Tired of Caring? Why Saying No To Caregiving is Easier Than You Think

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​Tired of Caring? Tired of Life? Just saying no to caregiving is a daydream of stressed caregivers for elderly parents and spouses. Until one has walked in the shoes of a caregiver who is tired of caring, it is impossible to understand what a caregiver does each day. Becoming a caregiver, losing your memory, or needing care are three of the most unpredictable and feared phases of life. Exhausted caregivers become tired of life.

For full-time caregivers who rarely get a break from caregiving, the idea of just say no to caregiving may seem impossible.  Just saying no is possible by being open-minded to ask for and accept help. Caregivers cringe when I say this because asking for help involves the same feeling of saying no—the idea of possible rejection. Being tired of caregiving and tired of life makes it difficult for full-time caregivers to see a way out of the daily grind of being a caregiver.

Why Caregivers Don’t Just Say No

Caregivers don’t just say no because of a sense of responsibility and duty to be a caregiver for elderly parents or a spouse. Concern exists for how saying no is viewed by others. How often in our daily lives do we hear no?

People avoid saying no because of a desire to be liked. Ruffling feathers or upsetting others is viewed as a negative behavior. Caregivers and people, in general, don’t want to ruffle feathers.

We would live in an amazing and caring world if the desire not to hurt the feelings of others—by refusing to say no—extended to other aspects of daily life. Imagine if there were no more zipping by or cutting off other drivers — no more jumping in line in front of someone else at the store. No more talking bad about a co-worker.

Just Saying No to Caregiving Equals Fear of Rejection

What is it about just saying no that is difficult? Does saying no mean that we are rejecting another person? Is there a concern about disappointing an elderly parent? Do we think saying no is unkind or rude?

The idea of just say no and the associated feelings result from how we feel when someone says no to us. We don’t want to hear another person say no, which in turn results in a hesitancy to just say no. We project our feelings of rejection onto another person when we are the one who says no.

Pressure exists to get along and be positive, which complicates saying no instead of yes. In the workplace saying no to a request or a supervisor is viewed as negative behavior. When we were young, saying no or refusing to do a task requested by a parent was forbidden.

How much of our early upbringing and our desire to please results in caregivers taking on too much work? It is possible to say no and still be thought of as a good person? When caregivers become tired of life and caring for elderly parents the idea of saying no becomes a hurdle.

Just Saying No To Caregiving Is Kind and Respectful

Saying no is kind. Just saying no is respectful. Just saying no is being an adult. Saying no doesn’t mean that you are a terrible person. Saying no doesn’t mean that you are selfish, impolite, or unkind.

Put yourself in the shoes of a salesperson who may hear no all the time. An experienced salesperson does not usually take no as a rejection. Saying no is more of the idea that the product being sold didn’t fit the needs of a buying consumer. It is also possible that the personality of the salesperson didn’t mesh with the character of the buyer.

We are human. We want to be liked. We want to like people with whom we do business.

On the other hand, we also don’t like being left up in the air. We don’t like having to chase other people for a response. We don’t like being tired of life or struggling to be nice. Why not just say no? No gives closure and allows others to come up with another plan.

Saying No Is Easy

For example, businesses approach me asking to write a guest blog on my caring for aging parents’ website blog page. I don’t have any guest blogs on the site. The reason I don’t accept guest blog posts is that I don’t want my website visitors to feel like they are being solicited by businesses that might be untrustworthy. Trust in the caregiving world is a big deal.

This means it’s easy for me to just say no. I respond and give the reason why I don’t allow guest blogs so that the person inquiring can move on to contact another person. I feel this is respectful and doesn’t leave anyone up in the air about my website or my intentions to protect my website visitors.

I’m Tired of Caring

One of the best reasons to just say no is being tired of caring and being tired of life. Being a caregiver for an elderly parent can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Caregivers should not be shamed or otherwise embarrassed about admitting to feeling exhausted.

In our general lives, trying to juggle work and caregiving can be quite the balancing act. It’s easy to become immobilized by the never-ending to-do list that caregivers carry with them.

The life of a caregiver is as valuable as the life of every other person living. In some cases more valuable because of the time devoted to caring for elderly parents and spouses. If you missed my radio interview with Rita Choula of the AARP Public Policy Institute, we talked about the AARP study called “Valuing the Invaluable,” meaning the value of family caregivers to society.

As a caregiver, it is essential not to live your life depending on approval from an elderly parent or spouse. Approval or a thank you may never happen. Especially if an elderly parent or spouse believes that caregiving is something that you must do.

I Never Wanted to Be A Caregiver – I Had No Choice

Caregivers accept the role and responsibilities of being a caregiver. Many say, “I never wanted to be a caregiver, or I had no choice.”

After becoming a caregiver, doubt and regret may happen. Few caregivers know what caregiving is about, how long it lasts, and the list of things that caregivers do. I created The Four Stages of Caregiving based on my 20+ years as a professional fiduciary, care manager, and keynote speaker to help caregivers know what to expect.

Yes, But – The Degrees of Saying Yes and No

There are degrees of saying yes and no. No doesn’t have to be absolute. Saying yes doesn’t have to be absolute. I encourage caregivers to work the middle ground of caregiving by saying, “yes, but.” This allows caregivers to avoid being tired of caring and tired of life.

