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Self Caring

The Question Every Caregiver Deserves but Seldom Hears

By , Caring.com contributing editor
Last updated: October 03, 2011
3D Character and Question Mark

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 once in a while to ask about your health, your sleep, or 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 anyone 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 your loved ones on the occasions when they do mention your welfare; the positive reinforcement is useful, and if others are in earshot, even better.

Do you ever feel like you're being taken for granted? Have you been able to make yourself and your needs more visible to friends and family? Tell me about what's worked for you. Or just tell me, truly, "How are you doing?