Tips for Coping with Caregiver Criticism
Last updated: February 2023
Caregiving is one of the hardest roles to play in life and it can be made even more difficult by the naysayers and caregiver criticisms from others. My entry into caregiving was sudden; I was thrown into the role of taking care of my mother with Alzheimer's and also raising my own three young children under the same roof. I didn't know anyone else who was doing the same thing.
Managing caregiver criticism
On top of it all, opinions and criticism about Mom's care were flying at me from what felt like all directions. Many times the offenders would be family or close friends. Dealing with this can be even more difficult than the responsibilities of caregiving. Here are some tips for coping with criticism.
Have good boundaries
You don't have to listen to every aunt, uncle, or friend's advice about what they think you should do about your loved one with dementia. As a chronic people-pleaser, I struggled with this.
Even though I had the legal power to make decisions on my own for Mom's care, I wanted to be respectful and welcome as much advice as possible from everyone else.
Maybe they would have the perfect answer!
You're not here to make everyone happy
It quickly became overwhelming. I realized I couldn't make everyone happy and also do what was best for my mom and my own little family.
Through a lot of hard work, I have learned that it is okay to say, "Thank you for your feedback; I've decided to go with a different decision." You can take what works, let go of what doesn't, and move on. While I do hope others support my decisions, I am not responsible for everyone else's feelings.
Try to be understanding and find a way to communicate
With that said, I tried to understand where my critics were coming from. I realized that most weren't trying to be overbearing. Many of them had not cared for a parent inside their home with their young children around. They had not walked in my shoes. Some of my critics were sad that my mom had to move states away to live with me. They were trying to tell me that they cared about my mom too.
Remaining gracious in your communication
With that in mind, I wanted to find a good way to communicate in a way that worked for all of us. Since I'm running around with my kids all day, I don't have time to call each person regularly and wouldn't be able to keep up with that many updates.
Instead, I post updates and pictures in a private Facebook group so everyone can see Mom's big smile and what she's up to. I also send out detailed emails every few months updating the family on Mom's health and activities.
That helps answer a lot of common questions all at once. I also hope it helps my caregiver critics see that my mom is getting great care.
Lean on your support team
Sometimes the words get to you. Or sometimes you are your own worst critic. I've had to learn how to deal with my own disappointment and criticism of myself. I often feel like a failure.
These things go through my head constantly: I wish I was a better parent, I wish I was a better caregiver to my mom, I wish I was a more thoughtful wife. I wish my house was cleaner, I was doing more to provide Mom with stimulation and activities, and I could spend more time with my kids.
Your support team keeps you grounded
My support team helps me a lot. My therapist tells me to ask myself, "If a friend was telling you these exact same things, what would you say to them?" I would never say the mean, horrible things I say to myself to a friend! That helps me change my view and talk to myself with more respect.
I also am a part of caregiver support groups. This grounds me because I see other caregivers in the trenches alongside one another. They are patting each other on the back, not telling each other they should be doing more or doing better. They teach me how I should talk to myself. We need one another.
Focus on what is going right
When I'm feeling guilty about not doing more for my mom, it helps to remember where my mom was before she lived with us. She was living by herself in another state, and the Covid-19 pandemic had ramped up. We discovered that she was not being checked on regularly. There was a rodent infestation in her house. All her activities were canceled and since she doesn't drive she was stuck in her home most of the time, alone.
Acknowledge your progress
It is hard to look back on but helps me to see how well she's doing now. It's not perfect, but she is now in a healthy living environment, surrounded by people and my kids every day, and has regular activities and interactions. She has a team of caregivers so she can be independent, and her medical care is top-notch.
Is your loved one safe? Are they fed, bathed, clothed, taken care of? Then you are doing things right.
Ignore the haters
It can sound harsh, but if other people don't approve of my decisions for my loved one, that ultimately doesn't matter. I can be confident about my decision because I am doing what is best for Mom.
At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to ignore the haters. You are not obligated to respond right away to every phone call, email, text. After all, you are trying to live your life and care for your loved one too.
No matter what other people say or think, I have to remind myself that I am doing the very best that I can as a wife, mother, and caregiver to my mom. That's all we can do and it is enough.
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