Caregivers: Beware the SHOULD

There is one word in the English language that I’d swear is responsible for 75% of caregiver stress–SHOULD. As in, “I should visit Mom more often.” Or “I should be doing more for my father.” And you don’t even say it aloud, but over and over in your mind. No wonder you’re stressed.
And then there are the siblings of SHOULD adding another load of stress:

•I ought to…

•I need to…

•I have to…

•I’ve got to…

•I must…

In my conversations with caregivers, I sometimes will ask “Why?” when someone shares a caregiving activity that seems overwhelming. “Why do you drive to your Mom’s house every Saturday (a total of 6 hours of driving)? Your brother lives two blocks away.” Answer: “Because I just HAVE to!” said with a slight whine and a plea for understanding.

Caregivers, this is not a good enough answer. This answer has a ring of martyrdom to it. If this is your answer for your caregiving, a good question to ask is, “Why am I doing this? For my parent or for me? Why does even thinking about this caring activity get me so stressed? Why do I think I HAVE to?”

Don’t become a martyr. Be a caregiver. For yourself first, then your spouse, your kids, your parent. In that order.

As soon as you hear yourself (aloud or in your mind) use SHOULD or its siblings, stop. Right there. And remember SLICK:

•S = Is your parent’s or someone else’s Safety at risk if you don’t do your SHOULD?

•L = Is you parent’s or someone else’s Life at risk if you don’t do your SHOULD?

•I = Is your SHOULD Important to your parent’s basic needs–meals, clothing, shelter, healthcare?

•C = What are the Consequences (to your parent, to your state of mind, to your family) if you don’t do your SHOULD right now? (You might be surprised at how small the consequences usually are!)

•K = Can someone else–someone you Know or your parent Knows–do your SHOULD?

If you’ve answered Yes to any of the first three questions, then your SHOULD needs some priority and you can use C and K to decide how to fill that SHOULD. Putting some emotional energy and effort behind this SHOULD is probably a proper thing.

If you’ve answered No to all three SLI questions, then it’s all right to take this concern out of the SHOULD bag and change your language to “I’d like to…” “I’d like to spend more time with Dad.” “I’d like to get that grass cut over at Mom’s house sometime in the next week.” Just changing the language takes off the pressure. Again, use C and K to decide how this activity you’d like to do will fit into your schedule–or into someone else’s.

Beware the SHOULD and its siblings. Ask, “Why do I feel I should…?” Remember SLICK. Change the language to “I’d like to…”.

Don’t let a minor SHOULD stress you out. Kick that bad guy to the curb. Save your energy for the SLI stuff in caregiving. (LaVerne Coan – Durham, North Carolina).

About Sue Salach

Sue has a Master's degree in Gerontology and has worked with the elderly and their families for over 30 years and is the Author of "Along Comes Grandpa", a caregiving resource guide, and the novel "If I Walked in Her Shoes". As an ElderCare Expert and Keynote Speaker, Sue employs her comprehensive experience and passion, to educate and promote self-care values to family caregivers and the community at large.
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3 Responses to Caregivers: Beware the SHOULD

  1. Thanks both of you. I appreciate your comments, they are always welcome. Thank you Lori, for connecting. I have added you to my blogs.


  2. I would love to add your blog to my resource website Alzheimer's Speaks. Let me know if you are interested. The sites URL iswww.AlzheimersSpeaks.comThanks Lori


  3. A psychologist friend said that, "Shoulds are the wants of other people." We cannot act out of guilt or similar motivations. For our home care clients, we tell the family caregivers participating in care that they must be a bit "selfish." They must take care of themselves, if they are to do a great job caring for another.Thanks for a good article. Bert Cave, Support For Home, Sacramento


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