My purpose here, of course, is that by highlighting your own shortcomings in this way, you won’t come across as blaming your mom. This, in turn, will keep things as smooth as possible, which could avoid issues between you and your mom that might increase her stress, which – you guessed it – could come across to your dad as more anger. Whew!
What if diplomacy doesn’t work?
That happens, of course. Some people are unable to consider their own behavior unless they are directly called on it. If your best attempt to use your own actions as an
example doesn’t help your mom think about her own possible contribution to your
dad’s anxiety, and try to improve in this area, then you’ll need to do more.
If this is the case, try to talk with your mom away from the house in a relaxed setting (if possible). You could take her out to coffee or lunch. The idea is to talk with her away from your dad so that he isn’t involved.
In this more private setting, tell her that you understand that she’s got to be incredibly stressed and you can’t even imagine how she does everything that she does. Tell her what a wonderful caregiver she is. Then mention the body language and tone of voice in the same way that you did earlier. Remind her again that you, too, have problems with this. That can limit her feelings of you being a know-it-all.
You can suggest steps that could help lower her own stress such as hiring help for a few hours a day as well as by joining a support group, either online or in person. Seeing a counselor, if she’s open, could also benefit both your mom and your dad since this would allow your mom to work through her completely understandable sadness and anger at their situation. You might mention that spousal caregivers have their unique pain, so taking steps to deal with this through support groups and/or counseling could help her regain her equilibrium.
Caregivers are only human. Neither you nor your mom will ever be perfect caregivers, so understanding this – and helping her understand this – will benefit both of you.
Touching base with other caregivers can help relieve unearned guilt in this area, too.
I want to stress that both of you could also benefit from practicing self-care, so you and your mom could, perhaps, share ways that you are doing this.
Best wishes as you help your mom take care of your dad. It’s a difficult family journey, but it does have its rewards.