Strategies for Family Caregivers on the Receiving End of Hurtful Words

Family caregivers give their time, attention and even finances to help make life better for a family member.

Many feel honored and proud to be able to provide love and nurturing, especially when it’s giving back by caring for parents who once gave them everything when they were children.

Unfortunately, there are times when it doesn’t feel like the time and sacrifices are appreciated, even when we know they are.

Family members, especially siblings and even the ones for whom you care, can offer their often unwanted opinions about how they think you are doing providing that special care. Usually this isn’t helpful criticism but instead hurtful to you as a caregiver.

Some of these hurtful comments serve to make us wonder why we keep giving of ourselves. We can feel guilty when someone suggests we aren’t doing enough or something right, even though we truly are doing all we can. We often try to take on even more to quiet their insults, only hurting our own physical and mental health in the process.

Strategies For Handling Hurtful Words

  1. Try not to listen. Redirect the topic of conversation to something that is helpful for your senior loved one instead of hurtful to you. If redirection isn’t working, simply walk away from the person making negative comments or politely disconnect from the phone call. Unfortunately, too often negative comments come from siblings or other family members who aren’t helping or who want it done their way, which may not always be in the best interest of the senior loved one.
  2. If the comments are coming from your senior, remember they may be frustrated or perhaps confused by their disease so don’t take it personally or get offended. They may be angry at their situation, their loss of independence or depressed. Their comments are being hurled at the closest person — you! They don’t mean to hurt you. Remember the old rhyme: sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. Especially words that come from older adults who may not realize their words are hurtful.
  3. Accept that no matter what you do, what care choices you make, what food you prepare for a meal or any other day to day decision you make as the one in charge, you will not please everyone all the time. That is reality so just accept the comments, don’t take them to heart instead continue with your tasks. Practice makes perfect with this one.
  4. Don’t react with anger – you will just give the person making the insults the desired outcome. They are just trying to get under your skin or get you to do what they want even — if it isn’t the right thing to do. Smile and continue on with care or other duties. It will be difficult for the person throwing the insults to keep pushing when you are smiling.

Naturally these strategies might not be easy to implement and will require caregivers to practice them. It’s human nature to get hurt feelings when someone is telling you all the things you’re doing wrong. The insults and negativity are even harder to take when you are tired. Remind yourself about the importance of what you are doing — it is very important, priceless even!

If your siblings or other family members who are not impaired by a disease process, as may be the senior for whom you care, are only offering insults without any assistance to you for the care you are providing, you will have your answer to how important their opinion really is to the care of your senior loved one. If they can’t walk the talk, you have no choice but to ignore their comments as best you can.

Finding strategies to help you cope with the daily challenges of being a family caregiver will help you be a more successful and healthier caregiver.

If you have more suggestions for everyone on how you handle negative feedback, we would love for you to share them with us!

4 thoughts on “Strategies for Family Caregivers on the Receiving End of Hurtful Words”

  1. Yes, sometimes as a caregiver you might need to listen to certain criticisms from family members and at times this can become very difficult to handle. Therefore, it is better that you are silent and do not react to their comments or words spoken in anger. You need to tolerate each and every situation and if necessary you also need to follow the strategies mentioned to handle the situation.

    • Thanks for sharing your insights! It is difficult to hold your tongue but it can often be the best option. If we remember what is best for our seniors we will do the right thing!

  2. I found your tips on what to do when someone makes a hurtful remark very insightful. As they say, you can’t please all the folks all the time.

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