Words Every Caregiver Should Avoid

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Here's one way of thinking that gets people in helping situations in trouble: saying words that can come back and haunt you -- or raise your stress level unnecessarily. For your own sake, try eliminating the following knee-jerk expressions from your vocabulary. Words really do have power.

  • Absolutes ("Always," "never")

    Words like always and never are dangerous, especially with regard to caregiving. Beware falling into absolutes: "I promised Mom we'd never put her in a nursing home." "I'm sorry I can't go to lunch, because I always feed Sam myself." Life, and especially caregiving, is full of shades of gray. Situations change. Your health matters. You just can't know what's coming, so protect yourself by staying flexible and open to help and change in any form.

  • "Shoulda, coulda, woulda, oughtta"

    These words are infamous guilt-builders. By dwelling on what you should have done, might have done otherwise, or ought to do, you heap expectations on yourself. You also risk ruminating on things that are over and done with and can't really be changed. The shoulda-couldas stir up unproductive feelings and don't help you move on with whatever the current reality may be.

  • "I don't mind" (when really you do)

    Caregivers are known for their big hearts and accommodating natures. The trouble is, this tendency can lead to taking on more and more when you really just can't. Practice saying "no" when you just can't do it, and each subsequent time will be a little easier.

See the ten warning signs of compassion fatigue.


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