What If You Don’t Like Your Loved One?

It isn’t always a happily ever after….

By: Karin Pauly

Let me preface this article by saying what you are about to read is a tough topic, but an important one. If fact, it might be exactly what you needed to hear at this very moment.

When working with caregivers my goal is to support and uplift them, especially when times are tough. But, social expectations and messages from others, or things we read online tell us we should be “fulfilled” when we care for our loved ones. These are their last days, and we should cherish them together. It should be butterflies and roses all the time, right?

In actuality, there are many caregivers in pain, not just because of the loss and grief, but because they are caring for someone who is not nice.

In fact, some caregivers are caring for people who have been abusive. Some care for loved ones who weren’t abusive in their healthier state, but became verbally abusive after the chronic illness progressed. 

Sometimes it might be just that the relationship has changed, and we have lost or are grieving the loving relationship we had with them. And, even if the relationship remains healthy throughout caregiving, let’s face it, we don’t like our loved ones all of the time. This is ok!

I want to recognize these caregivers and say…

You are NOT alone. You don’t always have to like, or even love the person you are caring for. You are doing caregiving work and this action in and of itself…is giving love.

So, what do you do if you don’t always like the person you are caring for?  Here are 10 tips to help you.

  1. Interrupt or excuse yourself. If the person you are caring for is being overly critical or mean, interrupt them and say, “I need to excuse myself for awhile and leave the room”. 
  2. Redirect. Change the subject. Offer them a snack or a beverage or state you need to leave the room to go get one. Other options are to turn on the television, or discuss a lighter topic.
  3. Recognize and set your limits. No one person can do it all. Ask yourself what tasks you can handle. If every time you visit with your loved one they are negative to you, take a break from visiting for a while, or shorten your visits and ask for help.
  4. Accept help when it comes to you. Keep a list of things you would like help with and if someone offers to help, you will be ready to pick something from your list.
  5. Respite care. Home care and adult day care may be options. Talk to your loved one’s healthcare provider for helping in looking for this type of care. 
  6. Share your experiences and frustrations with others. Caregiver support groups are fantastic because other caregivers often understand and may have ideas to help you. (Check out this list to find a group near you.) Seek out friends who truly know how to “listen”.
  7. Let go of things that cannot be changed and accept the situation as it is. This process may release new energy for accepting reality and finding new possibilities. (The Serenity Prayer below may help you. Print it off and stick it on your mirror, if you need to.)
  8. Breathe. Close your eyes and sit quietly. Inhale to the count of seven slowly and deeply. Exhale for seven seconds, slowly and deeply and focus on “letting go”.
  9. Seek professional help from a grief expert (like The Healing Grounds). Even if your loved one is still living, there is grief in losing how things once were.
  10. Remember you are human. Practice self-talk and remind yourself of all of the fantastic things you are doing for your loved one. Be aware of negative self-talk and guilt and find a positive personal statement to bring into your thoughts.Thank you for doing the most important work in the world.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Sources: 

  • The Caregiving Help Book, Powerful Tools for Caregivers
  • Caregiver’s Handbook, Caring for Yourself While Caring for a Loved One, Channing Bete Company