“Yes but,” allows caregivers wiggle room to set boundaries and to hold elderly parents or spouses accountable for participating in care.  This conversation will enable caregivers to set boundaries so that the list of things that caregivers agree to do is limited to what the caregiver feels he or she can do.

Caregivers overcommit and then feel frustrated and angry. Another common saying of caregivers is, “caring for my elderly mother is killing me.” Everyone, caregivers not accepted, has the right to just say no.

It is okay to say, “I don’t want to,” without explaining. There is no need to apologize or give any reasons. Being honest and straightforward avoids having to lie or make up excuses why you don’t want to if you don’t want to feel unkind by giving the real reason.

My book, The Caregiving Trap, offers practical solutions for caregivers and discusses many of the traps that include saying yes and being unfamiliar with the care system.  Feeling empowered and positive about caregiving results in better care for elderly parents.

The Daily Challenges of Caregiving Relationships

In this caregiving video, I talk about the realities of caregiving relationships. 

Stubborn Elderly Parents May Send You on a Guilt Trip

Elderly parents and spouses can send caregivers on a guilt trip. Caregivers are often guilt-ridden because of a feeling of not doing enough or having doubt about not being skilled or good enough. Caregiving families also don’t always get along.

Using guilt can be a form of manipulation to make caregivers feel bad about just saying no. An elderly parent or a spouse may try to make the caregiver feel responsible for situations out of the control of the caregiver.

The motive is to make the caregiver feel upset enough to take over the situation or take on additional work to solve the problem. Just say no. By taking on more projects, you are making an elderly parent more dependent on you instead of doing what he or she can.

What Does a Caregiver Do?

It is essential for caregivers to maintain high self-esteem and to stand up for needs. This is another area of challenge for caregivers who quickly become exhausted and burned out.

When emotional reserves are low, caregivers lack confidence, can inflict self-guilt, and experience low self-esteem.  Elderly parents who refuse care are another reason caregivers may just want to say no to being a caregiver.

Appreciation is a rare experience for caregivers. Some elderly parents and spouses expect care without having to express gratitude. The day in and day out grind of juggling work and caregiving wears down the physical and emotional health of caregivers.

Poor health, problems at work, and trying to balance caregiving responsibilities are reasons to just say no to taking on additional caregiving responsibilities. At this point, if other family members exist, it’s time to share the caring for elderly parents checklist.

Elderly Parents Checklist

Instead of continuing to take on additional responsibilities or feel guilty, it’s time for the caregiver to ask for help. When other family members criticize or say that the primary caregiver should be doing more, write up a list of caregiving tasks and hand the list to the complaining family member.

I also recommend sharing the list with an elderly parent or spouse who may not be aware of all of the tasks that the caregiver performs because the caregiver makes everything look effortless. Stand your ground and just say no to taking on additional caregiving tasks.

A caregiver asking for help holds onto the same fear of rejection that links to caregivers not wanting to say no. I continuously encourage caregivers to ask for help.

Caregiver responses to me range from, “no help exists, I’ve already tried to ask for help and was told no,” and a long list of other reasons no one will help. These responses summon from exhaustion, burnout, and a lack of energy to keep trying.

Help exists in so many ways that I encourage caregivers never to give up.

I Am So Tired of My Life – Saying No to Caregiving

I am so tired of my life is another common caregiving theme. The role of caregiving goes on for years beyond what a caregiver initially expects.  Caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue are real aspects of being a caregiver.

Caring for an elderly parent or a spouse can result in a love-hate caregiving relationship. Caregivers may not realize that burnout can result in care neglect. After caregiving ends, when an elderly parent or spouse has passed, caregivers understand how much they were going through the motions.

There is a realization of how much different things could have been or how care could have been better. In moments of stress caring for elderly parents or a spouse, being tired of life takes over. Caregiver exhaustion makes it difficult for caregivers to consider other options or to think differently.

Caregivers Will Continue to Do More

Because caregivers will continue to do more just saying no will become a must. The family home is becoming similar to a hospital setting where caregivers will provide hands-on and medical-type care. The idea of needing help from other family members or outside volunteers or paid sources will become a reality.

It is essential that caregivers feel comfortable saying no so that they can continue to be involved as positive advocates for the care of elderly parents, spouses, and other family members.  Having the energy to respond positively to the unexpected situations that caregiving brings to life is necessary to maintain balance in caregiving and to be a positive advocate for loved ones.

Looking For More Help With Caring for Elderly Parents. You’ll Find What You’re Looking For In the Caring Generation Library in the Caring forMe Section.

©2020, 2021 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved

Pamela D. Wilson, MS, BS/BA, CG, CSA is a national caregiving expert, advocate, and speaker.  Rare experience of more than 20 years as a court-appointed guardian, power of attorney, and care manager delivers unique and valuable insights. She supports family caregivers and aging adults interested in health, well-being, and caregiving. Wilson is a keynote speaker and educator for corporate human resources departments. She also provides education and programs for financial, insurance, legal, and consumer organizations. Wilson hosts The Caring Generation® radio program and is active through social media.



About Pamela Wilson

PAMELA D. WILSON, MS, BS/BA, NCG, CSA helps caregivers and aging adults solve caregiving problems and manage caregiving needs through online programs, live support groups, and an extensive caregiving library that includes articles, podcasts, videos, and webinars.

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