How can you help convince a caregiver to stop focusing exclusively on caregiving?

1 answer | Last updated: Feb 10, 2011
A fellow caregiver asked...

How can you help convince a caregiver that they shouldn't give up everything else in their life (children, work, social life) without causing a fight?

Expert Answers

It's not uncommon for caregivers to become totally absorbed in their caregiving duties to the exclusion of everything else. Over time, most caregivers learn to pace themselves and pick up the previous threads of their lives. If they don't, they risk losing relationships, friends, jobs -- and their own health. They also risk caregiver burnout.

You don't supply many details so I can only surmise that you have a friend or partner who is taking care of an elderly relative. You may be stuck with more parenting and domestic obligations than usual, and you understandably miss the caregiver's companionship and attention.

If the caregiver is taking care of someone in a short term crisis situation, you may want to wait until the crisis is over to raise the subject. But if this is an ongoing situation, I suggest that you tell the caregiver how you are feeling. The caregiver may be so caught up in what she's doing that she has no idea how it's affecting others, so communication is essential.

Don't accuse or guilt-trip instead, use "I" statements to express your feelings about what is going on. Make sure to tell the caregiver how much you respect what she is doing, and support her relationship with her elderly relative. Within this context, convey your concerns about her work, her friendships, her children, and her relationship with you.

If she's receptive, brainstorm about ways that she can cut back on caregiving obligations by getting help from other relatives or hiring a parttime caregiver, for example. Offer to help ease her burdens any way you can -- including by taking on more than your usual share of domestic jobs, so that she'll have time to relax with the family when she is at home.

She may well become angry when you broach the subject, but if you can present your position and observations in a loving, constructive way, and assure her that you're on her side and wish to help, she'll appreciate your efforts in the longrun. This doesn't mean that she'll change her behavior, however -- she may disagree with your perceptions, or simply not choose to address them. Hopefully, by raising the issue, you'll open channels of communication that will enable you to work together so both of your needs are met.