Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
They say good help is hard to find—and family after family illustrate that beautifully when caregiving needs arise.
If you are the primary caregiver, don’t assume that it has to be all you, all the time. But also don’t assume you are going to get help unless you ask. Very specifically.
Why? It depends. Sometimes your family sees you as the strong person and forget you need a rest. Sometimes they see it as your “job,” letting themselves off the hook. Sometimes they don't want to “impose”—and sometimes they are just oblivious. But this is particularly true if you never look like you need help, or demure when someone offers. Once they have offered for awhile, they forget. So right from the start, try to divide up chores, or build in respite for yourself.
Ask yourself what you really want. If it’s hands-on help:
o Be sure that when someone asks, “What can I do?” you have a concrete suggestion. Keep a checklist on the refrigerator (or better yet, online) where everyone can see it.
o Assign family members the roles they do well—or at least the roles they will do (it’s not a help if it never happens). Offload the groceries, the lawn care, the laundry., the book-keeping.
o If they live far away (or feel they are too busy) ask for a monetary contribution. A few hours of respite care from a home health agency or senior care facility can go a long way towards maintaining your sanity.
It could be, however, that you have all that under control, and really you just want a little appreciation. Then say so. But in a nice way, and before you start to boil over. A good start is a weekly phone call where your job is to vent and theirs is to tell you what a great job you’re doing.
A final note: Don’t waste time and energy worrying about the people who aren’t being useful. You need all your energy for yourself.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles
In many—if not most—caregiving situations there is a team involved. Siblings, spouses, close friends, the third cousin whose neighbor had exactly the same thing. With luck, this is great. Two heads are better than one; many hands make light work, etc., etc., etc. Often it is less ideal, with a lot of conflicting opinions, but very little action. If you are the one shouldering the bulk of the responsibility, this can really add to your stress. What to do?
First: Consider the source: Not just who is doing the criticizing, but why. Is it out of guilt because they can’t or won’t do what you are doing? A desire for self-aggrandizement? A deeply ingrained power-play mechanism (is this someone who always needs to be calling the shots)? Understanding the motivations behind the comments can help put them in perspective.
Second: Consider the content: What is particularly troubling? Once you are able to step away from the emotional component, you can figure out the best strategy for dealing with it.
· Is there a constant litany of things you should be doing, with no actual offer to help? Then play dumb, and act like the latest suggestion was an offer to step in. “Take her to the beauty parlor? Great idea. What time can you pick Mom up Tuesday?”
· Does your older brother make you feel like you’re five and a half? Take a minute to think about everything that you are doing right. Really. Make a list. Run through it. Then smile and keep moving.
· Is it simply that the criticism is so relentless? Copy teenagers everywhere and just tune it out.
· Do you have a sneaking sense that there may be a grain of truth in the criticism? Even the girl who cried wolf was right eventually, so don’t automatically dismiss everything the nosey parker says.
The bottom line: Step back as far as possible and try to gauge realistically how much truth there is in what they are saying. And then act accordingly.