If you’re a caregiver, your friends and family probably wish there was a magic phrase they could say to help you. While there are some things your friends have said or done that have helped, there are probably others that, though mentioned in good spirit, you never, ever wanted to hear.
If you’ve heard something unintentionally offensive from a friend or loved one, you’re not alone. Look over this list of the top seven things you should never say to a caregiver, and see how many of the platitudes test your patience.
1. “You look tired.”
It’s probably all you can do to hold back a snarky reply. After all, between work, your own family, and caring for your loved one 24-7/365, you’re probably completely exhausted. Muster up your best smile, nod, and change the topic to something less stressful.
2. “You really need to get a life.”
More often than not, this is a phrase that’s spoken in a crowd, and it’s followed by heads turning in unison to find out who needs to get a life. It’s a little difficult to stifle a response like, “I’d love to! But my loved one’s life depends on me right now,” but somehow your inner Emily Post guides you through this minefield. Sometimes it’s best to move past phrases like these.
3.”You’re the best daughter a mother could ever hope for.”
If you have a sibling who plays secondary caregiver to your parents, this can be particularly jarring. Thank the speaker for her kind words and be sure to mention that it’s a team effort.
4. “Are you being good to yourself?”
You’re probably doing everything you can to look and feel your best, but it’s hard to indulge when you’re caring for others. Tell your friends you appreciate the sentiment and are doing the best you can, then let it roll off your back.
5. “You really should put your father in a nursing home.”
If you’ve opted against assisted living, you probably have a good reason for it. Briefly explain the reasons why you think what you’re doing works for you. Perhaps something along the lines of, “Dad attends adult day care, so we both get a little break.”
6. “You’re so serious all the time. Whatever happened to that fun girl?“
This is probably the case for a number of reasons — after all, you’re a busy, exhausted caregiver. You might want to scream, but you know that won’t be helpful. Instead, explain that the time you’re spending with your friend is your relaxation time. You might not be as bubbly as usual, but you’re content to be in her company.
7. “You must be so relieved that it’s almost over!”
(This might start when hospice enters the picture.) There are no words!
If you hear a phrase like that, there’s no easy response. Try being honest. Sometimes honesty opens the floor for you to converse, and it helps you stop your friends from saying these things in the future.
They say, “Never say never,” but “they” have obviously never been caregivers. And after hearing these phrases as a caregiver, you’d probably sooner say nothing than repeat them to others. Make time with friends, but keep dates with yourself for your own caregiver health — and know these people usually mean well. Then, when you hear one of these clichés, you’ll laugh to yourself instead of biting your lip.