How to Care for a Difficult Relative

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Remember the Wisdom of the Flight Attendant

Plane Aisle

At the beginning of every airline flight, the flight attendant says, "Be sure to put the oxygen mask over your own face before trying to help the person next to you."

That may seem strange at first. Caring and compassionate individuals would probably feel guilty thinking about their own needs when the ailing or dependent person next to them is in crisis. But think about it for a moment--if you forget to breathe, relax, replenish, oxygenate your brain, and do self-nurturing things, you will quickly burn out and become impatient, resentful, or short-tempered toward the complicated person you are trying to help. In the truest sense, it's not selfish but essential that you address your own physical and emotional needs before trying to help someone else. In most cases, this can allow you to be a more thoughtful, calm and resilient caregiver, especially when you're dealing with a stubborn or agitated individual.

Try This Exercise: Prior to each phone call or visit with a feisty or difficult relative who sometimes resists your help, take a few minutes to meditate, pray, walk in nature, read an inspiring few pages of a book, or write in a journal. Those moments of centering and renewal are crucial if you want to be at your best with a troubled individual who frequently or occasionally pushes your buttons.

Related Topics: Health Support