Caregiving: When "help" comes in the form of criticism

In many—if not most—caregiving situations there is a team involved. Siblings, spouses, close friends, the third cousin whose neighbor had exactly the same thing. With luck, this is great. Two heads are better than one; many hands make light work, etc., etc., etc. Often it is less ideal, with a lot of conflicting opinions, but very little action. If you are the one shouldering the bulk of the responsibility, this can really add to your stress. What to do?

First: Consider the source: Not just who is doing the criticizing, but why. Is it out of guilt because they can’t or won’t do what you are doing? A desire for self-aggrandizement? A deeply ingrained power-play mechanism (is this someone who always needs to be calling the shots)?  Understanding the motivations behind the comments can help put them in perspective.

Second: Consider the content:  What is particularly troubling? Once you are able to step away from the emotional component, you can figure out the best strategy for dealing with it.

·      Is there a constant litany of things you should be doing, with no actual offer to help? Then play dumb, and act like the latest suggestion was an offer to step in. “Take her to the beauty parlor? Great idea. What time can you pick Mom up Tuesday?”

·      Does your older brother make you feel like you’re five and a half?  Take a minute to think about everything that you are doing right. Really. Make a list.  Run through it. Then smile and keep moving.

·      Is it simply that the criticism is so relentless? Copy teenagers everywhere and just tune it out.

·      Do you have a sneaking sense that there may be a grain of truth in the criticism? Even the girl who cried wolf was right eventually, so don’t automatically dismiss everything  the nosey parker says.