Criticism, A Part of the Job, But Not Fun
It’s been hard to write the last few days. I’m not sure if I’m wallowing in self-pity or if there is any truth in feeling particularly unappreciated this week. It’s been one of the weeks that feels like whatever I do it’s not right or not good enough. My brain realizes it’s probably not about me at all but my heart feels the hurt.
Feeling unappreciated when you do so much to care for your older adult is a common issue in caregiving. Not feeling valued increases resentment and stress, eventually leading to burnout.
These feelings are a natural part of caregiving and won’t just go away. What’s important is to learn to manage the negative feelings to keep yourself as healthy as possible.
We’ve got 11 effective ways to help you cope with feeling unappreciated while caring for your older adult. (The full article is at the above link. For brevity, I’m summarizing below)
1. Understand why seniors don’t show appreciation
Stopping to think about why your older adult doesn’t show appreciation gives perspective on the situation and makes it easier to cope.
- They don’t feel well. They are just trying to get through the day. They may resent needing help
- Dementia makes it difficult to process complex concepts like appreciation.
- The care has become routine. They don’t realize how much you’re doing.
- They falsely believe they could do it for themselves and you’re forcing care on them.
2. Choose to do it for yourself
- You make the choice to be a caregiver. It may feel like it but it is not forced upon you.
- Do it for your own reasons, not for outside recognition.
3. Make self-care a priority
- You’re tired. You’re stressed. Recognize it and deal with it.
- Do what you know you need to do for your health. You can’t help someone else if you’re not healthy.
4. Appreciate yourself and celebrate accomplishments
- You know you’re good at what you do. You know you’re not a quitter.
- Work on positive self-talk. Don’t dwell on the negative feedback.
5. Reward yourself
- Caregiving is by nature thankless. It’s the nature of the beast.
- Treat yourself to something. Give yourself something to anticipate. Even if it’s just a haircut, a Starbucks treat, or a new pair of cosy slippers.
6. Use lighthearted humor to ask for appreciation
- To be honest, this doesn’t work for me. My mom’s dementia is too advanced to understand the humor. If you try to make something a joke she thinks you’re mad at her. My dad is Swedish, never had a sense of humor, never will.
7. Don’t measure your performance in terms of their health
- When the elder doesn’t get well, it’s out of your control. I think I understand this. I don’t feel like I’ve failed if they don’t improve.
- My dad doesn’t understand this. I think part of his issue, especially this week is knowing my mom is getting worse and expecting me to fix it. Or he tries to fix it which leads to multiple problems. His fixes are irrational and do more harm than help.
8. Understand why others don’t show appreciation
- People who are not caregivers don’t know what you do our how hard it is. This is particularly true of my dad. He has no appreciation for any domestic chores and has no clue how hard it is. An example, he asked me this week if I’d been having fun canning. It had been a particularly hard day with Mom, I had no paid caregiver. I enjoy canning but I don’t do it for fun especially when I’m overwhelmed with other things. He has no clue.
9. Graciously accept thanks and appreciation
- I am grateful my parents almost always thank me for meals. My mom often thanks me for taking her to the bathroom. I should appreciate that instead of thinking of all the times they’re unappreciative. I shouldn’t take it personally if they’re upset when there’s no dessert.
10. Model the behavior you’d like to see
- I definitely could do better with this. Instead of grousing at my Dad because he leaves the cupboards open, throws his clothes on the floor and hoards magazines, I should notice and thank him when he does shut the cupboard, pick up his shoes or agree to relinquish a magazine.
11. See it as a compliment
- The better you do your job, the less they notice. If you are efficient, always there and are consistent, your work becomes invisible to them. I can choose to consider that a compliment.
What do you do when you are feeling unappreciated?
“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.” J.R.R. Tolkien