How to Be a Caregiver for Critical Parents

Caregiving for an elderly parent is one of the toughest jobs there is. When parents are critical of your efforts to help, the experience can destroy your self-esteem and break your spirit. With a concerted effort to approach caregiving without losing sight of self care, you can help avoid this.


  1. 1
    Ask for help. Ask again. And keep asking. As much as you may love your parent and want to do everything you can for him or her, the fact is that elderly people need a lot of care, and if you try to take care of all their needs yourself, you risk running your own health into the ground. Every state has some form of elder care assistance, and a caregiver doesn’t need to feel guilty for taking advantage of resources—that’s exactly what they’re there for.
    • A few generations ago, asking for help was seen as shameful—adults were supposed to be self-sufficient, independent, and capable. But adult lives were much different 20, 30, or 40 years ago, and elder care agencies are happy to help when needed. Even if your parents are critical about your decision to seek help, it’s the best option in the long run for everyone.
  2. 2
    Get rid of the guilt. Parents who are critical are masters at inducing guilt in others. Even if you take care of every need they have, it still isn’t enough. That’s because you can’t reverse the aging process for them—you can’t make their joints work like new, you can’t give them back the foods they used to love and can’t eat any longer, you can’t give them back their youth or assuage the sorrow that losing health and vitality inevitably brings to the aging. Even though you’re most likely doing a fine job, your parents may continue to criticize you because they need a way to complain about how hard it was to be old.
    • Feeling guilty can become an energy habit, a knee-jerk response to someone else’s demands. Sometimes people just aren’t very good at saying “Thank you” or “You did a good job.” Remember that no matter how critical they are, you are taking care of them however you can. They may not be able to see what a tremendous gift that is.
  3. 3
    Get emotional or spiritual support. If you need to, ask for help from a counselor or minister to detach from the situation. If your parents have been critical for many years, or for most of your life, it will seem nearly impossible to avoid taking their criticism personally. But the fact is, people who are critical often shift blame onto others to get rid of their own frustration with aging, simply because they don’t know what else to do with their feelings.
    • One of the most difficult aspects of caregiving for very elderly people is feeling powerless to make things better for them. It helps to accept that no matter what you do and how many problems you can fix, the person is probably still going to suffer, especially if they are in the habit of focusing on suffering.
  4. 4
    Accept the inevitable: it will help you put your parent’s dying process in perspective. Aging and death are natural parts of the life process, and we can’t “fix” either one of them. We can’t change other people; we can only focus on helping them and ourselves through the process. When you’re in a difficult caregiving situation, it’s essential to remember that it will end, even if you don’t know when. Acknowledging the end of someone’s life is important for all concerned.
    • You may find it beneficial to hold an End-of-Life service during your loved one's last days or hours. Family ties can be incredibly strong. Honoring the natural occurrence of death in some way can give permission to the dying to let go, and permission to the living to go on with their lives.
  5. 5
    Give yourself a break. Take care of the caregiver. You are just as important as the person you’re caregiving for. Get some help before the burden becomes overwhelming. There is life after caregiving.

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Categories: Dealing with Conflict with Parents | Aged Care