"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
Remember that one? It was a fun little ditty we would spout on the playground when a classmate called us "four eyes", "dunder head", or "cry baby". A juvenile coping mechanism, for sure, but one I thought I could leave behind when the days of recess so thoughtlessly left me behind.
Boy was I wrong.
I never expected that Grandma, a woman I loved and respected so much, would become the target of my schoolyard chant. After all, she was the one who taught me that quippy backlash to fend off the mean kids. She was there to tell me how wonderful I was, how beautiful I looked, and that if anyone couldn't see that, they were plumb blind.
Then something changed. First it was gradual—Grandma would make the occasional comment about an outfit I was wearing—wondering if that was the "new style these days". But over the years, her words became more hurtful.
It seemed that my once fail-proof defense (while only muttered under my breath or said like a mantra in my head) was useless against her sharp stings. I had to find a new way to shield myself.
I stopped smiling at the digs—all the while hiding my hurt, and I started responding.
When she said, "You really fill out those pants, don't you," I was quick to respond. "I decided there are too many skinny people, so I'm going for voluptuous."
"Why is your hair so short? Your husband can't possibly like it that way," she quipped. "I guess it's a good thing we go to different stylists then, huh?"
Thankfully, Grandma's comments were just part of the onset of mild dementia. I know many people are caregivers for elderly loved ones who are difficult, abusive, or downright mean. This type of behavior can't be laughed off or wiped away with a schoolyard chant, so we have some tips to help.
Ultimately, your health, both mental and physical, has to be a priority. If you have a caustic relationship with the loved one you care for, you need to find ways to cope and possibly even change that relationship. Constant negativity—whether it's your loved one's remarks or your own internal dialogue—will do nothing more than result in you being burnt out.
Do you care for a difficult loved one? How have you made it better?
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