute as much time for caregiving as you do. The next time they make a comment, acknowledge their concern and ask for suggestions.
For example, if they question what mom had for dinner, create an answer based on the facts. “You know it’s been difficult getting mom to eat anything. The doctor says that’s normal given her medication levels. What would you suggest she has instead?” Sometimes diving a little deeper into the facts can turn a situation around.
2. Repeat the criticism and talk about solutions
Sometimes people don’t think before they speak. We’ve all done it. By repeating what they’ve said, you can counter it and show how your feelings were hurt. You can also work together to find common ground and possibly a solution.
If your sister says she’s too busy to help out, you can reach out and talk about the value of your own time. If she knows you feel taken for granted when she insists she’s busier than you are, she may change her tune.
3. Be specific
Sometimes it’s difficult to stand up for yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell someone the reasons behind what you do. But when criticism is completely out of line, you have the right to stand up for yourself. Be polite. Be firm. State what’s on your mind.
Chances are this happens more than once. If you need to, rehearse answers before you need them. Then when your sister or a neighbor repeats a criticism to you more than once, you’ll have your comeback already in place. Being specific about why things are occurring can sometimes stop people in their tracks. They might not fully understand all you are going through. And with a little education, you might turn this adversary into someone who offers more help.
Screaming might feel good in the moment, but it won’t cut down on your stress. If you learn better approaches to the most annoying comments you hear, you can better educate those around you.