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Handling family criticism whilst looking after your elderly loved one

Do you ever feel alone and unappreciated taking care of your elderly parent?  It may seem like an endless cycle of driving to and booking specialist appointments, doing errands for your loved one as well as paying bills and organising tradesmen.

Throughout the Christmas and New Year family period, you may have been surrounded by siblings and relatives who have travelled from far to spend time with your elderly parent.  Even though they live far away and are too busy to help, they possibly had advice on how you could be doing a better job.  Their criticism and lack of understanding, not to mention appreciation of you, has left you feeling under whelmed and undervalued.  You may already feel stressed and burnt-out, so the last thing you need is criticism from well-meaning family members about your care of your loved one.  Here’s a couple of tips on how to handle family criticism:

  1. Communicate ahead of time.

Don’t wait until Christmas to inform your siblings that your mum now needs weekly visits to the physio or she has a new brand of medication that makes her drowsy and anxious.  Keep in touch via email or phone and update them regularly so they can be more helpful and proactive with advice when it is needed.

  1. Mentally Prepare!

Think of the possible criticism you could face beforehand and have a standard response prepared.  If you think your sibling may criticise you for not visiting your parent enough, have a response prepared so you don’t snap.

  1. Let them know in advance how they can help.

Living far away is not always an excuse not to pitch in, if a sibling criticises you for not following up with the Dr about the side effects of the new medication, suggest to your sibling that they arrange a skype session with the Dr to discuss.  Gently remind your family you are taking the burden of most of the care, so you welcome their help and input.

  1. Don’t take it personally.

Easier said than done, but you don’t always know what is going on in someone else’s life and they may be taking it out on you. Sometimes siblings may feel guilty for not being more involved so they push it back on you.  The festive season can also provoke ‘old family issues’ that lurk behind emotional reactions in the present.

  1. You can’t please everyone.

Accept that you are doing your best and you simply cannot please everyone.  Give yourself a pat on the back, it is hard going looking after an elderly loved one and all the challenges that go with this. Surround yourself with family and or friends that bring you joy and give you ‘some time out’.

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