That Golden Rule

Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. — Dale Carnegie, American writer

Dear Stranger:

Where do you get off criticizing me without having walked a few miles in my moccasins?

Before I started caregiving for my mom, I’d never given care to anybody.

Oh, sure, I tended plants, pets, and my son, but that’s different. Eventually, the plants died, the pets and son became self-sufficient, and my tasks ceased.

Caring for an aging parent is a full-time gig. Driving them to doctor’s appointments, the beauty shop, the bank. Picking up groceries or prescriptions. Escorting them to church or the accountant. Helping them with meal preparation. Tending the flowers they enjoy looking at.

You get the idea.

It also means full-time worries over them falling, making sure they take the right medicine at the right time, listening to a (yet another) recitation of their ailments, and getting them to the ER when they panic.

What it doesn’t come with is an instruction manual. Every case is different. The cared-for person expects a certain amount of help, and the caregiver seeks to please … within reason.

So why do perfect strangers feel compelled to sit in judgment over how I’m doing these tasks? Can’t they see this is the best I can do right now?

One evening, when I was helping Mom down the stairs after Mass, a woman criticized me for “going too fast.” Gee, I thought I was protecting Mom from being knocked over by the able-bodied parishioners racing to the parking lot.

And the other day when I was headed out of town, the woman who’d agreed to drive Mom to an appointment (and was getting paid to do so) demanded, “Where’s Debbie?”

Like I’m expected to be around 24/7 and not take a day off now and then.

My point is, instead of finding fault, why don’t you offer to lend a hand? Smile. Sympathize. Understand.

Even a compassionate “I admire you for trying” would be welcome.

Remember, one day you, too, might be the caregiver … or need someone to care for you.



12 thoughts on “That Golden Rule

  1. Who do these people think they are? Either lend a hand or shut up, stand aside. Judging is so easy to do and the weakest of responses. I’m sure your mother is very grateful for all you do for her. I admire anyone who is a caregiver, it is such a selfless way of life. Sending you big hugs, Debbie – and a hard stare to your detractors!

    • Thanks for the hugs, Lucy … and the stares for the nay-sayers! It was all I could do to keep from giving that woman a piece of my mind after church. I imagine it’s a good thing we can’t hear behind closed doors, heehee!

  2. wow. I love this article. Can totally relate to it. Keep up the good work! caregiving is very much a hard role, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? wish you the best.

  3. Oh, Debbie, I do sympathise! Caring for someone you love can be the hardest thing in the world – no matter how much we do we tend to feel we’re falling short, and the last thing we need are people criticising! I’m sure your mother appreciates everything you do for her, and that’s all that matters. I’ll join in with Lucy’s hard stare…

    • Thanks for understanding, FF. Mom does appreciate my help, and it’s nice to be able to look into a mirror and not be ashamed of myself for failing her at this time of her life.

  4. People can be such idiots. Nobody should criticize anything when they have no idea what it takes. Caregivers have a tough, exhausting role, but at the end of the day, it is totally worth it to see the light of appreciation in a loved one’s eyes.

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