"Your brother calls me every day," my 85-year-old mother often gushes. He lives 340 miles away and can't visit often, so his phone calls mean a lot to her. But her comment has always puzzled me. As her primary caregiver, I also call her every day, except for the several times a week I actually visit her in person. Yet she never crows proudly about my calls or visits or handling of her medications, finances, home health aides and insurance forms. I am left wondering whether she takes my efforts for granted.
Yes, the knowledge that we are doing the right thing for our loved ones should be our biggest reward. But it's nice to receive acknowledgment from the people we care for: Pats on the back can go a long way toward boosting caregiver morale.
Otherwise, it's hard not to feel miffed. At my grumpiest moments, I resent that my brother does far less than me and yet wins kudos I never hear. That doesn't inspire me to work harder on my mother's behalf and sometimes makes me irritable with him.
There are many reasons why hard-working caregivers may be underappreciated. The aging parent may resent needing assistance and therefore begrudge thanks to her primary helper out of spite. Or the monotony of regular care routines may lull them into simply expecting a caregiver's sacrifices as part of daily life.
How can you get a little well-deserved respect without acting like an attention-seeking complainer? I have some ideas: