When You Don't Like the Person You're Caring For

Caring for a loved one is difficult. Caring for someone you don’t like is an even greater challenge. Perhaps it’s a parent or step-parent who was abusive. Or a brother who was never there for you.  Or someone you just don’t get along with. We all know you can love someone but not like them.

Now the person is sick and you feel like you can’t abandon them despite the feelings you have toward them. How do you spend so much time in the company of a person you don’t like let alone care for them and help meet their basic needs during this difficult time?

Here are five tips:

Get help.

Every caregiver should make it a goal of building a support network. Many people make heroic efforts to care for someone themselves because they feel it is their duty to do so out of love for the person and they can’t imagine anyone else being able to care for them the way they do. If you don’t like the person, put aside any heroic thoughts you may have and seek out other relatives or paid professionals who can help. The goal will be to minimize your time with the person.

Think about ways you can help that don’t involve direct care.

Maybe you can take care of all the finances or prepare the meals. Or drive the person to appointments or coordinate a schedule of caregivers who will help with bathing, dressing and medications. The less hands-on involvement you have the better it will be for both you and the person.

Find something you like about the person.

Do they give to charities? Are they kind to children? Do they take in stray dogs? Do you like the color of their eyes? Everyone has some redeeming quality. Focus on the positive when you can.

Learn about their medical condition or illness.

Has the person been diagnosed with dementia? If so, dementia may cause changes to their personality, behavior or thinking that may cause you to like the person even less than before they became sick. A person with dementia is not being difficult, they are living with brain failure and the changes are beyond their control. It doesn’t make it any easier for you but it may help you to be more empathetic or keep perspective on why the person does or says certain things.

Take care of you. 

Take care of both your mental health and your physical health. Don’t let the person you care for, in any situation, consume your entire life. See your doctor as needed. Seek counselling for your past with that person if you think that might help. Join a support group where you will meet other people with similar challenges. 

It is not uncommon to think that your family is the only one that is dysfunctional. You look around and think everyone else has a perfect, loving family that would do anything for them in good times or bad. That is rarely the case. The reality is that families are complex, relationships are often strained, and old wounds run deep.  Despite that, you can’t always walk away even though you would like to. 

If you have to care for someone who was less than kind to you over the years, at least you will be able to hold your head high knowing you did what you could to make their last days the best they could be.

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