Caregivers: Tips on How to Say “No” and When to Say “Yes”

Guest Blogger

| 4 min read

Caregiver looking at calendar.
Caregiving can become overwhelming at times. One way to manage things is to take charge of what gets a “Yes!” and who gets a “No!”
Which caregiver are you?
Are you the caregiver who automatically says “Yes” to everything? That can get you into trouble fast—with too much on an already full plate. Soon, you could be on a fast track for burnout. Or, are you the caregiver who gives everyone who offers ideas or opportunities an automatic “No”? That can get you into trouble too, because sometimes the idea or opportunity might be something that benefits you and automatically shutting down someone who is trying to help might result in no one offering help after a while.
Which answer should you give? These simple steps may help you decide.
Take a beat before answering. Try not to give a knee-jerk answer. If what is being asked is something that is easy to answer because there’s a scheduling conflict, you can say no. If you’re not sure, tell the person asking for something or offering help that you need to think about it and you’ll get back to them. Then, consider the request and get back to them with an answer.
Ask yourself if the request benefits you or the loved one you care for? If someone is offering to come by and help with the laundry or stay with your loved one while you take a break, that’s a benefit. If a person offers to pay for respite care so you can take the afternoon off, that is also a benefit. If a person asks if you can run an errand for them while you’re taking your loved one to a medical appointment— “It’s easy; it’s in the same office complex.”—then this may be a polite, “No, I’m not going to be able to do that for you. I’ve got to focus on dad’s exam.”
Consider whether the request or suggestion is an opportunity that may not come again.
Is a friend moving away and wants to meet for lunch before they go? Is a family member offering to take your place for a week while you take a vacation? If your loved one’s condition is status quo, you might want to make the most of it and say, “Yes, please.”
Note: You can compromise in some situations like these. For example, you might ask your friend if the two of you could meet at a closer location and make them aware of the time you have available.
Manage ongoing expectations of those around you. Do you have a regular schedule you can share with a long-distance caregiver, friends, paid aides, or even your loved one? If people know your schedule and what you must do, they might be less likely to ask you to take on a task for them, or they might see a window of opportunity when they might come for a visit or take you to lunch. Having a schedule (written and/or digital) helps you to stay on track and able to give the right answer to those questions and requests that come your way.
Keep an open mind in the midst of caregiving. Family caregivers are usually doing their best to care for someone they love. There are times when they are feeling a lot of pressure from outside (work, family, friends, etc.) as well as in (themselves). Watch the expectations you put on yourself. You may be living a “juggling act” life just trying to keep things running smoothly. At the same time, you may not be taking care of yourself as well as you could and suffering some burnout. When you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders try not to say no to something that might lift some of that weight off you. Similarly, take a beat before you say yes to every request because some things can wait till tomorrow.
This blog post is courtesy of the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, a nonprofit responsible for serving more than 700,000 people 60 and older in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. By providing community-based services from meals to in-home care, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B enables older adults and adults with disabilities to maintain their health and independence in their homes. More information is available by calling the AAA 1-B Information and Assistance Telephone line at (800) 852-7795 or visiting We’ll be partnering with AAA 1-B on our Midlife Map series. Their experts will provide monthly tips geared toward the “sandwich generation” – people in midlife facing the complicated juggling act of caring for children and older parents at the same time.
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This post originally appeared in AAA-1B’s “Caregiver Connections” newsletter and was republished here with permission. For more great caregiving content, sign up for “Caregiver Connections” here.
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Photo credit: SeventyFour

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