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Criticism from those who should be sympathetic - Carers UK Forum

Criticism from those who should be sympathetic

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I had a very distressing phone conversation with my stepdaughter this morning, during which she told me about all the many things I have been doing wrong, not only since her father started to become ill in 2010, but also for the previous 35 years or so. (Her older sister, who lives abroad, attacked me in the same terms in May). I was not grandmotherly and family-oriented enough, apparently. I didn't initiate as much contact with my stepchildren as I should have done when the grandchildren were young. Both my husband and I were focused too much on our careers and our many friends and colleagues. Maybe we were, but now is a fine time to tell us. We didn't know we were not up to standard; we didn't know we were not getting a passing grade on 'family relationships'; a hint 30 years ago might have been really helpful, rather than a comprehensive kick in the teeth when we are both down.
One of the things that strikes me about this kind of thing is that the carer is the only one told to seek help to deal with her (or his, understood) feelings of pain and rejection when family members criticise and disrespect her. Yesterday, when talking to my husband's consultant, I was assured that family tensions like this always come to the surface at times like these (and posts on this forum tend to confirm that), and that it is very common, for example, for family members who live too far away to offer practical help to be particularly critical of whatever is, or isn't being done by the full-time carer. I am sure this is true, and maybe I shall be given some help to handle the situation psychologically. But even though I am not perfect, I am not the only one who may need to change. It would be nice to think that someone might also take the critics aside and have a word with them, and try to explain to them what I am going through. But that's not going to happen. The carer is not the only one to blame for any family tensions, past or present, but she is the only one who gets punished.
And it seems particularly spiteful to use this situation, with their father's devastating decline, to take revenge for my unconscious failings of many years ago.

Tristesa
Worth remembering though that when someone lashes out it's usually more to do with their own feelings than the behaviour of the recipient...
Keep strong.
Tristesa, you have expressed the problem, and the reason, extremely well - and yes, it isnt just up to the carer to change. In fact Id say that it usually isnt up to the carer to change, full-stop.
The thing is though, that the carer is on the receiving end of all this spite and is the one who seeks help, whereas the ones giving the spite, dont give a toss about the feelings of the one on the receiving end and never change at all.
So...... the answer (hard though it is) is to challenge the spite givers. No one is perfect, we all muddle along as best we can and make mistakes along the way. Id be tempted to suggest that they go for counselling to overcome their feelings of rejection Image
Tristesa, sorry to hear about your experience. I have had some experience of being criticised by a family member for things in the past. I think it is very upsetting especially when we are grappling with so many turbulent emotions that come with the caring role. I would so like to be given some positive feedback for once. It would be so much more helpful and encouraging. I don't think that those who are not Carers have any idea of how physically and emotionally draining it is to be a Carer. If they did they wouldn't be so quick to criticise.
Tristesa, I believe we are all responsible for our own happiness. Your husband married you because he loved you, and clearly he didn't see you as a failure then, or now. Maybe your stepdaughters wanted you to be something different, but clearly you and your husband had a really great relationship, emotionally and intellectually. You can please some of the people some of the time, never all the people all the time. Your step daughters are behaving like spoiled children. Tell them to either grow up and either say something positive to give you some support, or shut up.
Yes, I agree with Juggler here. Your step-daughters sound to me as if they can't "blame" their father's illness so they are blaming you. Unfair of course. Maybe they do harbour old grievances but frankly, the past is the past. That cannot be changed. Do not let them win. You have more important battles. Next time they begin, ask them to suggest ways in which they could help you to help their father. Either they come up with something practical or they shut up - two choices. You are not their whipping boy and do not have to accept it.
I did once tell my sister that if she made just one more unhelpful 'suggestion', or said "you've got to go with the flow" when I was exhausted and emotionally fragile just one more time that I'd smack her into the middle of next week Image Guess what ? It worked - no more criticism Image

Personally I feel that it's 'guilt' pushing their buttons; guilt that they aren't doing more; guilt that it's all being left to one person - you.
Hi Tristesa,

I agree with Crocus and Susieq.

I'm sorry your stepdaughters are being so horrid.

I think we should have a carers forum panel for unsympathetic and critical family members, any of us can refer our relatives (or friends) to the panel who then can get a tongue lashing from the experts.

Melly1
Your step-daughters sound to me as if they can't "blame" their father's illness so they are blaming you.
I think that's it in a nutshell. The illness itself is not something they can punish or hurt]want [/i]to be at odds with them. I don't want this to be an area of conflict. I should like us all to be able to work together amicably to achieve the best quality of life we can for him, but when they have attacked me and hurt me in this way, I am no longer comfortable discussing problems with them. I am braced all the time for a barrage of (often pointless) suggestions and criticisms. Being taken to task for my apparent failures over the last three decades was the last straw.
I think we should have a carers forum panel for unsympathetic and critical family members, any of us can refer our relatives (or friends) to the panel who then can get a tongue lashing from the experts.
I think this is a brilliant suggestion -- but it might be difficult to think of a good name for that folder! Maybe just 'Family and friends of carers'.
Seriously, as I mentioned above, I don't think that the family members outside the immediate 'sufferer + carer' unit are as likely as the carer herself is to research the whole situation. They are inclined simply to take on trust the standard medical and Social Services lines. They need to be more fully informed.

Tristesa
Going on from that (I pressed 'submit' before I meant to), I talked a little about this with my husband's consultant the other day. She told me that it is 'normal' at this phase for some family members to blame the carer, especially those who live abroad or far away, and who are therefore unable to offer practical help. That this is due to unacknowledged guilt. Oh, and that family dynamics going back to childhood regularly come to the surface under the stress of seeing a parent fall victim to dementia. Okay, so now I know this is 'normal', and why. Am I supposed to be sympathetic, and say, 'ah, pity for them -- it's all the guilt and childhood traumas getting at them. Ootchie-coo.' Is anyone in authority telling THEM about the psychological basis for their dissing of me? (Sorry about the slang, but it is an apt word). Is anyone saying to them, 'your criticism of your stepmother and your hostility towards her stem from your own guilt and from childhood resentments that were no more her fault than the fault of your father, your mother and your mother's partner. These feelings are common, but you must rise above them and show your stepmother more compassion, because she has the most difficult task of all in this situation, and does not deserve to be gratuitously hurt and undermined'.
It's no good my saying that to them. It needs to come from one of the authority figures to whom they are always referring me.

Tristesa