Handling Emotions as a Caregiver

Posted by Bianca Doran on March 28, 2016

Handling Emotions as a Caregiver

We know that as we age there are many challenges we can expect. Our bodies and minds are not what they used to be, and we have to learn how to prepare for times of change. However, there is another role that has to adapt to a different challenge: the caregiver.

It’s never easy seeing a loved one living with illness, disabilities or just aging in general. Caregiving requires the person to balance work, family and other personal roles while assisting a loved one. Juggling all these roles can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging.  If you are a distressed caregiver going through emotional trials, it is important to recognize the signs and seek help. Below is a list of symptoms and tips on how to handle these emotions.

Anxiety 

The unknown future of a loved one is one of the biggest culprits for causing anxiety. "Will this treatment help mom? Or will it make things worse? What if she doesn’t get better?" These hypothetical questions feed into an anxious mind only to make things worse. It can also cause the caregiver to concentrate more about their own life and death, making them more distant from their caring responsibilities.

Tip: Try to engage in the support organizations around you. Anxiety feeds into the unknown, so try informing yourself as much you can about the illness. Alzheimer's AssociationNational Parkinson FoundationAmerican Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society are examples of organizations with plentiful resources for caregivers. A reality that we cannot change and have to accept is that our time is limited. Once accepting this, it can cause the caregiver to better spend their time and dismiss their anxious behavior with their loved ones. Try to make the best of the time you have and put your anxiety at ease.

Grief

This is particularly common for caregivers dealing with loved ones who have dementia. You spend significant time grieving the person you once knew as you watch your loved one forget names and important events.  Unfortunately, your loved one might ask you the same question over and over again, making the grieving process start all over again.

Tip: Stop grieving the person who once was and engage with the person who is now. Recognize when they do have happy memories and engage. Listening to music, going through old pictures and stories can help your loved one reconnect with memories of the past.

Guilt

"Am I doing enough? Should I cancel my plans to be with them more?" Constant guilt can only cause more physical and emotional stress on the body. The caregiver will never feel happy with all that they do if they constantly guilt themselves into doing more. This causes the person to take on more what they can handle and can even initiate resentment and anger.

Tip: Remember your loved one wants you to be happy, especially if caring with a parent. Allocating time for yourself will only make you a better and happier caregiver in the end.

Anger

This is a complex emotion as a caregiver as it is never easy to see a loved one decline. You might become angry at the idea that your loved one will not be able to see major life events in the future, such as your children going to college or getting married, etc.

Tip: Be in the moment. Do not sulk in what will happen or reflect on the past. Time is limited and you want your memories to be a reflection of the good times you had with them. Staying positive might be a challenge, but it will pay off in the long run.

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Always seek help from a professional or therapist if the role of caregiving is causing emotional challenges. Know your limitations and remember to take care of yourself first and foremost. Remember the good times when engaging with your loved one and try your best to be in the moment.


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