Listen – Caregivers Need To TalkPosted on April 2, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care, Education, Home Care Non-Medical, Home Health Care Medical, Respite Care
Modern Aging: Sometimes just listening is what a caregiver needs most
If a caregiver is pouring her heart out to you, it is important to listen — carefully. More than likely, she is trying to get things off her chest, not asking for advice.
So be careful when offering unsolicited advice. It can discourage a caregiver and make her feel as if she must be doing something wrong.
Beware of these “unhelpful” pieces of advice commonly given to caregivers:
• “Just relax!” Caregiving can stir up some complicated emotions. Feeling stressed out is a common feeling, and when someone says, “just relax,” it can make even the most mild-mannered caregiver want to scream.
• “Rest when your loved one is resting.” Sleep deprivation can make negative emotions worse. There is probably nothing more a tired caregiver would love than to take a nap. By stating the obvious, you are likely to frustrate or alienate her.
• “You have to parent your parent.” When an aging parent needs help, it is common for people to suggest that it is now the caregiver’s turn to step up, become the responsible adult and take over. But as a matter of law and ethics, aging adults have the right to make their own decisions. There might come a time when a caregiver needs to take over, but until the day when an aging loved one is no longer able to make decisions independently, decisions should be shared.
• “Don’t feel guilty.” If it were only that simple! Caregivers need permission to honestly feel their emotions. Saying “don’t feel guilty” can invalidate the caregiver’s emotions. Caregivers need real and meaningful encouragement, not worn out clichés.
• “You should get out more often.” Although no truer words were ever spoken, this advice can leave a caregiver feeling even more overwhelmed. A toxic combination of stretched finances, consuming responsibilities and a growing sense of isolation can leave caregivers without any place to go.
For more information on caring for an aging loved one, visit www.liftcaregiving.com.
Katie Gilstrap is cofounder of Lift Caregiving.