Quick: When’s the last time somebody asked you, “How are you doing?”
Emphasis on the “you.”
Not lately? Not surprising.
People don’t get involved in caregiving for the glory or the thanks. We do it because it’s a job that needs to be done. We don’t even think of it as a “job.” It’s part and parcel of loving someone, of feeling duty-bound. The person needing our care is the star attraction, after all, the focus of attention.
But wouldn’t it be nice if you, the caregiver, weren’t completely invisible? Wouldn’t be a relief if the rest of your family paused from going about their merry way to inquire about your health, your sleep, your well being?
There are many reasons friends and family fail to ask caregivers how they’re doing. (I’m not saying they’re good reasons, only that these are possible motivations for keeping mum). For example:
Lack of comprehension: They just don’t fully understand the time and strain involved.
Out of sight, out of mind: You’ve solved the problem, and that’s all they care to know.
Selfish obliviousness: They’re too wrapped up in their own busy lives.
Reading you wrong: Because some caregivers tend to put on a happy face or a complaint-free stiff upper lip, they thus don’t appear needy.
Making like an ostrich: They don’t want to know, for fear they’d be expected to step up.
Plain thoughtless rudeness. (Sometimes, there’s no other excuse.)
What can you do about it?
It’s really hard to kick-start empathy and consideration in other adults. Some people swear by speaking up: “You know, I’m really stressed myself caring for Dad; would you mind checking in on me, not just him, once a week?” Or wrap it in humor: “Hey! Why doesn’t anybody ever ask if I’m better or going to need to go to the hospital? If I did you’d all be in trouble!” Praise the occasions your welfare is mentioned; the positive reinforcement is useful and if others are in earshot, so much the better.
Have you ever felt taken for granted? Have you been able to make yourself and your needs more visible to friends and family? Tell me what works. Or just tell me, truly, “How are you doing?”