Caregiving for a parent or spouse can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be a demanding one. This is especially true when the senior you are caring for has Alzheimer’s disease or a life-limiting illness. The stress that comes from being responsible for the well-being and safety of someone dear can be significant. It can trigger a range of difficult emotions, including guilt, fear, and sadness.
Fear and sadness about the future often go hand-in-hand. As a caregiver, you are witnessing the decline in a person who has been a pivotal part of your life. That isn’t easy. Not knowing what they will need from you next or what tasks you may be required to perform can cause anxiety as well.
Guilt is also common. When a spouse or adult child thinks they’ve made a mistake or missed something important, the guilt can be overwhelming. When you resent how caregiving has taken over your life, which is a natural emotion, the guilt can linger long after your caregiving days are over.
Here are a few of the emotional struggles that caregivers often describe:
- Resenting the time it takes to care for their family member.
- Feeling upset at having to miss out on family gatherings or time with friends
- Comparing themselves to other caregivers who seem to be “better” at tending to their loved one’s needs
- Experiencing anger toward the senior despite understanding no one has control over their illness
Managing Caregiver Emotions
Here are a few tips for managing the rollercoaster of difficult emotions family caregivers experience every day:
1. Acknowledge your feelings
The first step in managing difficult caregiver emotions is to acknowledge your feelings. Whether it is guilt or sadness or fear, admit how you feel. Once you acknowledge your feelings, try to understand where they come from. It’s okay to admit, for example, that you might be worn out and in need of a break. While it may not make your guilt vanish entirely, you might find it does bring some peace.
2. Join a caregiver support group
Support groups can be an effective way to learn to manage difficult emotions. They enable you to connect with fellow caregivers in person or online. Not only will you learn from others’ experiences, but you will also discover you aren’t alone in struggling to navigate these tough times.
Online caregiver support groups might be best for those where time is an issue or when it isn’t safe to leave your senior loved one unattended. Some also find it more freeing to share their true feelings because of the anonymity of an online group.
In-person groups may work best for those who want face-to-face interaction with peers. You can usually find a group to join through a local senior center or Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
3. Take advantage of respite care
Respite care provides caregivers relief on a short-term basis. It can be a lifesaver for those who don’t have friends or family with whom to share caregiving duties. This service can be utilized for a few days or weeks depending on the senior living community.
Respite guests in a senior living community receive the same care and support as long-term residents. They also enjoy well-balanced meals and access to a variety of life enrichment activities each day.
Ask for Help
One final suggestion is to be willing to ask for and accept help. Family caregivers often make the mistake of thinking they can do everything. But caring for a loved one is nearly impossible to do alone. Trying to do so can lead to chronic stress and caregiver burnout. It’s important to give yourself permission to seek help.
With communities across the United States and in Canada, there’s likely a Sunrise Senior Living location near you. Call (888) 434-4648 today to learn more!