caregiver responding to criticism

“You never…”

“I can’t believe you…”

“Don’t do it that way!”

As a family caregiver for an older loved one, you work tirelessly and selflessly to provide care for someone you love. What happens when you’re giving it all you have, but your all isn’t good enough? Criticism is never easy to hear, but it’s particularly hard in your role as caregiver. Relatives and friends who aren’t involved in caregiving may not understand the full picture. Their advice could be well-intended, but ill-informed. Or, there may be some difficult family dynamics at play. No matter what the cause for the criticism you’re receiving, it is essential to learn how to reply effectively.

What’s the Best Response When Receiving Negative Feedback as a Caregiver?

Before you respond, pause for a minute. Take a deep breath and count to ten. Set any resentful or angry emotions aside. When you’re ready to answer calmly, try following these strategies:

  • Acknowledge and question. Repeat back what the individual is saying, even if you don’t agree with their opinion. Explain your reasoning for the issue being criticized. Then ask the person what they would recommend instead (even if you don’t want to hear it). For example, imagine your brother says, “Why did you make Mom that greasy hamburger for dinner? She should be eating healthier food!” An effective response would be, “I hear that you are concerned about Mom’s health and diet. It has been difficult to get her to eat lately, though. Her doctor suggested preparing whatever she feels like eating. What are some other foods that you think might appeal to her?”
  • Use “I” statements. It’s important to let the criticizer know that their comments hurt. Craft your response in a way that centers on the way you feel. In the case above, for example, you might say, “I feel hurt when you question my decisions in meal selections for Mom.”
  • 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 viewpoint and hopefully think twice before critiquing you again. Continuing with the example above, you could say, “I care very much about Mom’s health and am adhering to the doctor’s orders to make certain she is getting some nutrients every day.”

It may help to remember that this is a stressful time for everyone who loves the person in need of care. Each person may be dealing with the stress and worry differently. A little bit of forgiveness and grace goes a long way toward achieving 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 essential to build a community of support that allows you time for self-care. Compassionate Nursing Services 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 at 314-432-4312 for more information on our in-home respite care services in Town and Country, Creve Coeur, Clayton and other nearby communities.