When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving


We welcome back guest writer, Kayla Matthews to The Purple Jacket!

Caregiving for an elderly relative is a role that falls on different family members and professional caregivers depending on the family and expectations. And many families often fail to discuss how much responsibility a caregiver should take on and for how long.

When the time comes for a parent or grandparent to have extra help, you may feel the burden and stress of assuming this role. Although you love and respect the person and want to give them your support, it may not always be the best option. Or you may currently be a caregiver, but the stress and work are harming your social, emotional or physical health.

It’s common to feel guilty or unsure how to tell an aging person “no” or to tell your family that you can’t handle the load. But when is it the right time to say “no” to caregiving or simply take a step back from your current involvement? Let’s look at when and how you should voice the need for change while preserving your family relationships and your consideration for the person.

When You Need to Set Limits

Limits can help you to establish boundaries for your involvement as a caregiver or to say, “Hold on for a minute!” when the person in your care requests something. You and your siblings may need to share the responsibilities of care if your life has been consumed by the person’s needs and wants.

Boundaries are a right and a healthy function of families. In your caregiving role, you continually need a set of limitations to regulate healthy interactions. If you feel undue stress and over-involvement, you are likely exceeding an appropriate level of care. It is acceptable to say “no” when you are overextending yourself without limits.

When You Need Help

If you feel you are unable to handle caregiving duties on your own, you should ask for assistance. Whether you can’t tend to all of the person’s needs or balance their medical requirements, asking for help is appropriate. It’s difficult to be vulnerable and admit you need help, but it will be better for you and the person you’re caring for.

Rather than stretching yourself too thin, reach out to other relatives and your support system to find others to share the load. Home-delivered meals and caregiver counseling are a few resources you can use, too.

How to Say No

Saying “no” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re hurting the person who needs care — in the long run, it will help them. You can say “no” to caregiving by sitting down with your family for an honest conversation. Have this discussion at the beginning of the process to make roles and responsibility clear from the start.

When you see that the situation has to change, reconsider what is best in a caregiving role and what the aging person needs. Family members may react differently than you expect if you need to take a step back. But remember, you don’t always need to explain yourself.

When you are caregiving and you have to say “no” to a senior’s requests, simply tell them, “I can’t do that right now. Please wait.” They may not understand why you can’t do everything they ask, especially if dementia or Alzheimer’s has set in, but you can communicate a firm resolve with patience to them.

Benefits of Saying No

Saying “no” helps you maintain your own health and establish a safe, controlled environment for the person in your care. The following results can come from saying you can’t do it all:

  • The aging person gets better support from other caregivers or family.
  • You maintain healthy boundaries and reinforce your emotional and mental stamina.
  • You know how to say “no” next time.

Establish Healthy Boundaries as a Caregiver

Whether you are a professional caregiver or a family member stepping in, you can be confident and honest when saying “no” to overextending yourself. Communicate your feelings and needs as soon as possible with the people in an aging person’s life.

Kayla Matthews is a lifestyle and productivity writer whose work has been featured on Lifehacker, The Next Web, MakeUseOf and Inc.com. You can read more posts from Kayla on her blog, Productivity Theory.

1 Comment

Filed under Caregiving

One response to “When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving

  1. Pingback: When You Should Say “No” in Caregiving — The Purple Jacket | The Memories Project

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