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Top Tips to Help Aging & Ailing Family Members- February 2013
February 28, 2013

Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?

There’s a saying that is intended to prevent gossip and to make us more thoughtful about what we say. It goes something like this “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it true? Is it kind and is it necessary? If your comment doesn’t meet these criteria then keep it to yourself.”

I think this has applications all over the place when caring for a family member. If you are in the outer circle of a caregiving situation, I would say that your most important role beyond any direct care that you provide is to listen with compassion to what ever the care provider or the care recipient has to say. Your support and understanding without offering advice can be priceless. When or if you feel moved to comment keep in mind the “true, kind, necessary” mantra will help you stay on track.

The mantra also applies when you are the primary caregiver and have received help from a family member. As is often the case, the care may be provided in not quite the way you would have done it. Sometimes there are real flaws in the way care is provided and these have to be addressed firmly and politely.

What I’ve observed is a lot of care disputes may fall into the opinion zone. You have a style of helping and the person who is helping you does things a bit differently. It can be ever so challenging to stop and think about whether the care goal was met and the person receiving care is satisfied before you share your feedback. Stopping and asking yourself “are my comments true, kind and necessary?” can be great way to put a pause before you might say something that isn’t vital and could alienate your helper.

If you are caring for someone who has memory issues, I would change the mantra just a bit…is what you are about to say kind and is it helpful? Truth becomes a slippery subject that many of my clients struggle with when caring for family members. The current professional thought on the subject is that you don’t need to engage in a lot of correcting or orienting of your family member. It just causes unnecessary stress for the person you are caring for. I will say that dealing with all misinterpretations that a person with dementia may share is very hard for their family.

Personally I found that there was a stage when my mother became very “candid”. Things that she would have never shared in the past were mentioned. It was so hard for me to deal with what she was saying. It was her truth and yet emotionally I couldn’t cope. My inability to listen and validate what she said in a kind way is one of the regrets I carry to this day. You see it’s not so much what a person has to say when they have dementia, it’s about supporting and acknowledging their feelings.

“True, kind and necessary” apply this mantra to your communications with everyone in your caregiving circle and see what changes.

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