Two vehicles crashed directly in my path, and I had only a few seconds to react. While traveling inside the city on a four-lane, busy thoroughfare, a pickup truck approached from the right. It didn’t stop at the stop sign and drove directly into the path of the car ahead of me. The car plowed into the side of the pickup sending them both sliding and spinning. I braked hard, but when the two vehicles came to a rest, I realized I couldn’t stop in time to avoid them. Not wanting to jump the curb and plow into a pole, I quickly swerved into the left lane and passed the accident.
When I swerved left, I knew I possibly was driving into another vehicle’s path because I didn’t have time to look in my mirror. In that instant, I decided a potential accident was better than a certain one. Luckily, I passed the accident without being struck then returned to the right lane looking for a safe place to park.
A moment later a car passed with the horn blaring. As he drove past, he shook his fist and yelled something. Anger was evident in his glowing red face. I quickly assessed that he had to slow his vehicle to avoid mine as I drove into his lane to avoid the wreck.
He wasn’t injured nor was I. Our vehicles were untouched, yet he was furious. He must have seen the entire scene unfold ahead and anticipated my action. Rather than admire my driving skills he was upset because he was slightly inconvenienced.
Mom often said, “You can’t please everyone” and she was so right. No matter what you do, someone will find fault. Too often that is the case for caregivers for those with dementia. I’ve talked to so many people who are stressed because their family is criticizing the care they provide.
Being a caregiver is difficult enough when you are appreciated, but the added stress created by a critical family adds to the burden. As a caregiver, your body is releasing stress hormones which threaten your health and even your life. The strain can be so severe, often the Alzheimer’s sufferer outlives the caregiver. A John Hopkins study states a caregiver is six times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and another study concluded the caregiver stands a 47% chance of early death. So why do they criticize?
Criticism is usually originating from a lack of understanding. Human nature is to talk before we listen and judge before we understand. This is not unique to our generation. The Apostle Paul even wrote a letter to the church in Philippi instructing them to get along. In the following verse, he says it succinctly.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14 (NASB)
So, how do we deal with a critic? First, encourage them to assist us. Asking for their help may be seen as a compliment since they seem to have all the answers. Hopefully, they will learn through the experience. Then, we can sit with an informed person and discuss the care. Who knows? They may offer some good ideas.
If, however, they refuse our request for help, then we should inform them they have no right to complain. Then, and this is the hardest part, we must ignore the critic’s complaints in the future. We must be the adult and not let negative people reside rent-free inside our head.
I once worked with a man who said people who criticize without understanding are “throwing rocks from the cheap seats.” They aren’t playing on the field, and they haven’t paid the price of a good ticket. Therefore, their lack of investment gives them no right to “throw rocks.”
Within our mind, we must shift to the alpha person. Rather than being in a position of defending ourselves, we become the person who is the expert. We should consider critics simply as people without experience or understanding and dismiss them. We can be kind yet ignore them. As my father often commented dismissively, “Consider the source.”
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. James 3:13 NASB
This may be a general approach and doesn’t fit all situations. However, Let’s not be too quick to think it doesn’t fit our situation. Relief may be easier than we think.