Has anyone had to go through friends trying to help out, either through talking or physically help, only to hear them talk about their own prior situation and create more work for caregivers like myself?
I'm currently the sole caregiver to my husband who suffers from dementia and physical limitations and requires 24/7 care. When friends talk to me, they always revert back to themselves and talk about how they can "sort of" identify with what I'm going through and the conversation is all about them. Not that I don't care, but I'm going through something that requires all of my time and energy and the last thing I want to do is tell somebody else I'm sorry for what they went through even though it's not nearly the same scenario that I'm going through with my husband. How do I digress and redirect the conversation without making them feel bad? I don't want to lose any friends or feel any resentment. It's not my intention at all, but I do have a hard time accepting that people want to help when all they do is talk about themselves.

One thing I found when caring for my mom was to use friends for chatting about things not related to mom.... That was my link to the kept me from going stir crazy. When I was really frustrated with my situation, I called the Alzheimer's Associations hot line. They were so good at listening and I could usually get the frustration out and often gain a pointer or two. I also posted on this chat room for help from others in similar situations.

Your friends are trying to relate, that is why they are grasping for events in their lives that are similar. They can't.... So keep that separate and enjoy not discussing your husband for a bit and get the scoop on other things going on ;-)
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Grammyteacher
NeedHelpWithMom Sep 27, 2020
I felt the same as a caregiver. I wanted a break from talking about my mom. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the person we are caring for. We all need a break sometimes. We want them to ask about us sometimes or as you said, something totally unrelated.
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A different sort of answer for you.

I am someone who has undiagnosed learning challenges. I know I have challenges, but I do not know the root cause. Over the years I have developed strategies that have allowed me to excel in school and life.

I can only retain information if I can relate it to something I already know. I do this my repeating what I heard and saying aloud how it relates to prior knowledge. It is not a sign of disrespect on my part, it is the only way I can retain information.

I often do this when answering questions in these forums. I relate what has been asked to my own experience, or things I have witnessed in my family or professional life.

Now, if I had come over to your house to stay a few days and help out, I would need a list of things you need to have done. Even if to others it would be obvious what was needed, I work from lists.

In the past, again am relating to my own experience, I have learned not to load other people’s dishwashers, but it is ok to empty them if I know exactly where things go. Now if I see a counter covered in dishes and can fill and put the machine through I will. Why am I mentioning this, which seems silly and unimportant? I was verbally attacked for putting dishes in someone else’s dishwasher “the wrong way!”

If you provide a list of things that need doing, have it clearly posted, I can work through it, and will. Post the grocery list and I will get the shopping. Tell me what you usually have for meals and I will prep it. But without any guidance I would be lost. I would worry that I will do the wrong thing and even though I see that you are stressed and tired, I will have a very hard time asking you what you need me to do.
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Reply to Tothill
NobodyGetsIt Sep 28, 2020
Dear "Tothill," - Thank you for adding a different perspective - it's a reminder to how we all respond and process things differently!
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This is a difficult subject. You need to vent and talk about your troubles. You don’t want to hear about someone else’s troubles. It doesn’t help you, and doesn’t give you what you want. Perhaps exactly the same is true for your friends. For them, hearing about your troubles is not doing them any favors, and you aren’t interested in hearing about their experiences. You think they aren’t being good friends, and they almost certainly think ‘Everytime I talk to her I end up feeling worse’.

You’ve had two good suggestions here.

The first is to find a service with volunteers whose real task is to hear people’s troubles. The Alzheimers Association was suggested, or perhaps Lifeline. You may be able to find others that would give you what you want and need.

The second is to set some rules for your phone conversations – perhaps think it through and send an email with the rules. You don’t want to talk about your husband and your difficulties. You want them to tell you something interesting that they have been doing. Perhaps you could tell them jokes you’ve heard – the Jokes site here has over a thousand old postings, and starting from the beginning should give you something to say for a long long time.

Don’t keep on doing something that isn’t working, and try not to write off all your old friends. It’s even possible that you might find yourself in their position in the future. You might understand only too well what they are going through, but you may not want to be reminded about it.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
Momsonlychild Sep 29, 2020
Great advice. I’m in need of someone to talk to. You mentioned 2 places. Can you tell me more about them? Thank you.
I have been on both sides of this topic. So many people don’t know what to say so they share their own stories for lack of anything else. I have a friend who went through breast cancer. Many people who had been friends for decades disappeared from her life until she recovered. Then they reappeared and acted like nothing had happened.

