Caregiving can foster a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative. Here are seven tips to help you learn how to navigate them.
- Posted on May 6, 2016
Home Instead Senior Care interviewed more than 1,000 family caregivers and found that most, like Marilyn Strube, experience a wide range of emotions, from love and accomplishment to resentment and being overwhelmed. It’s normal for major life events to bring conflicting feelings. People tend to hide emotions they think are negative. But anger and frustration are just as natural as joy and love, and you have a right to feel how you feel.
In fact, it only stresses you out more to keep emotions buried. Caregivers who hide their feelings are more likely to suffer fatigue, high blood pressure and depression, the interviews showed. Here’s how to cope with the emotions of caregiving:
Acknowledge all your feelings. Remember, there are no good or bad emotions; there are just emotions. Maybe 30 percent of what you feel is anger, 20 percent is guilt and the rest is love.
Find an outlet. Vent to someone nonjudgmental who is not a family member— a therapist, a pastor, a friend.
Keep a journal. Write down everything you’re feeling. Do you need to hold on to these feelings? Or is that holding you back?
Join a support group. Share your story with others. Support groups are condition-specific (if you’re looking for resources on a particular disease) or relationship-oriented (if you want to talk to other family caregivers). No group in your area? Try an online forum (look on caregiveraction.org).
Take breaks every day. Even if it’s for 15 minutes here and there, do something you enjoy that’s not related to caregiving. Listen to music, watch your favorite show, exercise, read, go to church, visit a museum, get together with friends.
Set up respite care. You need time to recharge. Can family, friends or volunteers from your faith community fill in for a few hours every week? Or use the respite locator at archrespite.org. If you’re considering professional respite care, contact Home Instead Senior Care at (866) 996-1085 or homeinstead.com/guideposts for a free consultation.
See your loved one through new eyes. Listen to him or her as though you’ve just met. Pretend you are strangers who don’t have any history together. Try this for 24 hours. You’ll come away with a new appreciation for your loved one. And vice versa.
For more tips and resources for family caregivers, visit caregiverstress.com.