Self Talk

4 Phrases Caregivers Should Avoid

The way you talk to yourself can make life easier -- or worse. Try erasing the following words and phrases from your vocabulary:

  1. If only: "If only I had more time to talk to the doctors . . . if only Mom would eat . . . if only someone had been with Dad when he fell . . . if only we'd tried a different medicine. . . ." Every setback and decline can cause a concerned caregiver to replay all the steps and choices leading up to it. The problem is that what's done is done, and you can only move forward from here. Don't beat yourself up -- things very well might have turned out no differently anyway.

  2. Always: As in, "But I always do that. . . ." "I always take Mother to the hairdresser on Saturdays." "You always are so mean." Absolutes seldom have a place in caregiving. There are almost always exceptions.

  3. Never: See above. Never may be even worse because it's so severe-sounding: "You never come to visit." "I would never put Daddy in a nursing home." "I will never miss my visit with you." Always allow for an occasional sometimes.

  4. The right thing to do: There's a myth in caregiving that there's a "right" way to do everything. In fact, there's only what's right for you, right for your loved one, right on this day, right in your family, right with these other health conditions, right given your resources and abilities. In other words, there's no nirvana-based "right" way to care for someone with dementia. Better: The best I can. The best I know how.


about 2 years ago, said...

Once again, Paula Spencer Scott has hit the nail right on the head, and drove it straight into our minds. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda, all belong outside the Caregiver's choice of words. We all do our best, with what we know and what we are able to do AT THE TIME! Our Loved ones ask for nothing else! And bystanders only use the SCW because they have yet to live in our shoes!


over 2 years ago, said...

Good advice, helps me with how I should think about this condition.


about 3 years ago, said...

It reminded me that once again being good to myself (not hard on myself) I can hopefully be a better caregiver. Working at maintaining positive friendships has been a real plus for me.


over 3 years ago, said...

if only....and never....I must work on them


over 3 years ago, said...

I would like to add a 5Th - ignoring your own needs and thus commit very slow suiside !!! Any caregiver that ignores the needs of self is exactly doing that.


almost 4 years ago, said...

All 4 phrases are 100% valid ! We do this automaticly without giving a thought how inapropriate they are. When you see them in writing you become aware just how damaging those thoughts can be. Damaging to ourself that is and see that it is time to change to more positive and helpful thinking.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I have used the "if only" over and over. If only I had not taken my mother to the geriatric behavoral unit she would not have gone to the nursing home and gone down hill so fast :-( Abusing ourselves with these words is torture and the disease is tormenting enough all by itself.


almost 4 years ago, said...

IT HAS BEEN 8 MONTHS SINCE MY HUSBAND DIED & I STILL GO OVER & OVER IN MIND "WHAT IF.............".WHAT FRUSTRATES ME IS THAT ALL ALONG I THOUGHT (BASED ON GOOD INFO) THAT MY HUSBAND HAD DEMENTIA/ALZHEIMER'S & THE DR'S WOULD NOT DIAGNOSE HIM WITH IT. ON THE DEATH CERTIFICATE IT STATED THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HE DIED OF. THAT INFURIATED ME! I'M STILL HAVING A HARD TIME GETTING THRU ALL OF THIS.


about 4 years ago, said...

The reminder and refresher of my memory to act the right way. Thank you !


over 4 years ago, said...

I will remember this article. Because aides come for my husband's shower and it's never the "right way" even after I give very specific instructions do" this way and this is the way I do it" even the shave is wrong, it's never a close shave and I don't take him to the doctor half shaving. So, I do it again after the aide is gone. She's not very old and does not have alot of experience. Only been an aide for 1 -1/2 yrs. Only 22. So, the bottom line is this if he were in a nursing home I wouldn't know the difference anyway. I suppose.


over 4 years ago, said...

Very useful. Relieving. Thank you, whoever you bare because you found these and shared them with us. God bless.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Robin has the same struggle we all have in the caregiver community. Many times there are just no good choices to make. Guilt can wear the caregiver out, but we MUST remember that we have to keep our health and sanity in mind when making some of the tough decisions. I am thankful for all that caregivers do for their loved ones.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Especially number 4: what's "right on this day" is the very best I can do in this moment.


almost 5 years ago, said...

This is a good article and excellent advice. We cared for mom for over 10 years and watched the decline caused by Alzheimer's. There are many times we regreted not catching it sooner or not making a different decision about one thing or another. We finally learned that all we could do is make the best decisions given the information and circumstances we had at the time. We loved mom and kept her best interest in mind. As a family, we talked, but did not always agree. Dad had the final decision, but there were times when we had to push back due to his denial. He always came around and we were able to avoid major conforntations. We do not second guess the choices we made for her.


over 5 years ago, said...

Right on!Negatives can be self-fulfilling prophecies. I try for "a day at a time' and "change what I can and accept the rest."


over 5 years ago, said...

It's so true...I've used these phrases time and time again, but I'm gonna take this articles advice and dwell on "the best I can, the best I know how". Thank you for your website and your VERY helpful insight and advice.


over 5 years ago, said...

I would add 2 more: "I should".....that's not helpful, and "I don't have time for myself". You MUST make time for yourself in order to recreate and destress. You have a right to live a good life and in so doing, you will ultimately become a better caregiver.