If interacting directly with your family member is unavoidable, consider limiting your interactions by setting boundaries. As the primary caregiver, you more than likely have your hands full and don’t have time to “entertain” relatives who visit or answer their inquiries via phone. Setting a boundary can be done by saying something like, “Caring for mom requires a lot of my time, focus and energy. While I appreciate your visits and calls, it does throw off our schedule a bit. For the time being, if you wouldn't mind coming by only on Mondays or Wednesdays or limiting your calls to the mid-afternoon hours, I think that would make things easier for us to handle.” Whether you say this to one particular relative or to everyone in the family, it could ultimately help to reduce the stress of interacting with that one particular relative.
Appoint a “Gatekeeper”
For some, dealing with a particular family member can be anxiety-producing, exhausting or can get your “blood boiling.” Selecting a person who can talk directly with this relative to relay updates, maintain contact and essentially filter any negative feedback can help to reduce the anxiety, exhaustion and frustration you would experience otherwise. The key to choosing a “gatekeeper” is to pick someone who will keep the “drama” out of it and stick to the facts. This person could be a relative, a friend, a neighbor or even a hired professional. Regardless of who you choose, it should be someone who is reliable, dependable and level-headed. The last person you want is someone who has problems with your relative, who doesn't fully understand your situation or who does not know how to separate emotions from facts.
Sometimes taking the above approaches don’t work and the only thing left is to be upfront about what you are feeling and experiencing in your role as a caregiver. If a relative is calling too much, making too many recommendations or being too intrusive – let them know. Worst case scenario, you offend your relative and he/she ceases communication with you. Best case scenario, you reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing since your relative now understands your responsibilities and respects your stated wishes. While you may not want to be upfront for fear of creating family friction, you ultimately have to think about yourself and put your own emotional, physical and spiritual well-being first. “Saving face” is generally not worth risking your own sanity and health. Plus, as I often mention to caregivers, if you don't take care of yourself, then who will take care of you and your loved one?
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