How about just telling them "This is distressing to me, can we talk about something else?" Or be prepared with several topics you can divert them onto. They just might be grateful for the change of direction.
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Reply to Frances73

Your friends can't "sort of identify" with what you're going thru. Nor can we as past and present caregivers know what you're going thru. You know the saying, "If you've seen one person with Alzheimer's, you've seen one person with Alzheimer's". The same applies to caregivers. If you know the experience of one caregiver, you know the experience of one caregiver. We all have different experiences. None of your friends have a clue.

Your friends don't know what to say, but I think they're actually trying to give you some solice. I think they're doing it in a spirit of friendship so you may have to put up with it. If your uncomfortable with it, tell them politely.
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Reply to sjplegacy

I am one that often relates prior experiences to my friends. It’s how my brain has always worked. I often think oh this reminds me of the time and will relate my experience, if they let me, in hopes it will be helpful to them. I’m not saying it’s the right or best way of doing things, but I do want you to know that I really care about my friends and what they are going through. I also take time to listen and ask how they are doing and what I can help with. So far, they haven’t told me they mind. However, I am aware of my imperfection and I am working on it (except for relating this experience) 😁 however, if one of my friends did say you know relating your experience is not helpful and I need you to listen. It would not offend me at all. I would apologize.
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Reply to Martz06
Momsonlychild Sep 29, 2020
I agree with you. I think it’s our nature to relate a similar experience and sharing it in hopes it may help a friend. I’m sure like me you certainly aren’t trying to diminish their circumstance. I, too guess I need to work on this. Be blessed.
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Some friends may make good councellors, not all. The danger is overloading them & the friendship loses something.

Is just being friends & finding a professional listener an option?

My DH told me he could no longer listen to my family issues. Hard but honest. So I found a professional. Proper time to offload. No 'fix it' attitude being flung back at me. Better relationship with DH. Win win win.
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Reply to Beatty
NeedHelpWithMom Sep 28, 2020
Great perspective, Beatty!

My neighbor hates her job. Every night she goes home and complains to her husband about it. She tells me too but I don’t have to listen to it daily so it doesn’t bother me. I show empathy to her. She told me that she didn’t understand why her husband wasn’t compassionate about it. I stayed neutral on that topic.

One day while outside, I was chatting with my neighbor and he told me that he wished his wife would look for another job because he was so sick of hearing about it. If a spouse constantly talks about something the other spouse will tire of it. Again, I just listened and reminded neutral.

Haha, not going to place myself in the middle of it.

You are wise and loving to understand how your husband meant it. Good for you!
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This is one of the most interesting questions posed I've ever read -
Yes. I believe people that turn the conversation to themselves OR their own experience do so for these reasons:

(1) They are totally unaware;

(2) They cannot project / experience an other's feelings (which is what awareness and self-development is);

(3) They don't know what to say and belief they are 'helping' - even though they aren't;

(4) Many people are totally self-absorbed and totally unaware of it.

How to deal with these communications:

(1) Stop them immediately.

(2) Don't apologize. This is not about them. It is about YOUR needs.

(3) Be clear on what you need / want from them - spell it out (if you want to put the energy into communicating with them). They might learn something and appreciate how you guide them. If they don't appreciate and/or learn from it, you don't need them in your life right now.

(4) Give them a book on Non-Violent Communication aka Compassion Communication. All the steps are in there.

(5) Tell them what you need now is REFLECTIVE LISTENING. If they don't know what that is, ask them to research it on the internet.

(6) Choose new friends who have more self-awareness.

(7) If you do not want to discuss directly face-to-face, write them an email or call when you feel you can. Keep conversation short, i.e., "This is what I need from you, a friend, right now and list in bullet points xxx. It might be necessary to say "Please, just listen. That is what I need right now. I do not need to hear about you and your experiences. Just listen. And thank you. If they don't hang up, tell them what you need now. Good luck.

I'd share a couple of my own similar experiences, but then I'd be doing exactly what your friends are doing. Gena.
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Reply to TouchMatters

You simply say hubby is needing me, I'll have to get off the phone for now. You have to keep in mind, that just like this site, we have suggestions based on how we handled something that came up. Perhaps in sharing, your friends are doing the same. Some mean well by telling you similar experience. But, when you can't handle the conversation, move on and get off the phone.
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Reply to my2cents

Any valuable relationship is give and take. Whenever I have found someone who feels the world revolves around them, I run as fast as I can.

Treat others as you would like to be treated. If it becomes clear they aren’t reciprocating your kindness, simply leave.

You don’t owe them an explanation if you don’t want to talk about it.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

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