caregiver responding to criticism

“You never…”

“I can’t believe you…”

“Don’t do it that way!”

As a family caregiver, you work selflessly to provide care for a person you love. What happens when you are giving it all you’ve got, yet your all isn’t good enough? Criticism is not easy to hear, but it’s especially hard in your role as caregiver. Family members and friends who aren’t involved in caregiving may not see the full picture. Their suggestions might be well-meaning, but ill-informed. Or, there could be some challenging family dynamics at play. Regardless of the cause for the complaint you’re receiving, it is crucial to understand how to effectively reply.

What’s the Best Response When Addressing Criticism as a Caregiver?

Before addressing criticism as a caregiver, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Set any resentful or angry thoughts aside. When you are ready to answer calmly, try following these steps:

  • Acknowledge and question. Repeat back what the person is saying, even if you disagree with their opinion. Explain your thinking about the issue being criticized. Then ask the person what they would propose instead (even if you don’t wish to hear it). As an example, imagine your sister says, “Why are you making Dad a cheesesteak for lunch? He should be eating healthier food!” A productive response would be, “I hear that you are concerned about Dad’s health and diet. It has been difficult to get him to eat lately, though. His doctor suggested preparing whatever he feels like eating in order to make sure he eats. What are other sorts of foods that you think he might like to eat?”
  • Use “I” statements. It’s vital that you let the criticizer know that their remarks sting. Craft your response in a way that centers on the way you feel. In the case above, for instance, you might say, “I feel hurt when you question my decisions in meal choices for Dad.”
  • Respectfully defend yourself. After explaining how you feel, you can calmly and politely defend your actions. This can help the person see the situation from your point of view and hopefully think twice before criticizing you again. Continuing with the example above, you could say, “I truly care about Dad’s health and am following the doctor’s orders to make certain he is taking in some nutrients each day.”

It may help to keep in mind that this is a stressful time for everyone who loves the older adult in need of care. Each person may be dealing with the stress and worry in different ways. A little grace and forgiveness goes a long way toward attaining your common goal: ensuring the very best care and comfort for the older adult.

If you are providing the majority of care for a loved one, it is important to develop a network of support that enables you to make time for self-care. Live Free Home Health Care offers fully trained and experienced caregivers who are able to work with you to ensure you get the breaks from care you need to relax, recharge, and rest. Contact us today at 603-217-0149 to learn more about our in-home respite care services in New Hampton, Tilton, Epsom and nearby communities.