OK, so caregiving is not a game. But there are rules among caregivers. This I’ve learned. The hard way.
Rule 1. Know the difference between mouth and ear. When the other caregiver needs to vent, use only your ears. It is her/his turn, not yours. No matter what wisdom you have to impart, no matter your own experience: mouth closed, ears open. (This has not come naturally to me.)
Rule 2. Know the moment. How close is that caregiver to breaking? Hear what’s spoken and unspoken. Feel; don’t analyze.
Rule 3. Never say “it’s harder for me!” or “it’s easier for you!” Caregiving is not a competitive sport.
Rule 4. When another caregiver breaks rule #3, do not commit mayhem.
Recently another caregiver broke Rule #3, and I had to work to observe Rule #4. She said to me, “It was different for you! You were used to it!” Really? And exactly how did I get “used to” a father with dementia?
And it was DIFFERENT for me. The clear implication was “easier.” Again: really? How is living with a demented parent easier than anything?
She was not deliberately denigrating my experience. And she is young, just dipping her toe in that big ocean of caregiving; there is much she doesn’t know yet. She was exhausted, frustrated, scared — and sick. I was mindful of all that; I knew the moment. I was, nonetheless, stewing in my caregiver juices.
I know she needed to have her say. And I need to have mine: here it is.