How to Say ‘No’ to Caregiving

By Marlo Sollitto, contributing editor

By nature, caregivers are nurturing people who put other’s needs before their own. But how can you set limits without feeling guilty? Where do you draw a line and say “I can do this much and no more”?

Cindy Laverty is a caregiver advocate, founder of The Care Company and The Cindy Laverty caregiving talk show. “Caregiving can last for years. It can take over your life if you let it. Most of us didn’t plan on being a caregiver, and never thought about the issues or the time commitment involved,” says Ms. Laverty, a former caregiver herself.

Being able to say ‘No’ can save you from emotional and physical burnout, and open up opportunities of shared caregiving responsibilities while deepening your relationship with your elderly loved one. Here are five tips from Ms. Laverty to manage your caregiving role:


Have an honest, realistic talk with yourself – the earlier in your caregiving journey, the better. Ask yourself how much of a commitment you are willing and able to make? Get clear about what you can do – and what you will do. Caregiving is not a one-person job. After you’ve come to terms in your own mind, get your parent on board and have a family meeting, before a crisis arises. (Family meetings: Have peace, avoid arguments)

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Those who know how to manage their own personal life fare best as caregivers. Ms. Laverty says, “Knowing what matters most in your life helps you put things into context,” Ms. Laverty says. “This is your final journey with someone you love. How do you want that journey to look? How do you want your life to look at the end of the journey? Do you want your marriage intact? Do you want to maintain your career? You don’t have to do everything, and you shouldn’t do everything. Caregiving is one component of your life.”

Set Boundaries

In her own experience and her work with other caregivers, Ms. Laverty has realized, “Many seniors become narcissistic and self-absorbed,” she says. “All that matters is that their needs being met immediately. They demand and demand more. At some point you’re going to have to say ‘I can’t do that right now.’ Set boundaries and stick to them. Don’t become an indentured servant.”

No is OK

Learning how say one little word – no – can make a world of difference. “You might think, ‘I can’t say no to mom.’ But your mom probably said no when she was taking care of you as a child. “Sometimes in life, the answer has to be no,” Ms. Laverty says.

Get Help

If you are a caregiver who has taken on too much, understand that you cannot fix all that is wrong. Speaking to a professional – a counselor or a caregiving advocate can help get your life back on track. “Don’t just stay on a runaway train. Once you get to the point of complete overwhelm, you will ruin your health, destroy your relationships, or just walk away. Get help before you reach the breaking point,” she says.

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How to Say ‘No’ to Caregiving originally appeared on

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Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

Since most car givers are women- this is mostly a female issue. Get more males involved.

Freya H.
Freya H.3 years ago

I can use this advice so my grandmother can't browbeat me into being her step-n-fetch!

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

thanks for sharing

ii q.
g d c.3 years ago


ii q.
g d c.3 years ago


Patricia H.
Patricia H.3 years ago

thanks for sharing

Lean Towards Y.
Past Member 3 years ago

Care giving is such a physically and emotionally demanding job. I used to give a care giver a break once a week just for a couple of hours. Honestly, it's not for everyone. One tiny woman who can't walk takes all your physical strength to lift from a chair and their needs are so great.

My heart goes out to all care givers. I think it should be a priority of every nation to at least offer respite care at a minimum of every 6 months, so that care givers have a much needed break.

Angela N.
Angela N.3 years ago


Robyn L.
Robyn P.4 years ago

You all know the schpeil on an airplane: put you OWN oxygen mask on first!

I think often a family member doing caregiving ONLY out of obligation is doing both parties a disservice.
Do what you can, both in skill and time, and it is perfectly OK to have more people on the team.

Belinda W.
Belle W.4 years ago

"“You might think, ‘I can’t say no to mom.’ But your mom probably said no when she was taking care of you as a child."

I never realized this. We have a duty to our parents, but the right answer isn't always acquiescence. Thank you.