Why (and How) You Should Apologize for Lashing Out at Dad’s Caregiver

We understand. Caring for an aging parent is stressful. You have certain expectations for their care. At the same time, you’re probably trying to balance a lot and want to be assured things will go smoothly. So, it happens, we get it. You may not always react well when a caregiver makes a mistake.

So, if you’ve lashed out at Dad’s caregiver, you’re not alone. But, since the caregiver is so vital to your Dad’s wellbeing, you want to maintain a good relationship. (Or, if this relationship looks like it won’t work out, this can still be a learning experience so things for next time.) And, even when the caregiver is in the wrong, you should still apologize about how you handled the situation. We’ll discuss why the apology is so important and how to move forward to improve things in the future.

When a Caregiver Makes Mistakes

No one comes into work thinking “I can’t wait to mess up today.” You have to believe that caregivers want the same thing that you do. They want your loved one cared for, they want them happy, they want them feeling safe. The caregiver most likely went into this line of work precisely because they care deeply about what they’re doing.

At the same time, we all need support, coaching, and encouragement. Remember that this caregiver doesn’t know your Dad like you do. Each person they care for may have different expectations and ways they want things done. Caregiving is not always easy and caregivers make mistakes. But, they generally want to learn and do better.

Caregiver as Partner: Building a Care Team

This is not a typical employee/employer relationship. Often, the employer is actually the home care agency that is helping to find you a caregiver and manage things. And, whatever the setup, your caregiver is more like a part of your care team. Think of them as a partner. Your caregiver can give you a lot of useful information about your loved one, so you want to keep the communication open and honest. Lashing out or talking down to them won’t help.

The caregiver also probably has a lot of valuable experience. By listening to them and creating more of a partnership, you and your loved one can benefit from that experience.

How to Apologize and Improve

First, of course, start off with a sincere apology about your behavior. Don’t justify it based on the mistakes they made. You are only apologizing for your own behavior. We tend to advise families (and our own supervisors) not to ask “why”. Asking them why they made a mistake isn’t productive and puts them on the defensive. We don’t need to think of feedback as “negative” or “constructive criticism”. They either did a great job or here is some information about what I would like you to do moving forward. Instead of asking them why, focus on clearly communicating what you want to change.

Take this time to get the caregiver’s input about what is going on with your loved one and listen. Find out if they need anything in the home or are having any challenges. Set up an open line of communication and expectations. Here are more tips about getting your caregiver to respond positively to feedback.

Make sure you have armed the caregiver with the information they need to do the best job. Have you shown them how you want things done? Are they using an updated, specific care plan? How do you and other members of the care team communicate? Have you provided background information about your loved one, their routine, and preferences?

It is also important to know the roles everyone plays in the care team. When working with a home care agency, you have the advantage of not having to play all the roles such as scheduler, boss, trainer, supervisor, etc. You can find out before hiring a company how they handle all these things. If you already hired a company and are running into issues, talk to the supervisor. Ask for a care plan meeting to discuss the coordination and how to proactively be sure these problems are addressed.

Get our free "Quick Guide to Creating a Coordinated Care Team". Do these simple things and you will ensure a successful care experience for your loved one.