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3 Effective Ways to Respond to Caregiver Criticism

3 ways to respond to caregiver criticism that changes the conversation and reduces future criticism

Try a more effective response to caregiver criticism

Getting criticized is unpleasant – especially from family or friends who don’t lift a finger to help care for your older adult.

Yelling or getting upset might feel justified in the moment, but it won’t reduce your stress or cut down on future comments.

You might even feel worse later because you didn’t get your point across or say what you really wanted.

To help you change the tone of the conversation and hopefully reduce future criticism, we share 3 different ways to respond to caregiver criticism.

The next time someone criticizes something you’ve done or tries to tell you how you “should” be caring for your older adult, calmly count to ten and then try one of these responses.


1. Acknowledge their concern, then ask what they’d suggest instead

When someone criticizes how you did something, it’s automatic to snap back defensively.

But that’s only going to cause a shouting match that will leave your blood boiling and won’t stop the criticism from happening again.

Next time, acknowledge their concern and ask for their suggestions on how to improve.

You might not be interested in their opinion, but because they’re probably expecting a fight, this response will surprise them and change the tone of the conversation.

For example:

  1. Your sister says: Why did you give Mom a cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake for lunch? That’s so unhealthy! Are you trying to give her a heart attack?

  2. You could say: I see why you’re concerned. But Mom’s appetite has been really bad lately. She’s hardly eating at all. Her doctor says that anything, even less healthy foods, are better than not getting enough nutrients. What other favorites could we offer her?

2. Repeat the criticism back to show how it made you feel

Some people don’t think before they speak and don’t realize they’ve hurt your feelings or come across as critical.

It might be possible to let them know that what they said was not acceptable without starting a fight.

Try this by calmly repeating what they said back to them, but frame it as an “I” statement.

Example 1

  1. Your brother says: I’m too busy to help out.

  2. You could say: I feel like you don’t value my time and take what I do for granted when you say that you’re too busy to visit or help out with Dad.

Example 2

  1. Your adult child says: Why are you sending Dad to that adult day place? He doesn’t need that and he’s not like those other people! He should be at home with you. You’re always at home anyway.

  2. You could say: It really upsets me when you tell me how I should be doing things without first understanding the real situation with your father.

Example 3

  1. Your aunt says: This kitchen isn’t as clean as she used to keep it! And that living room looks like it hasn’t been dusted in weeks! Do you even try to keep your mom’s house clean?

  2. You could say: It makes me feel unappreciated when you focus on what else needs to be done instead of recognizing all the things that I already do for my mom.

3. Politely stand up for yourself

Some criticism is completely out of line. In these cases, you should absolutely stand up for yourself.

The trick is to do it calmly and politely.

That way, the person saying those things will be more likely to listen and think twice before saying things like that again.

For example:

  1. Your brother says: You’re obviously neglecting mom! You don’t even bathe her every day. She loves to be clean and shower every day.

  2. You could say: I’m not neglecting Mom. Because of her Alzheimer’s disease, she’s developed a fear of bathing so her doctor said that we only need to do it twice a week. Her clothes are always clean and she’s healthy, well-fed, and happy. It’s clear that Mom is very well cared for.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team


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