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.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio