when every one is an expert

Looking back at the years of caregiving, one stressor I remember is the unsolicited ‘advice’ (often more like admonitions) I kept getting from strangers and distant acquaintances. Everyone took it upon themselves to tell me what to do, how I could be a better daughter, why I was not good enough, what my ‘duties’ were, what my mother wanted and enjoyed and needed (often, these were people who barely knew me or my mother). It overwhelmed and frustrated. I felt defensive at times, intruded upon at other times. I did not know how to process this abundant flow of input.

Here are the criteria I evolved to handle this unsolicited flow from people I had not asked for help, and who barely knew me:

  • Are the advisers experts in the area they are advising on (medical professionals, experts in caregiving, in nutrition, exercise, rehabilitation)
  • If they are not experts, do they even know what my mother suffers from, or the full list of what I am doing and why?
  • If they are not experts, do they have a stake in my mother’s welfare, and would they be willing to help implement what they are suggesting?
  • If they are not experts, and if I fall ill thanks to the workload they are proposing, will they take over caring for my mother in the meanwhile, or look after me when I fall ill?
  • If they are not experts, have they experienced a parallel situation, and did they do themselves what they are proposing I should do, and did they remain sane while doing it?

If the person advising was not an expert, not someone who understood my mother’s exact problem , not a stakeholder or a volunteer, and not someone who had experienced and gracefully handled a similar situation, I took the input quite warily. I listened politely; if it needed checking out with an expert, I did so, otherwise, I set it aside. Handling advice became  amazingly simple after I set these criteria🙂

The inflow of advice is near absent now.  I can see the discomfort of would-be advisers if I describe my mother’s condition. Looking back now, I suspect a lot of advice I got earlier was not about my mother – it was a statement of how the persons advising me wished to be treated if they were in place of my mother (as they understood it). Perhaps many of those authoritative statements were seeds they sowed in the ether that connects all beings, in hope that their children would behave that way when the occasion arose. And now, when it is too painful to picture themselves so helpless, they have no advice for me, only avoidance.

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

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