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 your all, but your all isn’t good enough? Criticism from your family about caregiving can be especially challenging to hear. Their advice may be well-meaning, but if they aren’t engaged in caregiving, they may not understand the full picture. Or, there might be some complicated family dynamics going on. Regardless of the cause of the feedback you’re receiving, it is crucial to understand how to effectively reply.

What’s the Best Reaction to Caregiver Criticism?

Before responding, pause for a minute. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Set any angry or resentful thoughts aside. When you are prepared to answer calmly, try following these tips:

  • Acknowledge and question. Repeat back what the person is saying, even if you disagree with their viewpoint. Clarify your reasoning for the issue being criticized. Then ask the person what they would suggest instead (even if you don’t wish to hear it). As an example, imagine your sibling says, “Why did you make Dad that greasy hamburger for dinner? Shouldn’t he be eating healthier foods?” 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. What are some other foods that you think he might like to eat?”
  • Use “I” statements. It is vital that you let the criticizer know that their remarks sting. Craft your response in a way that focuses on the way you feel. In the case above, for instance, you could 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 might say, “I truly care about Dad’s health and am adhering to the doctor’s orders to ensure he is getting some nutrients each day.”

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

If you’re providing the bulk of care for your loved one, it is important to develop a system of support that allows you time for self-care. Home With You Senior Care offers fully trained and experienced caregivers who are able to work with you to help you get the breaks from care you need to relax, recharge, and rest. Contact us at 410-756-0959 to learn more about our in-home respite care services in Catonsville, Columbia, Ellicott City, and surrounding Maryland communities.