Being a family caregiver is an emotional roller coaster. On the one hand, it feels good to care for someone you love. On the other hand, it can be stressful, time-consuming, and draining. This can lead to a set of interconnected emotions – namely anger, resentment and guilt.
Anger often comes from a sense of obligation or being taken for granted. Caregivers can feel as though they’re stuck with the biggest workload because they’re the oldest sibling, they’re closest to the one receiving care, or they are the most responsible.
From the outside looking in, it’s hard for someone else to understand the time and effort you’re putting in, and that can trigger anger in a caregiver. Caregivers want to know, and hear, that they are appreciated and doing a good job.
Feeling resentment is similar to feeling anger, but not quite the same.
Psychologists label the feeling as “the re-experiencing of past wrongdoings, real or perceived,” a feeling that you’re stuck serving the person, indefinitely, and that’s causing your anger and discontent with the caregiving responsibilities.
This means resentment is often aimed at the person you’re caring for. This can happen as your loved one’s aging process or illness creates more responsibilities for you and makes you take on an additional role on top of your everyday life.
Guilt is a particularly draining emotion. It typically comes after noticing feelings of anger and resentment. Once you reflect on your emotions and begin to feel bad that you’ve developed hostile feelings towards a loved one, guilt is the next logical response.
It can also be a primary driver of caregiver stress and burnout, as many family caregivers feel guilty for needing a break or not being able to do more for a loved one.
These feelings of guilt can be related to many things, such as:
- Feeling you are not spending enough time caring for your parent(s)
- Feeling like you’re not spending enough time with your kids because you are caring for your parent(s)
- Feeling that your spouse might be the last person you think about.
- Not taking care of yourself, missing a workout or being unfocused at work.
You can also feel guilty about not having your parents move in with you or leaving your parents in a house they can no longer manage. And sometimes, you might even feel guilt thinking that your life would be easier if your parent(s) died.
How to Manage These Emotions
1. Better understand the disease process of your loved one. This can help you develop the appropriate engagement style and communication patterns to reduce the likelihood of getting angry or resentful.
2. Assess your ability to provide the level of care your loved one needs:
- Are you physically able to care for this person?
- Are you emotionally able to care for this person?
- Is there an appropriate environment in which to provide the level of care that is required?
3. Make a plan to provide the appropriate level of care. This will reduce your stress level because you will feel more in control.
Be sure to tap into a local care manager to understand the local services and support that can be incorporated into your care plan, such as medical transportation, prescription delivery, Meals on Wheels and respite care from a home care agency such as SYNERGY HomeCare.
4. Make peace that this will be an emotional time for your entire family. There’s no shame in seeking professional counseling to support you through this life-changing process.
Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care. For more articles by Dr. Macie Smith, go to https://synergyhomecare.com/blog/.
For more information on caring for a loved one with dementia, download SYNERGY HomeCare’s free Memory Care Guide.