Top 10 Family Caregiver Pet Peeves
The National Council on Aging reports that today, more than 40 million people in the U.S. are providing unpaid care for older friends and loved ones and adults with disabilities. Under any circumstances, caregiving can be challenging—and during the pandemic, family caregivers have had their hands full all the more. It’s not surprising that they need to let off steam from time to time!
In caregiver support groups, whether in person or online, certain themes emerge again and again. Here are some of the frustrations caregivers share. Listen in—it could help you be a more supportive family member or friend.
Quite often, one family member ends up taking on the lion’s share of a loved one’s care. This person might be the care receiver’s spouse, or perhaps the adult child who lives closest by. Whatever the case, assure the caregiver that you want to help. Don’t just say, “Let me know if I can help”—ask for specific suggestions.
Sometimes when you ask an overwhelmed caregiver how you can help, you might get this response. How about a brainstorming session? Offer to facilitate an in-person or virtual family meeting where everyone can discuss sharing the load. Offer to do the legwork to help locate resources in the community. Check out caregiving coordination apps.
Caregivers often spend a significant percentage of their income on their loved one’s needs. They might quit their job or cut back their hours. During your family meeting, ask family members who are unable to provide hands-on care if they can contribute monetarily, perhaps sharing in the cost of professional in-home care to provide respite for the primary caregiver, and to allow them to continue their paid work. Do you have a good head for finances? Even from afar, you could be a big help.
Caregiving changes relationships—and it can amplify differences between people as a tug of war between safety and independence develops. A person who is ill may want things done a certain way—even though it is the caregiver who is now doing those things. If you’re a good diplomat, you might join these conversations. Or help your friend locate a counselor or an aging life care professional (geriatric care manager) to bring both parties into better accord.
This is a classic complaint of primary caregivers. Day in and day out they work to meet their loved one’s needs—and then, a brother or sister shows up for the first time in a year, voicing disapproval. “My brother hasn’t seen Mom for a year, and wants to know why her arthritis is worse!” Recognize that the primary caregiver knows a lot more than you do. Unless you genuinely believe your loved one is not well cared for, offer help rather than judgment.
This is one of the saddest, and most common, things family caregivers report. Old friends stop calling, or—another classic—they bring a casserole, but drop it off quickly. “I don’t know what to say to him,” the reluctant guest might say. Or “I can’t bear to see him like this.” If a friend is living with Alzheimer’s disease, physical disability or a life-limiting illness, make the effort to visit and otherwise stay in touch. Ask the caregiver about ways to spend meaningful time with the person.
Visitors may be so concerned about the health and well-being of the person who is ill that they forget to express concern for the caregiver. Caregiving is hard work, often accompanied by many physical and emotional challenges. Encourage the caregiver to share their thoughts, even to vent. Practical help is wonderful—but so is being a good listener.
From servers at a restaurant to store clerks and even health care staff, people sometimes assume that older adults or people with disabilities are unable to speak for themselves. Make a point of giving the older adult the chance to answer first. The caregiver will know to step in if help is needed.
This is the other side of the coin. Though family caregivers supervise their loved one’s health and well-being, health care staff may hesitate to share information with them due to privacy policies. Encourage the primary caregiver to obtain written permission to receive medical information about their loved one, and to be there for telehealth appointments, when the elder might need help operating equipment and understanding what the doctor is saying.
There might be an element of praise to this—but just as often, it comes across as condescending, with an undertone of “I wouldn’t do it.” Or “You are so good at taking care of Mom, that’s why it’s your job.” Again, along with praise, offer help and understanding.
If you aren’t a family caregiver, remember that with millions of people newly taking on the role each year, your time to care for a loved one may come. So, don’t only listen to the caregivers in your life—learn from them, too.
How Right at Home Can Help
Right at Home’s professional caregivers can provide respite for family caregivers who need time to rejuvenate themselves. Having professional outside help can alleviate some of the stress that goes along with being a family caregiver. Contact your local Right at Home office* today and ask for a FREE in-home consultation.
*Home care services vary by location.